// A Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) & Phobia ~ EDUCATION & TECHNOLOGY

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) & Phobia

It is a condition characterized by excessive anxiety and worrying, occurring more days than not for a period of at least six months. Anxiety is not triggered by any particular object or event but seems to be what Freud called free-floating anxiety, anxiety that is general and pervasive. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common, chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder experience non-specific persistent fear and worry, and become overly concerned with everyday matters. According to Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner's book Psychology: Second Edition, generalized anxiety disorder is "characterized by chronic excessive worry accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance". Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults. Anxiety can be a symptom of a medical or substance abuse problem, and medical professionals must be aware of this. A diagnosis of GAD is made when a person has been excessively worried about an everyday problem for six months or more. A person may find they have problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration/preoccupation with worry. Appearance looks strained, with increased sweating from the hands, feet, and axillae May be tearful which can suggest depression. Before a diagnosis of anxiety disorder is made, physicians must rule out drug-induced anxiety and other medical causes.
Introduction:- Phobic disorder is the name used by the medical and psychiatric professions to highlight the difference between ordinary fear v/s phobia symptoms. Your fear must be unreasonable and irrational to be diagnosed as a phobic disorder. It is the most common of all the anxiety disorders, manifesting itself as an out of proportion, conditioned response of persistent fear. It nearly always results in avoidance behaviour.
While this kind of fear disorder is different to panic disorder, people with phobias can also experience panic attacks. Panic attacks and panic symptoms are common with fear of heights phobias, and any phobias involving a fear of being trapped or enclosed, like claustrophobia or agoraphobia. The severity of these physical reactions can impair judgement in extreme cases, leading to an increased risk of harm particularly in the case of heights.
Phobic disorders are classified as either general or specific. The general disorders are agoraphobia and social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder). All the others are classified as specific phobias, and are triggered by one particular feared stimulus. In these cases the fear has been associated with one specific object or situation. Common types of specific phobias include fear of elevators, heights, flying, speaking and injections. They are often related to animals too, most commonly snakes, spiders and dogs. Specific phobias are the most common, and are sometimes called simple phobias.
I don’t like the word “disorder” because it helps perpetuate the old the mental health system view of phobias as a dysfunction. The sooner we can move on from these stigmas surrounding fears and phobias the better. It implies that something is broken, when in fact it isn’t. A quick look at how the brain works will help explain what I mean, and…
…The Difference between Fear and Phobias
Whenever you experience something happening in your world, it isn’t the actual event that you experience. What you experience is a “representation” that your brain creates. This representation is based on the information coming in through your senses. In order to create this representation your brain takes all the available information and runs it through three different types of process.
The processes your brain uses are generalization, deletion and distortion. Your brain then creates the representation that you do experience, as a sequence of steps, presenting the information in a way you can make sense of it. In fact, this is how you make sense of anything. Here are some examples you’re probably familiar with.
• Generalization – You can only recognize a chair you’ve never seen before, as a chair, because your brain has “generalized” that something with 4 legs or a base, a horizontal surface at a certain height, and a vertical surface behind it is a chair.
• Deletion – You can hear your name being mentioned even if their are hundreds of conversations going on around you, by your brain “deleting” the information contained in all that other noise.
• Distortion – You make a piece of music meaningful and significant by “distorting” it from a series of sounds and connecting them together into a seamless stream of melodic beauty, combined with feelings and images.
Your brain doesn’t always know the best way to use these processes to form a representation when it first encounters something. It forms the best representation it can and then relies on making further modifications by testing it against your experience in the real world.
If it’s working for you, it leaves it alone. But if it notices that some of the gernalisation aren’t actually all the same, or that it’s deleting some things that are important or it’s distorting something in a way that’s not useful, it makes an adjustment.
With more experiences your brain learns more ways to gernalise, delete and distort, and the representations become more and more useful. The more ways your brain has to use these processes the more flexibility it has, and the richer your experience of life. In order to do this it has to be able to test the representation in real situations.
Normally this isn’t a problem. But when the representation contains an excessive element of fear, your brain won’t take the risk of getting the experience you need from the real world to change these processes. As far as your brain is concerned there is no difference between fear and phobia. It cannot tell the difference between an irrational fear and a fear of something that really is dangerous. Fear is fear and it doesn’t like gambling with your life to find out whether it’s real or not.
A phobic disorder is marked by a continual, irrational fear of a specific situation or object such as snakes, heights, being closed in a small place, or leaving the home environment. Each phobia has a different name depending on the thing feared, such as acrophobia, a fear of high places; agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces; and social phobia, a fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur. The single largest category of anxiety disorders is that of phobic disorders, which includes all cases in which fear and anxiety is triggered by a specific stimulus or situation. Between 5% and 12% of the population worldwide suffer from phobic disorders. Sufferers typically anticipate terrifying consequences from encountering the object of their fear, which can be anything from an animal to a location to a bodily fluid to a particular situation. Sufferers understand that their fear is not proportional to the actual potential danger but still are overwhelmed by the fear.
Agoraphobia: - Agoraphobia is the specific anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing or where help may be unavailable. Agoraphobia is strongly linked with panic disorder and is often precipitated by the fear of having a panic attack. A common manifestation involves needing to be in constant view of a door or other escape route. In addition to the fears themselves, the term agoraphobia is often used to refer to avoidance behaviors that sufferers often develop. For example, following a panic attack while driving, someone suffering from agoraphobia may develop anxiety over driving and will therefore avoid driving. These avoidance behaviors can often have serious consequences.
Social phobia: - Social anxiety disorder (SAD; also known as social phobia) describes an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. This fear can be specific to particular social situations (such as public speaking) or, more typically, is experienced in most (or all) social interactions. Social anxiety often manifests specific physical symptoms, including blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. As with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; in the case of social anxiety this is particularly problematic, and in severe cases can lead to complete social isolation. In 400 B.C.: The concept of social fear dates back as early as 400 B.C. During this time, Hippocrates described the overly shy person as someone who "loves darkness as life" and "thinks every man observes him."

Specific Phobia: - A specific phobia is a generic term for any kind of anxiety disorder that amounts to an unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific objects or situations. As a result, the affected person tends to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations and, in severe cases, any mention or depiction of them. The fear can, in fact, be disabling to their daily lives. The fear or anxiety may be triggered both by the presence and the anticipation of the specific object or situation. A person who encounters that of which they are phobic will often show signs of fear or express discomfort. In some cases it can result in a panic attack. In most adults, he or she may be logically know the fear is unreasonable but still find it difficult to control the anxiety. Thus, this condition may significantly impair the person's functioning and even physical health.


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