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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is something that is pretty common. It only becomes a problem (an anxiety disorder) when it begins to occur frequently and interferes with daily life. Fears are our reaction to a present threat. It is how we cope with danger. Anxiety is anticipation of a threat.  Almost 20% of the population is affected by an anxiety disorder. Usually when a person is suffering from an anxiety disorder, there is a chemical cause in the brain. When certain neurotransmitters get out of whack, anxiety can reach a problematic level.

Anxiety Disorders: Evolutionary Basis

Fear is necessary for a species. We need to be able to recognize potentially unsafe situations, and be able to be cautious about them. However, anxiety is not the same as fear. Anxiety is the anticipation of an event that will cause fear.

Anxiety Disorders: What are they?

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. Anxiety can affect how we act and can manifest in real, physical symptoms. Anxiety becomes a problem when it affects our everyday life. Common anxiety disorders include phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and generalized anxiety disorder. There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to an anxiety disorder. For this reason, anxiety disorders are often difficult to diagnose and treat.

Anxiety Disorders: How do they affect the body?

Anxiety causes the same reaction in the body that fear does. The heart begins to pound, we start to sweat, and we have shortness of breath. However, in the case of anxiety disorders, this reaction occurs when there is no threat present. Eventually this anxiety reaction begins to interfere with everyday life.  It can cause us to alter our behavior or stop participating in activities that we used to enjoy. It may even prevent normal functioning on a day-to-day level or keep us up at night.

Anxiety Disorders: How are they treated?

There are many treatments available for treating anxiety disorders, but the most successful ones involve changing the reaction to fear. Sometimes medications are used to calm the reaction of fear when it is present. This conditions the brain not to fear a certain situation. Over time, the situations will not cause anxiety anymore. Other medications used to treat anxiety disorders are more long term. They work gradually to change the chemical imbalance in the brain that is causing the anxiety. A lot off anti-depressants are used to treat anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are also treated by cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, the individual is exposed to various stimuli that normally cause fear and anxiety. This is done in a safe environment under the care of a medical professional. Over several sessions, the fear caused by the stimulus weakens, and the patient can live without fear, or at least with less fear and anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy basically works on changing dysfunctional ideas about certain events or behaviors and eliminating negative associations through talking and role-playing.

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