Anxiety-related disorders are some of the common disorders that people suffer from. In fact, pathological anxiety is just an expression of normal fear or anxiety when multiplied many times. It is important to understand that some amount of fear or worry motivates us to take the steps needed to deal with a threatening situation. However, when thoughts of worry are constant and prevalent, to the extent that they do not let us function, that is when it becomes a problem.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by consistent irrational beliefs that overestimate threat, danger or likelihood of something going wrong. Anxiety disorders are often referred to as a modern-day epidemic. In fact, ‘neurosis is the common cold of psychotherapy’ was said by Dr. Albert Ellis, one of the most influential psychologists of all time. Neurosis is an earlier term for anxiety related conditions.
Anxiety has an almost 30 % of life prevalence. It is also comorbid with a lot of other disorders, depression being one of them. Depression and anxiety share 80% comorbidity. Anxiety spectrum disorder includes Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD, Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces, and panic disorder. On the continuum but further away lie OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and PTSD or Post-Traumatic Disorder. Further away on the spectrum are Somatization disorders and so on. This new spectrum system of the DSM 5 allows for a greater flexibility in understanding the expression of clinical disorders.
Primary physicians are most likely to see these symptoms – chest pains, palpitations, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome in their patients. Persistent expressions of these can actually indicate anxiety disorders expressed through bodily symptoms.
‘Anxiety = subjective distress + physiological responses + escape behavior’. This is a good formula to understand what happens in all anxiety disorders. Subjective distress means the discomfort a person experiences. Along with this, to are all the physiological syndromes for which patients go to general physicians and this leads to escape behaviour, which makes the person slowly shrink away from more and more instances of daily life.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common anxiety disorder. Given below are its symptoms:
Excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least 6 months about a number of activities is a common complaint. Patients can’t control the worry – interferes with functioning, but the thinking is not obsessional – generally they don’t have themes around dirt, contamination, aggression, impulses
3 of the following for present for 6 months indicate GAD –
Mind going blank
CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy can help to control the repetitive thoughts that a person feels, while the behaviour exercises help to stimulate and relax the person. Together they can channelize their anxiety and control it well and remove escape behaviour. In severe cases, anti-anxiety medication can be used to bring the person down to a level of control of anxiety where he or she can participate in therapy. There is a risk of overuse of such pills and should be used with caution.