Outline the clinical characteristics of one anxiety disorder

Anxiety is an adaptive response, an individual with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety that is disproportionate to threats that are presented. Phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorders. Phobias are an extreme irrational fear of certain situations, objects, people or activities; the level of fear is so great the object or situation is avoided whenever possible. Phobias are classified into three categories, specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia. Agoraphobia and social phobia usually interfere with the individuals’ daily life, whereas specific phobia generally has less impact.

Specific phobias are a fear of specific objects such as animals, the environment, a situation or blood and guts. The prevalence is 4-7% of the population. Specific phobias can be caused from direct experience, observation or from being told to fear the object. The clinical characteristic for this is for the individual with the phobia to avoid the feared object. The anxiety from the situation often results in restlessness, jumpy behaviour; in general the individual finds it difficult to relax and may experience a startled response when presented with the feared stimuli.

Social phobias are due to the individual’s self-consciousness of their behaviour and a fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations. Social phobia can be related to shyness. The anxiety reduces the phobic’s ability to cope with the social surroundings and interferes with the individuals’ ability to function in at least some areas of daily life. Approximately 1-2% prevalence of the population meets the criteria of social phobia. The phobia can be triggered by actual or perceived judgement from others.

Agoraphobia is a fear of leaving a familiar area, which can be open or closed. It is the only phobia that is treated as a medical condition. The prevalence of the population is 2-3%. The phobia is co-morbid with panic disorder. It is estimated that 50% of all phobics suffer their phobia with panic disorder. The individual suffering from the phobias may also feel frightened and distressed by the anxiety and lose control of their bodily functions as well as reduce their cognitive functioning, resulting in an inability to function adequately in their social environment. They may also experience the physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, stammering etc. The cognitive and behavioural symptoms appear to change the thinking and physical reaction of the individual to the anxious situation, and the emotional symptoms of the individual feeling a loss of control of their bodily functions.

The DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of a phobia is the individual must have a persistent fear of a specific object or situation. The exposure to the fear produces rapid anxiety response. The individual recognises the fear is extreme and irrational. The phobic stimuli is avoided or responded to with great anxiety. The phobics’ reaction interferes with the individuals’ social life that they are unable to function adequately and, are distressed with the phobia.

Discuss psychological explanations of one anxiety disorder (20 Marks) There are three psychological explanations of phobias these are behavioural, cognitive and social. The behavioural explanation of phobias seeks to explain phobias as a result of classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory. Through classical conditioning a neutral or conditioned stimulus can come to produce fear, if on several occasions it is presented at the same time as an unconditioned stimulus.

Watson and Rayner’s experiment on Albert the 11-month-old boy shows that phobias can be conditioned into an individual this way. Watson and Rayner generated the fear of a white rat by associating it with a loud noise. The white rat was the neutral stimuli and the loud noise was the unconditioned stimuli. They presented the white rat repeatedly with the loud noise; Albert feared the loud noise and learnt to fear the white rat by associating his fear with the white rat. The fear was now Albert’s conditioned response and the white rat was the conditioned stimulus.

Separation Anxiety DisorderSeparation Anxiety Disorder is a disorder in which a person experiences excessive anxiety when separated from home or from someone to whom the person is attached. The person shows excessive unwillingness to separate from major attachment figures or …

Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorder each year, resulting in feelings of apprehension and insecurity (Kessler et al. , 2005). Anxiety disorder is different from the short-term anxiety that is experienced after a traumatic event because anxiety disorders …

Anxiety disorders are commonly attributed to pressure and stress. According to the National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH, a health service component of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, anxiety materializes whenever individuals feel stressed or …

A popular anxiety disorder is the Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is where people who encounter a very traumatic experience, does not recover. An example is the ‘shell shock’ disorder where comrades experienced trauma and shock during the First …

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