What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders include disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioural disturbances.  Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.  These two states do overlap but they also differ with fear more often associated with the enactment of the surges of autonomic arousal activity (fight or flight), thoughts of immediate danger, and escape behaviours, and anxiety more associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger, and cautious or avoidant behaviours.

There are several types of adult anxiety disorders, which differ from one another in the types of objects or situations that induce anxiety, fear, or avoidance behavior, and the associated thought patterns.

The Adult Anxiety Disorders are:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder  (SAD)
  • Specific Phobias

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.  GAD sufferers are described as “worriers” and often suffer from sleep disturbance, and physical complaints such as digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, and fatigue.

How is GAD treated?

At Go Psychology, GAD is treated using a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  These are the most effective treatments for GAD.  In a nutshell, the GAD sufferer is educated about worry, and given a range of tools to address the worry, deal with the discomfort that can arise from worry, develop an effective problem solving approach, and improve sleep which is often disturbed from worry.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to symptoms such as shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, and difficulty breathing.  Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly, feel like they come out of the  blue, and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress, but they can be spontaneous as well.  A panic attack may lead an individual to be acutely aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness.   In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes in order to avoid these attacks.

How is Panic Disorder treated?

At Go Psychology, GAD is treated using a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  In a nutshell, the Panic Disorder sufferer is given immediate tools to manage panic attacks, and is given the knowledge and tools to deal with the issues that may be underlying the panic disorder such as previous trauma, excessive worry, current life problems, and addictions.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a fear of situations in which escape might be difficult.  The essential feature is intense fear or anxiety triggered by real or anticipated exposure to a wide range of situations such as:

  1. using public transport
  2. being in open spaces (eg., parking lots, bridges, marketplaces)
  3. being in enclose places (eg., shops, cinemas)
  4. Standing in line or being in a crowd
  5. Being outside of the home alone

The situations are actively avoided and almost always invoke fear or anxiety.  The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent typically lasting at least 6 months.

How is Agoraphobia treated?

At Go Psychology, agoraphobia is treated using a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  The Agoraphobic is slowly desensitized to the feared places, situations etc whilst at the same time taught how to change the thought patterns that drive the fear.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions, and the experience of excessive anxious symptoms.  This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.

How is SAD treated?

At Go Psychology, SAD is treated using a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  In a nutshell, SAD sufferers are given comprehensive education about their disorder, and then treatment involves skill building in social settings to assist with confidence, and then slowly desensitizing the sufferer to social settings in a controlled manner to build confidence and reduce the fear.

Specific Phobias

A Specific Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias are different from generalized anxiety disorders because a phobia has a fear response identified with a specific cause. The fear may be acknowledged as irrational or unnecessary, but the person is still unable to control the anxiety that results.  Stimuli for phobia may be as varied as situations, animals, or everyday objects. For example, agoraphobia occurs when one avoids a place or situation to avoid an anxiety or panic attack. Agoraphobics will situate themselves so that escape will not be difficult or embarrassing, and they will change their behavior to reduce anxiety about being able to escape.  There are hundreds of phobias, but the most common fears are the following:

Claustrophobia – fear of being in an enclosed space such as a lift
Acrophobia – fear of heights
Nyctophobia – fear of the dark
Trypanophobia – fear of needles or injections
Nosophobia – fear of having a disease
Mysophobia – fear of germs
Pteromerhanophobia – fear of flying
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Cynophobia  – fear of dogs

How are specific phobias treated?

At Go Psychology, specific phobias treated using a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  In a nutshell, sufferers of phobias go through a process of gradual desensitization to their fear in a very gradual and controlled manner.