Which anxiety disorders exist? - Chapter 4 (Abnormal Psychology)

General fear anxiety

Due to evolution, humans and animals have an automatic reaction to danger: the fight or flight response (fight or flight). The psychological changes that arise during this response are due to the activation of two systems: the autonomic nervous system and the adrenal cortical system.

The hypothalamus activates the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system, which prepares to fight or flight by releasing energy. The hypothalamus also activates the adrenal cortical system by releasing CRF (corticotrophin-releasing hormone), which releases the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone causes the cortisol level to rise. Cortisol in the blood and urine is an indicator of stress. We then experience the emotions that come with danger, after which we either confront the danger (fight) or run from it(flight).

People with anxiety disorders follow the same pattern, but with them there is no actual objective danger but rather a more subjective, psychological one.

We refer to anxiety disorder when people are continuously living with fear and normal functioning is thereby impeded. When this happens, people tend to realize the unreal nature of the disorder and suffers from it.

Fear consists of four different types of symptoms.

1. somatic symptoms: physical responses such as sweating and increased blood pressure

2. emotional symptoms: feelings of anxiety and vigilance

3. cognitive symptoms: unrealistic worries such as the feeling that something bad is going to happen

4. behavioral symptoms: such as avoidant or flight behaviours.

Posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder both occur as a result of an experience of extreme stress. For example, many people developed a stress disorder in America as a result of the 11th of September attacks. Furthermore, it is estimated that 7% of the people experience stress during their lifetime as a result of a traumatic experience.

For a diagnosis of PTSD, from all the symptoms in the DSM, at least the following four are necessary:

  1. Relive the traumatic experience: including flashbacks, thoughts.
  2. Avoiding situations, thoughts or memories associated with the trauma.
  3. Negative changes in thoughts and state of mind associated with the event. For example, they may feel guilty about the fact that they are still alive. They can also feel stressed or emotionally stunned.
  4. Hyper vigilance and chronic arousal: people are always
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