Anxiety Disorders

Most of the people feel fear or anxiety in daily life. Fear and anxiety have same and different in terms of some feature. Anxiety is feeling anxiety about foreseen problem. In spite of this, fear is response to events that suddenly happen. For example, if a person sees a snake, s/he will feel fear, on the other hand a person, who will graduate from university in 2 years, feels anxiety about unemployment.

Both anxiety and fear arouse sympathetic nervous system, so both of them arouse the body. Generally, while the person feels more moderate arousal in anxiety, the frightened person feels more arousal. For example, anxious person feels that his physical energy diminished and also this person is tense. On the other hand, frightened person sweats a lot, breaths fast and is ready to flight.

Fear and anxiety should not be labeled as bad. Both of them are necessary for adaptive process. Fear is so important for ‘fight or flight’ response and it triggers rapid alterations in sympathetic nervous system and it prepares the body to fight or flight. Fear saves life in right situations. For example if a man does not feel fear when he saw a bear and he does not flight, his life runs into danger. So, in this situation feeling fear prepares the man to run and saves his life. But in some anxiety disorders, person feels fear without any danger.

Anxiety helps us to realize the probable dangers in future and to plan for them. When we feel anxiety, we can see the problems and we can prepare coping strategies.  According to a research, feeling moderate anxiety is good for performance; not feeling any anxiety is a problem and feeling too much anxiety is harmful for performance of people. For example, a student who does not feel any anxiety, does not consider studying necessary; if s/he feels moderate anxiety, his/her performance increases; if s/he feels so much anxiety, this anxiety prevents her/him to study and even s/he studies, s/he will be unsuccessful in the exam because of anxiety.

Some criterions for anxiety disorders:

  1. Anxiety is more intense.
  2. Anxiety takes longer and even the stresful event disappears, anxiety does not end.
  3. Anxiety restricts the person’s life.
  4. Physiological reactions appear, such as;
    • Feeling palpitation
    • Tremor
    • Nauseation
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Gas
    • Sensibility in intestine
    • Dizziness
    • Sweating
    • Hot flushes
    • Cold hands
    • Desert mouth

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders. It has some types in DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria book, such as seperation anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social phobia, panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder and selective mutism. There are definitions of some anxiety disorders in following table:

Spesific phobias Fear of some objects and situations with no real danger.
Social anxiety disorder Anxiety of being with stranger people and society.
Panic disorder Worry about recurrent panic attack.
Agoraphobia Fear and anxiety in situations where escape might be difficult and help would not be available.
Generalized anxiety disorder Excessive, exaggerated anxiety about everyday life events with no obvious reasons, during 6 month.

Reasons of Anxiety Disorder

  1. Cardiac disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, hyperthyroidism, respiratory tract problems, asthma, substance dependence and deprivation, cronic pain and some tumors that can effect fight or flight mechanism can lead to anxiety symptoms.
  2. According to twin researches, spesific phobia, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are 20-40% genetic and panic disorder is 50% genetic.
  3. Fear conditioning is also important to explain anxiety in terms of behavior. According to Mowrer’s ‘Two Factor Theory’, anxiety appears when classical conditioning and operant conditioning combine. For example, if a kid is bitten by a dog, kid fears from dog. So, dog is equal to fear, it is classical conditioning. At the second step, running away from dog or being in places without dog makes the kid to feel  comfortable. Comfortable feelings reinforce the avoidance behavior; this part is operant conditioning part.
  4. Cognitive factors such as recurrently thinking bad about future, feeling that having no control on environment and recognizing more negative events can lead to progress of anxiety disorders.


  1. Kring Ann and Johnson S. Abnormal psychology, 12th edition. Page:174.

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