Anxiety Disorder and the BrainAs defined by the Encyclopedia of Mental Health; Anxiety is an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (sweating, tension, and increased pulse) by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope. Anxiety is a very broad term that encompasses many different disorders. In researching this illness, I have found that terms like phobia, fear, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic and depression are often used as synonyms or in combination with one another. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fourth Edition (DMS-IV), outlines seven categories of anxiety disorders. The seven disorders are ; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobia. (EMH pg129). For as prevalent as this disorder may be, affecting 23 million people, there is limited research on the affect anxiety has on the brain.
It appears that that limbic system and autonomic systems are primarily affected. I will define the different forms of anxiety as listed, present findings from studies performed on animals and humans and discuss current practices used to mediate anxiety.
The following is a brief description of the seven disorders previously listed, as defined the Public Health Reports (July/Aug 1996).
Sherod 2Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder- repeated, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety, often accompanied by ritualized behavior to relieve anxiety.
Panic Disorder- characterized by panic attacks, sudden feeling of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal stress.
Social Phobia- fear of being the focus of attention or scrutiny or of doing something that will be intensely humiliating.
Posttraumatic Disorder- persistent, frightening thoughts that occur after undergoing a frightening and traumatic event.