What is anxiety?
Anxiety is initially a normal human emotion, whose function is initially activating in the face of a threat, mobilizing activity or tension, which increases the individual's response capacity.
This response has a character adaptive, facilitating the focus of attention on threats and activating physiological systems to deal with them. Anxiety is, therefore, an innate response of our species, whose mission is survival. Every time we find ourselves in danger, the anxiety circuit is triggered causing us to react in the most effective way to survive. We could say that we are here and that we are what we are thanks to anxiety, since it is what helps us to react better and faster when, for example, we see an obstacle on the road while we are driving.
< br />Sometimes, however, the anxiety response system is overwhelmed and malfunctions. More specifically, the anxiety is out of proportion to the situation and sometimes even occurs in the absence of any ostensible danger. The subject feels paralyzed with a feeling of helplessness and, in general, there is a deterioration in psychosocial and physiological functioning. It is said that when anxiety occurs at inappropriate times or is so intense and long-lasting that it interferes with the person's normal activities, then it is considered a disorder. Therefore, we can talk about anxiety problems when you feel a lot of anxiety in situations in which most people do not get anxious, or when you experience an extreme degree of anxiety in situations in which most people would feel anxious. only moderately anxious.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent pathologies in the general population throughout their lives and are often associated with other mental illnesses.
Types of anxiety
- Panic attack: sudden onset of intense fear accompanied by physiological symptoms. According to the diagnostic manuals, to confirm an anxiety attack the person must have presented at least four symptoms from a long list that is described a little below (section: symptoms of anxiety). Panic attacks (not the disorder) are very common in the general population. Studies show us that approximately 20% of the general population has suffered at least one panic attack in their lifetime. Therefore, having an isolated anxiety attack is not a psychological disorder.
- Agoraphobia and Panic Disorders: These occur when panic attacks recur with some frequency and/or there is a clear and persistent fear of having them. A large proportion of people who suffer from this disorder, and due to the intense fear of suffering a new crisis, avoid situations where it may be difficult to escape or ask for help. In these cases, we also speak of agoraphobia.
- Specific phobia: is an exaggerated and irrational fear of specific situations or objects, such as certain animals, high places, driving... with systematic avoidance of said situations or objects.
- Social phobia: it is an irrational fear of facing social situations (going to parties, meetings, speaking in public... Behind these fears, there is usually a fear of the opinion of others, that is, of what will others think of oneself.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: People with this disorder are often invaded by unwanted, repetitive, and anxiety-provoking thoughts or images. The most frequent obsessions are usually related to dirt, checking or order. To block the discomfort caused by obsessions, people often perform rituals or compulsions, such as washing hands, checking doors are closed, praying, etc.
- Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: is an anxiety problem that can appear after having suffered a traumatic event (robbery, rape, accident, kidnapping, etc.). People with this disorder tend to mentally relive certain scenes of the event, they may also suffer from nightmares, as well as a feeling of anesthesia or emotional numbness.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: this is a disorder in which the person worries excessively about all those situations of daily life, with muscle tension and a feeling of being constantly activated and great difficulty in disconnect.
- Anxiety disorder due to … (medical condition)
- Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
- Anxiety disorder not otherwise specified.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Acute stress disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety - Questions and Answers
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Anxiety is not a unitary phenomenon, but can be divided into three components or response systems.
The first system, the subjective-cognitive, includes aspects related to the internal experience of anxiety, such as: fear, panic, alarm, restlessness, worry, obsessive ideas, etc. In short, all those thoughts and images that appear at the moment in which anxiety is being suffered. The common content of these thoughts is usually the certainty that something terrible is going to happen: fear of having a heart attack, fear of dying, suffocating, going crazy, etc.
A second system is the physiological-somatic system, which includes aspects of activation of the autonomic nervous system, such as tachycardia, increased blood pressure, decreased salivation or increased muscle tone.
This would include all those physical sensations that are experienced (dizziness, blurred vision, pain in the