Anxiety Disorders - pg. 3

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There are three different types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Each type is defined by its individual time line. Acute PTSD symptoms last less than three months. Chronic PTSD symptoms last for three months or more. Delayed onset PTSD does not produce any symptoms until at least 6 months after the traumatic event occurred.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating condition that develops after a terrifying experience or event. Such extreme traumatic events include rape or other severe physical assault, near-death experiences in accidents, witnessing a murder or violent attack, combat, and even natural disasters. People suffering from PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal. The victim can also suffer sleeping disorders and persistent nightmares. They experience dissociation, which is characterized by a sense of the world as a dreamlike or unreal place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events. In severe form, this dissociation is known as dissociative amnesia. Other symptoms of PTSD include generalized anxiety and hyper arousal; avoidance of situations or stimuli that elicit memories of the trauma; and persistent, intrusive recollections of the event via flashbacks, dreams, or recurrent thoughts or visual images. The flashbacks can even include sounds, smells, or feelings of the event, and make the sufferer feel that he is reliving the traumatic event regardless of his surroundings.

In the general population, women suffer from PTSD at rates about twice as high as men. When exposed to extreme trauma, about 1 person in 10 will develop some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 50 percent of the victims will recover from PTSD within the first six months, but in others the disorder can last much longer. Without treatment PTSD may become chronic and dominate the person's life.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobias

Social phobia (social anxiety disorder) describes people with marked and persistent anxiety in social situations, including performances and public speaking. A person with social phobia has a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others, and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Adults will recognize that their fear is unreasonable, but they experience great discomfort and even dread if they are exposed to such social situations. The external symptoms will appear to others as just anxiety (jittery, sweating, speech problems, etc.), but these do not indicate the terror and internal turmoil the person is going through. The anxiety will actually begin weeks or even months before the social event is to take place. Social phobia can be very debilitating. It may even keep people from going to work or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends. Once a person develops a social phobia, complete recovery is very unlikely without professional treatment.

Specific phobias are characterized by marked fear of specific objects or situations that poses little or no actual danger. Phobias are not just extreme fear, they are irrational fear. Experiencing, viewing an image, or even just thinking about a feared object can cause panic attacks and extreme anxiety. Phobias usually appear during childhood and persist into adulthood. Most people with phobias will tend to avoid any situation that confronts their fear; and for some people, such avoidance can alter their lifestyles, careers, or even be disabling.

Women tend to suffer phobias at twice the rate as men, with approximately eight percent of all adults having at least one phobia. While the exact causes of phobias are not known, studies have shown that they are not induced by just one traumatic event. Evidence also suggests that phobias may run in families and are then socially or vicariously learned. Specific phobias are highly treatable with therapy.

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