Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 48: Anxiety Disorders
What are the different anxiety disorders?
• Generalized anxiety disorder – in which a person s unexplainably and continually tense and uneasy
• Panic disorder – in which a person experiences sudden episodes of intense dread
• Phobias – in which a person is intensely and irrationally afraid of a specific object, activity, or situation
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder – in which a person is troubled by repetitive thoughts and/or actions
• Post-traumatic stress disorder – in which a person has lingering memories, nightmares, and other
symptoms for weeks after a severely threatening, uncontrollable event.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: unfocused, out-of-control, negative feelings; lasting 6 months or more; worry
continually; jittery, agitated, sleep-deprived. The anxiety is free-floating, often accompanied by depressed mood,
may lead to physical problems such as high blood pressure. By age 50, GAD becomes fairly rare.
Panic Disorder: anxiety tornado, strikes suddenly, wreaks havoc, and disappears. 1 in 75 have this disorder, panic
attack – a minutes-long episode of intense fear that something horrible is about to happen. Heart palpitations,
shortness of breath, choking sensations, trembling, dizziness – may be misperceived as a heart attack or other
serious physical ailment. Smokers doubled the risk.
Phobias: anxiety disorders in which an irrational fear causes the person to avoid some object, activity, or situation.
Thunderstorms, animals, heights, blood, close spaces. Social phobia is shyness taken to an extreme – an intense
fear of being scrutinized by others, avoid potentially embarrassing social situations or will sweat or tremble when
doing so. If the fear is intense enough, it may become agoraphobia – fear or avoidance of situations in which
escape might be difficult or help unavailable when panic strikes. Charles Darwin – panic disorder at age 28.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: we all may at times be obsessed with senseless or offensive thoughts that will not
go away. 2-3% cross the line with normal checking and obsessive checking. OCD is more common among teens
and young adults than among older people. Studies found that obsessions and compulsions had gradually
lessened though only 1 in 5 had completely recovered.
Common Obsessions and Compulsions Among Children and Teens with OCD
Obsessions (repetitive thoughts)
Concern with dirt, germs, or toxins – 40%
Something terrible happening (fire, death, illness) – 24%
Symmetry, order, or exactness – 17%
Compulsions (repetitive behaviours)
Excessive hand washing, bathing, toothbrushing or grooming – 85%
Repeating rituals (in/out of a door, up/down from a chair) – 51%
Checking doors, locks, appliances, car brakes, homework – 46%
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Our memories exits in part to protect us in the future. So there is biological
wisdom in not being able to forget our most emotional and traumatic experiences – our greatest embarrassments,
our worst accidents, our most horrid experiences. Recurring haunting memories and nightmares, a numbed social
withdrawal, jumpy anxiety, insomnia – shellshock or battle fatigue – now PTSD. Reported by survivors of accidents,
disasters, violent and sexual assaults; 9/11 – 8.5% suffered PTSD of Manhattan residents, 20% who lived near
World Trade Centre. 19% of all Vietnam vets, 1 in 6 US combat infantry of Iraq war; 1 in 4 diagnosed with a
psychological disorder. The greater one’s emotional distress during a trauma, the higher the risk for PT symptoms.
PTSD doubled for survivors who were in the World Trade Centre. A sensitive limbic system seems to increase
vulnerability, by flooding the body with stress hormones again and again as images of the traumatic experience
erupt into consciousness. Brain scans of PTSD patients suffering memory flashbacks reveal an aberrant and persistent right temporal lobe activation. Genes may also play a role. Suggest that some PTSD symptoms may
actually be genetically predisposed. Some believe PTSD overdiagnosed, partially by a broad definition of trauma.
Debriefing survivors right after a trauma by getting them to revisit the experience and vent emotions has actually
proven generally ineffective and sometimes harmful. Researchers have noted the impressive survivor resiliency of
those who do not develop PTSD. Suedfeld – survived Holocaust; suffering can lead to ‘benefit finding’ – post-
Unfocused tension, apprehension, and arousal is called generalized anxiety disorder. If a person is focusing anxiety
on specific feared objects or situations, that person may have a phobia. Those who express anxiety through
unwanted repetitive thoughts or actions may have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety accompanied by
recurring memories and nightmares, social withdrawal, and insomnia for weeks after a traumatic event may be
diagnosed as post-traumatic disorder. Those who experience unpredictable periods of terror and intense dread,
accompanied by frightening physical sensations, may be diagnosed with a panic disorder.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
How do the learning and biological perspectives explain anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is both a feeling and a cognition, a doubt-laden appraisal of one’s safety or social skill. Freud’s
psychoanalytic theory proposed that, beginning in childhood, people repress intolerable impulses, ideas, and
feelings that this submerged mental energy sometimes produces mystifying symptoms, such as anxiety.
The Learning Perspective
Fear Conditioning: When bad events happen unpredictably and uncontrollably, anxiety often develops.
Using classical condition, researchers have also created chronically anxiety, ulcer-prone rats by giving them
unpredictable electric shocks – becoming apprehensive in their lab environment. This link between conditioned fear
and general anxiety helps explain why anxious people are hyperattentive to possible threats, and how panic-prone
people come to associate anxiety with certain cues. 58% of those with social phobia ex