Anxiety is a painful and unpleasant emotional state that derives from the painful expectation of an indeterminate and imminent danger, which you believe you cannot face.
Those suffering from this disorder live in a state of emotional tension that can have characteristics similar to fear, but which unlike this does not concern an objective, external and actual danger.
The disorder can represent a common response at various moments in life: it arises in the face of difficult or unusual situations and allows the activation of initiatives and behaviors aimed at overcoming obstacles or allowing adaptation to a new situation.
There is therefore a physiological anxiety and fear that arise as an instrument of the instinct of conservation and allow us to better face dangers and adverse events.
Causes and classification
In the DSM-V, the latest edition of the statistical and diagnostic manual of mental disorders, within the anxiety disorders we find several sub-categories, the main ones include:
- generalized anxiety disorder,
- panic disorder,
- specific phobia,
- social phobias.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD, according to English terminology), is a form that mainly affects women and is relatively widespread (estimates refer to 3-5% of the population); it is a disorder that is sometimes underestimated, but which is capable of significantly impacting the patient’s quality of life.
The name derives from the observation that anxiety is not limited and / or focused on a specific context and the patient is generally able to clearly identify the boundary between rational and anxious worries, but nevertheless cannot cope with them.
The disorder is defined as chronic, with early onset (the patient describes himself as “always anxious”); it is characterized by excessive and continuous apprehension, a persistent state of alarm that manifests itself in the form of physical and cognitive signs and symptoms.
An essential characteristic of panic attack is anxiety that occurs in its maximum manifestation. It typically has a sudden onset, reaches its peak in a few minutes and lasts about an hour; sufferers describe
- feelings of intense fear,
- the thought of
- to be about to die,
- losing control or going crazy,
- have a heart attack or stroke,
- to choke.
It is a condition characterized by anxiety related to finding oneself in places or situations from which it would be difficult or embarrassing to move away or in which help may not be available in the event of a panic attack, such as crowded places or places of public transport.
It also includes the fear of being in open spaces that have no well-defined boundaries such as squares, streets and fields even without the need for a crowd to be present.
The phobia of these situations, although apparently so different from each other, is explained by the fact that they are all united by the terror of feeling bad and not being able to be helped, or not being able to escape in case of danger.
Agoraphobia has a chronic, not episodic, course and for this reason it is generally disabling; most people who suffer from it also have panic disorder.