From time to time, most people experience worries, tension, or fear. While those affective states are generally unpleasant, they tend to be temporary and have no major consequences for the lives of individuals. Moreover, people typically have the resources to cope with their stress and concerns on their own. However, once anxiety becomes a disorder, it can severely affect the way individuals function in their everyday environments. If left unattended, an anxiety disorder poses a serious threat to the physical and psychological health of people (Grison et al. 505-506), which is why early diagnosis and effective treatment are the key factors in improving the quality of life of millions of Americans. This essay will discuss anxiety as a psychological disorder, focusing on societal perceptions of anxiety-prone people and therapies for overcoming this disorder.
Definition of anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders are a group of psychological problems that result in an increased proneness to tension and fear. According to Grison et al., there are four “main types of anxiety disorders” (506), namely phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The common denominator of all these problems is that a person perceives a threat in situations that lack real danger. More specifically, phobias are unreasonable fears elicited by a particular object or situation, while generalized anxiety disorder refers to the constant diffused feeling of worry. Panic disorder results in sudden terror attacks that often seem to happen for no obvious reasons (Grison et al. 508). Finally, agoraphobia is defined as the fear of “being in situations from which escape is difficult or impossible” (Grison et al. 508). The reasons for anxiety disorders have both biological and social roots, which means that genes and social environment can equally contribute to the development of anxiety.
Perception of people with anxiety disorders
People with mental disorders can become victims of social stigma, resulting in their unwillingness to seek medical help. When it comes to anxiety, the research indicates that individuals with this disorder are commonly viewed in a negative light. For instance, a study by Calear et al. found that adolescences perceived the high level of stigma targeted at people with generalized anxiety disorder, with male individuals experiencing greater depressive symptoms being at particular risk (212-213). Furthermore, Gilboa-Schechtman et al. reported that participants with clinical anxiety had lower implicit and explicit self-evaluations compared to nonclinical control participants (288). Taken together, these findings suggest that stigma remains an important obstacle to the healthier lives of people with anxiety disorders.
Treatment for anxiety disorders
Seeking medical help can be an effective way of overcoming anxiety. Timely medical assistance is essential, as the disorder can coexist with other mental problems, such as depression (Jacobson and Newman 1166). One way of treating anxiety relies on cognitive-behavioral therapy and includes such techniques as exposure to the feared object, emotion identification, and relaxation strategies. Although the method is successful, Whiteside et al. showed that cognitive-behavioral therapy was underused in the clinical non-research settings (210-211). Emotion regulation therapy is another treatment aimed at reducing anxiety that teaches patients to counteract their negative feelings by consciously controlling their emotions. As demonstrated by Mennin et al., emotion regulation therapy is not only effective but also a long-lasting intervention for reducing the symptoms of anxiety (274). Taken from the diversity of available treatments, people with anxiety disorders are likely to find the coping method that works best for them.
While anxiety disorders can seriously affect the quality of life, people do not have to struggle with it alone. Despite perceived stigma associated with anxiety and other mental disorders, many professionals can teach individuals to overcome excessive worrying and fears. The diversity of available techniques is likely to ensure positive results of the medical treatment for anxiety.
Calear, Alison L., et al. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder Stigma in Adolescents: Personal and Perceived Stigma Levels and Predictors.” Stigma and Health, vol. 2, no. 3, 2017, pp. 208 –215.
Gilboa-Schechtman, Eva, et al. “Explicit and Implicit Self-Evaluations in Social Anxiety Disorder.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 126, no. 3, 2017, pp. 285-290.
Grison, Sarah, et al. Psychology in Your Life. 2nd ed., WW Norton & Company, 2016.
Jacobson, Nicholas C., and Michelle G. Newman. “Anxiety and Depression as Bidirectional Risk Factors for One Another: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 143, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1155–1200.
Mennin, Douglas S., et al. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Emotion Regulation Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder with and without Co-Occurring Depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 86, no. 3, 2018, pp. 268 –281.
Whiteside, Stephen P. H., et al. “The Use of Exposure Therapy for Child Anxiety Disorders in a Medical Center.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, vol. 47, no. 3, 2016, pp. 206 –214.