Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either the absence or presence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness and dread.. Anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to stress. It may help a person to deal with a difficult situation by prompting one to cope with it. When anxiety becomes excessive, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder. The intensity and reasoning behind anxiety determines whether it is considered a normal or abnormal reaction.
- 1 Description
- 2 Biological and psychological basis
- 3 Clinical scales
- 4 Varieties
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. As such, it is distinguished from fear, which is an emotional response to a perceived threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is related to situations perceived as uncontrollable or unavoidable. An alternative view defines anxiety as "a future-oriented mood state in which one is ready or prepared to attempt to cope with upcoming negative events", suggesting that it is a distinction between future vs. present dangers which divides anxiety and fear.
Physical effects of anxiety may include heart palpitations, muscle weakness and tension, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches. The body prepares to deal with a threat: blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, blood flow to the major muscle groups is increased, and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited (the fight or flight response). External signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and pupillary dilation. Someone who has anxiety might also experience it as a sense of dread or panic. Although panic attacks are not experienced by every person who has anxiety, they are a common symptom. Panic attacks usually come without warning, and although the fear is generally irrational, the perception of danger is very real. A person experiencing a panic attack will often feel as if he or she is about to die or pass out.
Anxiety does not only consist of physical effects; there are many emotional ones as well. They include "feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and, feeling like your mind's gone blank" as well as "nightmares/bad dreams, obsessions about sensations, deja vu, a trapped in your mind feeling, and feeling like everything is scary."
Cognitive effects of anxiety may include thoughts about suspected dangers, such as fear of dying. "You may...fear that the chest pains [a physical symptom of anxiety] are a deadly heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head [another physical symptom of anxiety] are the result of a tumor or aneurysm. You feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or can’t get it out of your mind."
Behavior can be affected in the form of withdrawal from situations where unpleasant effects of anxiety have been experienced in the past. It can also be affected in ways which include changes in sleeping patterns, nail biting and increased motor tension, such as foot tapping.
Biological and psychological basis
Neural circuitry involving the amygdala and hippocampus is thought to underlie anxiety. When people are confronted with unpleasant and potentially harmful stimuli such as foul odors or tastes, PET-scans show increased bloodflow in the amygdala. In these studies, the participants also reported moderate anxiety. This might indicate that anxiety is a protective mechanism designed to prevent the organism from engaging in potentially harmful behaviors.
The psychologist David H. Barlow of Boston University conducted a study that showed three common characteristics of people suffering from chronic anxiety, which he characterized as "a generalized biological vulnerability," "a generalized psychological vulnerability," and "a specific psychological vulnerability." While chemical issues in the brain that result in anxiety (especially resulting from genetics) are well documented, this study highlights an additional environmental factor that may result from being raised by parents suffering from chronic anxiety themselves.
Research upon adolescents who as infants had been highly apprehensive, vigilant, and fearful finds that their nucleus accumbens is more sensitive than that in other people when selecting to make an action that determined whether they received a reward. This suggests a link between circuits responsible for fear and also reward in anxious people. As researchers note "a sense of ‘responsibility,’ or self agency, in a context of uncertainty (probabilistic outcomes) drives the neural system underlying appetitive motivation (i.e., nucleus accumbens) more strongly in temperamentally inhibited than noninhibited adolescents."
Although single genes have little effect on complex traits and interact heavily both between themselves and with the external factors, research is underway to unravel possible molecular mechanisms underlying anxiety and comorbid conditions. One candidate gene with polymorphisms that influence anxiety is PLXNA2.
The HAM-A (Hamilton Anxiety Scale)  is a widely used interview scale that measures the severity of a patient's anxiety, based on 14 parameters, including anxious mood, tension, fears, insomnia, somatic complaints and behavior at the interview.
Anxiety as a medical symptom or condition
Anxiety can be a symptom of an underlying health issue such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, or heart arrythmia. Abnormal and pathological anxiety or fear itself may be a medical condition that falls under the blanket term "anxiety disorder." Such conditions came under the aegis of psychiatry at the end of the 19th century and current psychiatric diagnostic criteria recognize several specific forms of the disorder. Recent surveys have found that as many as 18% of Americans may be affected by one or more of them.
The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, in The Concept of Anxiety, described anxiety or dread associated with the "dizziness of freedom" and suggested the possibility for positive resolution of anxiety through the self-conscious exercise of responsibility and choosing. In Art and Artist (1932), the psychologist Otto Rank wrote that the psychological trauma of birth was the pre-eminent human symbol of existential anxiety and encompasses the creative person's simultaneous fear of – and desire for – separation, individuation and differentiation.
The theologian Paul Tillich characterized existential anxiety as "the state in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing" and he listed three categories for the nonbeing and resulting anxiety: ontic (fate and death), moral (guilt and condemnation), and spiritual (emptiness and meaninglessness). According to Tillich, the last of these three types of existential anxiety, i.e. spiritual anxiety, is predominant in modern times while the others were predominant in earlier periods. Tillich argues that this anxiety can be accepted as part of the human condition or it can be resisted but with negative consequences. In its pathological form, spiritual anxiety may tend to "drive the person toward the creation of certitude in systems of meaning which are supported by tradition and authority" even though such "undoubted certitude is not built on the rock of reality".
According to Viktor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning, when a person is faced with extreme mortal dangers, the most basic of all human wishes is to find a meaning of life to combat the "trauma of nonbeing" as death is near.
Test and performance anxiety
According to Yerkes-Dodson law, an optimal level of arousal is necessary to best complete a task such as an exam, performance, or competitive event. However, when the anxiety or level of arousal exceeds that optimum, the result is a decline in performance.
Test anxiety is the uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness felt by students who had a fear of failing an exam. Students who have test anxiety may experience any of the following: the association of grades with personal worth; fear of embarrassment by a teacher; fear of alienation from parents or friends; time pressures; or feeling a loss of control. Sweating, dizziness, headaches, racing heartbeats, nausea, fidgeting, and drumming on a desk are all common. Because test anxiety hinges on fear of negative evaluation, debate exists as to whether test anxiety is itself a unique anxiety disorder or whether it is a specific type of social phobia.
While the term "test anxiety" refers specifically to students, many workers share the same experience with regard to their career or profession. The fear of failing at a task and being negatively evaluated for failure can have a similarly negative effect on the adult.
Anxiety when meeting or interacting with unknown people is a common stage of development in young people. For others, it may persist into adulthood and become social anxiety or social phobia. "Stranger anxiety" in small children is not a phobia. Rather it is a developmentally appropriate fear by toddlers and preschool children of those who are not parents or family members. In adults, an excessive fear of other people is not a developmentally common stage; it is called social anxiety. According to Cutting, social phobics do not fear the crowd but the fact that they may be being judged negatively. Social anxiety varies in degree and severity. Whilst for some people it is characterized by experiencing discomfort or awkwardness during physical social contact (Embracing, Shaking Hands, etc), in other cases it can lead to a fear of interacting with unfamiliar people altogether. There can be a tendency among those suffering from this condition to restrict their lifestyles to accommodate the anxiety, minimizing social interaction whenever possible. Social Anxiety also forms a core aspect of certain personality disorders, including Avoidant Personality Disorder.
Anxiety can be either a short term 'state' or a long term "trait." Trait anxiety reflects a stable tendency to respond with state anxiety in the anticipation of threatening situations. It is closely related to the personality trait of neuroticism. Such anxiety may be conscious or unconscious.
Choice or decision anxiety
"Today we’re all faced with greater choice, more competition and less time to consider our options or seek out the right advice."
Template:Further Paradoxical anxiety is anxiety arising from use of methods or techniques which are normally used to reduce anxiety. This includes relaxation or meditation techniques as well as use of certain medications. In some buddhist meditation literature, this effect, although it is not referred to as anxiety there due to the religious context of the writing, is described as something which arises naturally and should be turned toward and mindfully explored in order to gain insight into the nature of emotion, and more profoundly, the nature of self.
Anxiety in Positive psychology
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