Lifeline Anxiety Disorder Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter for people - and families of people - who suffer from the panic brought about by fears, anxieties and phobias.

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Songs of My Soul

 

SHORT HISTORY OF ANXIETY DISORDERS

Until the late 1970s most regulatory bodies in the medical professsion grouped all anxiety and panic-related disorders loosely together as neuroses. Panic attacks had begun to be recognized, during the sixties, as being triggered by something other than general chronic anxiety, but panic disorder did not become recognized as a specific condition until 1980. Agoraphobia was not even considered as being linked to anxiety disorders until the late 1980s.

Back in 1865 these conditions referred to, until then as nervous exhaustion, became classified as neurasthenia. By the end of the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud was using the term anxiety neurosis but it was not until 1926 that he stopped attributing it to sexual repression, upon realization that anxiety was the cause of such repression rather than the result, and concluded that the various types of anxiety were all forms of separation anxiety and, as such, reproductions of the trauma of birth.

Between then and the late 1970s, when fears and phobias finally began to be scrutinized more extensively, various theories were put forth. Alfred Adler attributed the cause of anxiety disorders to feelings of insecurity, Abraham Maslow to a fixation on the need for safety which, in turn, prevented the achievement of self-hood, Carl Jung to fear of awareness of self. The Neo-Freudians were more introspective, citing internalized conflict and the subsequent failure of defence mechanisms to be the cause of anxiety disorders.

It was not until the 1990s that great advances were made, among them recognition of the fact that children have anxiety disorders. It was probably the original Freudian tradition of anxiety neurosis stemming from sexual tension that is the reason for children's anxiety disorders being either trivialized as something-they-will-grow-out-of or hypothersized as being the result of parental abuse for so many years. Two discoveries ended all the psychological theorizing on the causes of anxiety disorders, and enabled us to better understand their origins, by proving them to be biologically based. Serotonin levels were proven to impact upon mood and the amygdala, part of the limbic system of the brain, was shown to be the brain's fear conditioning centre.

Today, cognitive-behavioural and exposure therapies, as well as medications, are continually being improved upon because brain chemistry, memory programming and the genetics involved in anxiety disorders are so much closer to being understood. Whether as an adult or as a child, being the victim of an anxiety disorder is hardly pleasant but the health professions are now on their way to being able to correctly diagnose and treat anxiety disorders. We've come a long way in a short time from the inappropriate and exacerbating talk therapy of just a generation ago.


GLOSSARY

Panic Attacks -- isolated attacks of endogenous fear, anxiety and terror.

Panic Disorder -- panic attacks which cause periods of apprehension and fear of subsequent attacks.

Social Phobia (also called Social Anxiety Disorder) -- fear of humiliation and being scrutinized by other people which causes panic attacks, general anxiety disorder due to avoidance behaviour and devastating limits upon lifestyle. NIMH Pamphlet on Social Phobia.

Simple Phobia -- fear of one object or situation which causes panic attacks when encountered and which may develop into generalized anxiety disorder due to the preoccupation with avoidance.

Agoraphobia -- usually begins with a panic attack due to simple or social phobia or panic disorder and progresses to a lifestyle totally concerned with avoidance of the possibility of an attack.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder -- fears become exaggerated when the body's natural anxiety response becomes heightened. While this is a condition in itself, it also develops out of - and becomes comorbid with - other disorders involving panic. NIMH Pamphlet on Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- the emotional re-living of a traumatic event and avoidance behaviour or emotional numbness subconsciously adopted to block it out.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -- biological disorder, causing victims to behave ritualistically, which is thought to be due to abnormal energy flow in the part of the human brain corresponding to the area which controls ritual behaviour in an animals brain.



reviewed in psych central        Copyright 1994-2014 Lifeline Anxiety Disorder Newsletter        healing well award

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