An interview with Colette Kearns, Head of CBT Dept. St. Patrick's Mental Health Services
Anxiety is a normal emotion. We all experience anxiety from time to time. Examples of this are: feeling anxious at exam time, driving test or interviews. This experience of anxiety gets us ready to do something important or to perform at our best in these situations. Here, anxiety has a positive function. However, if anxiety is excessive or has a big impact on a person’s life, this may meet criteria for an Anxiety Disorder.
As human beings, we have a natural response to danger or threat and this manifests as Anxiety. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Physiologically, a hormone adrenaline is produced which brings about an array of physical symptoms and the feeling of anxiety. This response prepares us to ‘fight or flee’ in the presence of danger or threat. However, an anxiety disorder may be present if the anxiety is excessive, no danger is present or the danger is not matching the actual dange
Anxiety Disorders are common. They are as prevalent as Depression. It is estimated that 1 in 9 people in Ireland will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. 1 in 10 people consult their GP with symptoms of anxiety, most not knowing they are anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders can happen at any age. Many have an onset in childhood or adolescence. Some start in adulthood.
Anxiety disorders may happen due to genetic predisposition or experiences in life (early experiences or recent experiences). A maintenance cycle develops involving physical symptoms, thoughts, behaviours and emotions which continues the experience of anxiety on.
Although a person may describe anxiety that is felt in a general way, most anxiety problems fit into a specific anxiety disorder. The main Anxiety disorders are:
· Phobias: an irrational fear of an object, situation or place that leads to avoidance. The four main classifications of phobias are: Specific phobia, Agoraphobia, Social phobia and Blood injury phobia.
· Panic Disorder: this involves intense anxiety associated with a misinterpretation of physical symptoms where a person thinks they will collapse and die or ‘go mad’.
· Generalised Anxiety disorder: involves a central component of ‘worry’ which feels out of control for the person. They will worry about many different areas of their life and will also have ‘worries about the worry’.
· Obsessive Compulsive disorder: involves cycles where obsessive thoughts cause anxiety and then rituals/ compulsions occur to reduce that anxiety. There are 4 main subtypes of OCD: contaimination, harm to others, sexual obsessions and symmetry obsessions.
· Body Dysmorphic disorder: involves extreme distress due to imagined or real physical abnormalities that leads to behavioural change.
· Health anxiety: involves excessive anxiety about health which involves thoughts about having an illness and dying which leads to behavioural changes.
· Post Traumatic stress disorder: involves intense fear and anxiety which relates to the experience of trauma or traumas. There are specific symptoms present such as distressing thoughts of the trauma, avoidance, nightmares and flashbacks.
· Habit disorders: are presentations of behaviours which are repeated eg nail biting, hair pulling, skin picking.
· Sexual difficulties: involves difficulties in sexual relationships. For men these difficulties involve erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or low libido. For women the difficulties are vaginismus, anorgasmia or low libido.
All of the above Anxiety Disorders are treatable. Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy (CBT) is an evidenced based Therapy that research has been found effective in treating the above anxiety disorders. There are specific CBT treatment models to treat each of the anxiety disorders above.
If you require further information contact our Support & Information Service on 01-2493333