Probably, no single situation or condition causes anxiety disorders. Rather, physical and environmental triggers may combine to create a particular anxiety illness. Psychoanalytic theory suggests that anxiety stems from unconscious conflicts that arose from discomfort during infancy or childhood. For example, a person may carry the unconscious conflict of sexual feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex. Or the person may have developed problems from experiencing an illness, fright or other emotionally laden event as a child. By this theory, anxiety can be resolved by identifying and resolving the unconscious conflict. The symptoms that symbolize the conflict would then disappear. People who feel uncomfortable in a given situation or near a certain object will begin to avoid it. However, such avoidance can limit a patient’s ability to live a normal life. More recently, research has indicated that biochemical imbalances are the real culprits. Many scientists say, all thoughts and feelings result from complex electrochemical interactions in the central nervous system. Moreover, some studies indicate that infusions of certain biochemicals can cause a panic attack in some people.
According to this theory, treatment of anxiety should correct these biochemical imbalances. Although medications first come to mind with this theory, remember that studies have found that biochemical changes can occur as a result of emotional, psychological or behavioral changes. No doubt each of these theories is true to some extent. A person may develop or inherit a biological susceptibility to anxiety disorders. Events in childhood may lead to certain fears that, over time, develop into a full–blown anxiety disorder.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Generally, anxiety disorders are treated by a combination approach. Phobias and obsessive–compulsive disorders often are treated by behavior therapy. This involves exposing the patient to the feared object or situation under controlled circumstances, until the fear is cured or significantly reduced. Successfully treated with this method, many phobia patients have long–term recovery.
Medications are effective treatments, sometimes used alone and often in combination with behavior therapy or other psychotherapy techniques. In addition to behavior modification techniques and medication, talking issues out in psychotherapy can be crucial.
There is good reason for optimism about treatment of even the most severe anxiety disorders. Research indicates that 65 percent of the phobic and obsessive–compulsive patients, who can cooperate with the therapist and conscientiously follow instructions, will recover with behavior therapy. Studies have shown that, while they are taking the medications, 70 percent of the patients who suffer from panic attacks improve. Medication is effective for about half of those suffering from obsessive – compulsive disorder.