# Monday, August 31, 2009
                 
Phobias: These are only classified as a disorder if they prevent the person from leading a normal life. They come in two categories; social phobia (fear of social situations) and specific phobias (i.e. spiders, flying, heights, etc.) Social phobia causes the person to experience intense fear of social situations to the extreme where contact with people can paralyze the person and make them experience feelings of extreme self-consciousness. This fear can be so intense that the person will find it easier and more comfortable to avoid any and all situations that may trigger these feelings, thereby limiting their ability to lead a 'normal' life as well as interact with other people. Specific phobias produce an irrational fear of a specific environment or object that produces an overwhelming feeling of fear. The inability to control this extreme terror even though logically they realize it is not grounded in reality causes extreme anxiety and panic.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This relates to someone who has suffered a traumatic experience, i.e. rape, robbery, physical, mental and or emotional violence. The person relives the terror of the experience and can be triggered by anything that they associate with the trauma. Common symptoms include:

•    Flashbacks;
•    Nightmares;
•    Depression;
•    Anger and irritability.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: This disorder causes persistent unwanted thoughts (obsession) and behaviors (compulsion) that is uncontrollable. Typical obsessions revolve around germs, persistent doubts (knowing you turned off the oven but still obsessed that you didn’t and the house may burn down), and disturbing sexual and/or religious thoughts. Compulsions can cause excessive washing, cleaning, counting, organizing and checking.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This causes the person to excessively and inappropriately worry about ordinary things and events and usually lasts for at least six months. The person will expect the very worst to happen to them even when there is no evidence to support those thoughts (i.e. worrying about being fired, even when you have great evaluations, got a promotion, etc.) They can cause such physical symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, shaking, muscle tension and headaches.

As many anxiety disorders have some roots in biology, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly used in order to help the person relieve the symptoms as well as the emotional impact of these disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is also used with great success, and usually in conjunction with medications. There are specific CBT techniques designed for anxiety disorders that can be learned to help alleviate the symptoms, i.e. breathing techniques for those with panic disorder in order to lower the heart rate. Support groups are also available whereby the person can not only learn from others, but find acceptance as well as a non-judgmental environment in which they  can be open and honest about their experiences.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer for up to 10 years with these disorders without seeking out treatment or even a diagnosis. A specialist can correctly diagnosis these disorders and help to not only provide medication, but specific supports and therapies that will help the person regain their life. The first step is to talk to your health care provider about what you are experiencing so they can refer you to a specialist as well as other resources in your community.

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