Anxiety and Panic Disorder

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Everybody has experienced feelings of anxiety from time to time; and sometimes people get so overwhelmed, they go into a state panic. Anxiety is actually a normal human reaction to stress. However, in severe cases, anxiety and panic can become disabling and interfere with everyday living. For an adolescent, life is already stressful enough. How does an adolescent, then, live day to day with one or both of these conditions? This paper will take an in depth look at what anxiety, specifically generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and panic disorder are, signs and symptoms that show severe anxiety and/or panic disorder is present in an adolescent, treatment methods for both GAD and panic disorder, and two websites offering advice and treatment for families with a diagnosed adolescent.

While there are several types of anxiety disorders including GAD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), phobias, and panic disorder, this paper will focus on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder in the adolescent population. Before we can discuss any aspects of GAD or panic disorder, we have to understand exactly what these two metal disorders are. Anxiety is the less severe disorder of the two. In general, anxiety is present in every human being. Feeling anxious is a normal circumstance in everyone’s life and, at times, can be beneficial in certain situations. Anxiety refers to the brain’s natural response to danger (Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders). To most people, this is referred to as our “fight or flight” response. When an adolescent is diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, the anxiety has been occurring at abnormal levels for at least six months. The anxiety has no apparent trigger, is difficult to control, and hinders normal everyday living (Generalized Anxiety in Referred). Panic disorder is a similar, yet, more severe disorder than GAD. Panic disorder is diagnosed when the adolescent experiences multiple, unexpected “panic attacks” continuously over time. A panic attack is a completely disabling situation. During an episode an individual experiences intense fear, apprehension, or terror, and is often accompanied by an impending sense of death or insanity (Panic Disorder. NCIB). Panic attacks are actually considered common to a degree, affecting roughly five percent of people at some point in their lives (Panic Disorder. ProQuest). It is when multiple panic attacks occur throughout time when a panic disorder diagnosis is made. Panic disorder is often present with other mental health problems and/or poor life style choices. These include GAD, depression, tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use, and even genetics. These all can contribute to and exacerbate symptoms of panic disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder have similar symptoms, which we will look at next.

Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder have similar signs and symptoms. GAD is diagnosed when excessive anxiety is constantly present for at least 6 months. Along with the excessive anxiety and worry, these physical and cognitive symptoms can be present: restlessness, fatigue, concentration deficits, irritability, muscle tension, and sleeping disorders to name a few. GAD is harder to detect in children and normally isn’t detected until the adolescent years. Anxiety in a GAD diagnosed adolescent is likely to emerge in the presence of normal social, academic, or sporting events. Fear of judgment from family and peers hangs heavy on the adolescent’s mind (Connolly, Simpson, and Petty 2006). The causes of the anxiety can arise from more ludicrous worries as well. This can include worries of a plague, nuclear war, or natural disasters occurring. With the mind being boggled from all the unnecessary worries by GAD, the adolescent’s academic, social, and athletic performance is now at risk of deteriorating. Any negative impacts on the adolescent will only escalate the anxiety. Bad...
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