Most of us feel depressed from time to time. Failing an exam, losing a good friend, and breaking up with a romantic partner are all examples of life events that can trigger a depressed mood in many people. However, depression is much more severe alterations in mood for much longer periods of time. Depression can be defined as emotional state characterized by extraordinary sadness and dejection. These disturbances in mood are intense and persistent, and often lead to serious problems in relationships and work performance. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, three to four million men are affected by depression; it affects twice as many women. In 2002, it has been estimated that depression ranked number-one health condition in the United States, ranking above heart disease and stroke.
To receive this diagnosis, a person must be remarkably depressed (and/or show a marked loss of interest in pleasurable activities) for most of every day and for most days for at least 2 weeks. In addition to these obvious emotional symptoms, he or she must show at least three or four other symptoms that range from cognitive symptoms (such as feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of suicide), to behavioral symptoms (such as fatigue or physical agitation), to physical symptoms (such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Most of us worry and get anxious occasionally, and anxiety is an adaptive emotion that helps us plan and prepare for possible threat. But for some people, anxiety and worry about many potentially bad things that may happen (including minor events) become chronic, excessive, and unreasonable. GAD can be defined as chronic excessive worry about a number of events or activities, with no specific threat present, accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance.
To be diagnosed with GAD, worry must occur more days than not for at least 6 months and it must be experiences as difficult to control. The worry must be about a number of different events or activities. People suffering from GAD oftentimes live in a relatively constant future-oriented mood state of anxious apprehension, chronic tension, and uneasiness. They also frequently engage in certain subtle avoidance activities such as procrastination, checking, or calling a loved one to see if he/she is safe. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a relatively common condition, and it is twice as common in women as in men. GAD often co-occurs with other disorders such as panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive disorder. In addition, many people with GAD experience occasional panic attacks.
Panic Disorder is defined and characterized by the occurrence of repeated unexpected panic attacks. To be diagnosed, the person must have experiences recurrent, unexpected attacks and must have been persistently concerned about having another attack for at least a month. A panic attack must be abrupt onset of at least 4 to 13 symptoms, most of which are physical: depersonalization (a feeling of being detached from one’s body) or derealization (a feeling that the external world is strange or unreal), fear of dying, fear of “going crazy” or “losing control.” Other symptoms include: pounding heart, sweating, trembling, feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and chills or hot flushes. They are often brief but intense, reaching peak intensity within 10 minutes. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is extremely important because panic disorder causes approximately as much impairment in social and occupational functioning and it can contribute to the development or worsening of a variety of medical problems.
Most of us steer clear of certain, hazardous things. Phobias, however, are persistent and irrational fears of some specific object or situation that lead people to altogether avoid of this feared situation that triggers intense anxiety. Phobias occur in several forms, for example, agoraphobia is the fear of being in any situation that might trigger a panic attack and from which escape might be difficult. Social phobia is a fear of being extremely embarrassed in front of other people. The most common social phobia is fear of public speaking.
Be diagnosed with phobic disorder, the person must have had the phobia for at least 6 months, and the person should recognize that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Symptoms also interfere significantly with normal functioning, or there is marked distress about the phobia. The avoidance of phobic situations is a fundamental feature of phobias. For example, claustrophobic persons may go to great lengths to avoid entering a closet or an elevator, even if this means climbing many flights of stairs or turning down jobs that might require them to take an elevator. Exposure therapy is the best treatment for specific phobias. Clients are gradually placed under “real-life” conditions and they are encouraged to expose themselves to their feared situations for long enough periods of time so that their fear begins to subside. Exposure therapy is highly effective when administered in a single long session.
Extreme mood swings in which a person experiences both manic and depressive episodes characterize this disorder. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Bipolar disorder occurs equally in males and females with an average age of onset of 22 years, and continues throughout life. Without treatment, people who have bipolar disorder often go through devastating life events such as marital breakups, job loss, substance abuse, and suicide.
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder is distinguished from major depressive disorder by at least one manic episode or mixed episode (a mixed episode is characterized by symptoms of both full-blown manic and major depressive episodes for at least 1 week. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning.
Bipolar II Disorder
The person does not experience full-blown manic (or mixed) episodes but has experienced clear-cut hypomanic episodes, as well as major depressive episodes as in bipolar I disorder. This disorder occurs equally or somewhat more common than bipolar I disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Most people who are exposed to plane crashes, automobile accidents, explosions, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, combat, sexual assaults, or other terrifying experiences show psychological shock reactions such as confusion and disorientation. Researchers now know that anyone, even children, can develop PTSD if they have experienced, witnessed, or participated in a traumatic occurrence-especially if the event was life threatening. PTSD can result from terrifying experiences such as rape, kidnapping, natural disasters, or war or serious accidents such as airplane crashes. The psychological damage such incidents cause can interfere with a person's ability to hold a job or to develop intimate relationships with others.
The clinical symptoms of PTSD include three main areas: Recurrent reexperiencing of the traumatic event through nightmares or intrusive memories; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (such as cars if the person was in a car crash) and emotional numbing; and increased arousal, which can involve insomnia, the inability to tolerate noise, and an excessive response when startled. The severity of symptoms may vary greatly, depending on the nature of the terrifying experience, the degree of surprise, and the personality of the individual.
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