Anxiety Disorders: What They Are And What To Do

Anxiety Disorders belong to the category of Affectivity Disorders. Affectivity could be defined as the individual’s ability or willingness to respond with subjective affective-emotional modifications to thoughts or events of external and internal reality (including the body): that is, it is the ability to experience emotions of highly variable meaning, duration, intensity and tone (fear, pain, sympathy, love, anger, etc.)

The emotional response obviously differs from subject to subject in relation to the stimulus caused and even more so in relation to the type of ‘basic’, or habitual, affective availability, which can also be defined as mood or temperament, which is the conscious result of a set of qualities and characteristics intrinsic to the person’s constitution and the sum of experiences, learning, habits acquired in the adaptive regulation of the drive heritage.

The main psychopathological alterations of Affectivity and the definition of Anxiety Disorders

Among the main psychopathological alterations of Affectivity are Anxiety Disorders.

Definition of Anxiety Disorders: they are disorders related to and resulting from excessive anxiety, which – from being physiological, i.e. a normal reaction to emotions – becomes uncontrollable.

In itself, anxiety is a natural species-specific defence of alertness in the face of danger; in fact, the human body is ‘predisposed’ to attack and escape’ whenever the Peripheral Nervous System sends danger signals (= ‘information transduction’) to the Central Nervous System, which – in turn – will respond to the signal by preparing the Muscular System (for the activation of motor neurons) and the Endocrine System (for the release of specific neurotransmitters (catecholamines such as Norepinephine and Acetylcholine).

This response will subjectively vary in intensity depending on the consideration of cognitive and emotional aspects typical of the individual.

History for diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder (risk factors):

  • Quality of lifestyle and living conditions in general, share of stressors
  • Impaired mental hygiene (poor diet, sleep disorders, use of harmful or toxic substances, drug abuse etc.).
  • Anxiety in childhood
  • Inability or difficulty in keeping one’s emotions at bay
  • Depressive states
  • Asthenia

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

  • Altered respiratory rate (so-called ‘doggy’ breathing, with the mouth and not the nose, to bring in more oxygen)
  • Tachycardia (acceleration of the heartbeat to pump more blood to ‘send’ to the organ or muscle)
  • Perhydrosis (unusual sweating to dissolve emotional heat)
  • Hyposcialia or xerostemia (dry mouth)
  • Uncontrollable shaking and trembling
  • Feeling of suffocation

Classification of Anxiety Disorders (including DSM 5)

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Specific Phobia

Anxiety Disorder Categories in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)

They are separated from the Anxiety Disorders, as they will become categories in their own right:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Within Anxiety Disorders they are separated:

  • Panic Disorder
  • Panic Attack
  • Agoraphobia

Within Anxiety Disorders are included:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Selective mutism

Within OCD are included:

  • Hoarding Disorder (hoarding: hoarding, hoarding, hoarding)
  • Skin excoriation disorder
  • Trichotillomania (impulse to pull and tear hair)

Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders

  • Anxiety attacks with an onset of at least six months
  • Presence of at least three symptoms
  • Comorbidity with Depression
  • Absence of organic cause
  • Difficulty in emotional control
  • Difficulty in describing the symptomatology (“as if….”)
  • Lifestyle modification/inhibition


  • Cultural factors: environment, education. personality structure
  • Genetic factors: predisposition not scientifically confirmed


  • Approximately 5-6% of the world population, with onset in youth (around the age of 20).

Distribution of disorders in Italy in 2010 (source ESEMeD):

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Phobia: present >2% lifetime
  • Panic attack disorder, agoraphobia: present to an extent of
  • Gender: women are much more at risk. Causes: female hormone characteristics; greater susceptibility to stressful life events.

Therapies for Anxiety Disorders

Pharmacological therapy:

  • Psychoactive drugs
  • Antidepressants SSRIs, i.e. serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • SSNRI anti-depressants, i.e. noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors
  • Atypical psychoactive antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines, i.e. anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, sedative drugs
  • Neuroleptics, i.e. antipsychotics

Psychological therapies

  • Group therapy
  • Focal therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy

Recreational therapies:

  • Aerobic physical activity
  • Yoga
  • Massage


Manuale di Psichiatria, F. Giberti R. Rossi – Piccini e Vallardi, 1983

ESEMeD progetto europeo European Study on the epidemiology of Mental Disorders, 2010

DSM 5 Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual of Mental Disorders, Manuale Diagnostico dei Disturbi Mentali), Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2013

Gli Psicofarmaci, farmacologia e terapia, C. Bellantuono M. Balestrieri, Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, 1997

Studi clinici e Ricerche personali della professoressa Grazia Aloi

Read Also:

Emergency Live Even More…Live: Download The New Free App Of Your Newspaper For IOS And Android

What Is The Difference Between Anxiety And Depression: Let’s Find Out About These Two Widespread Mental Disorders

ALGEE: Discovering Mental Health First Aid Together

Rescuing A Patient With Mental Health Problems: The ALGEE Protocol

Basic Psychological Support (BPS) In Panic Attacks And Acute Anxiety

What Is Postpartum Depression?

How To Recognise Depression? The Three A Rule: Asthenia, Apathy And Anhedonia

Postpartum Depression: How To Recognise The First Symptoms And Overcome It

Postpartum Psychosis: Knowing It To Know How To Deal With It

Schizophrenia: What It Is And What The Symptoms Are

Childbirth And Emergency: Postpartum Complications

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED): What It Is And How To Treat It

Baby Blues, What It Is And Why It Is Different From Postpartum Depression

Depression In The Elderly: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


Pagine Mediche

You might also like