Anxiety Disorders Theory and Research


Anxiety is a common feeling and every person happens to experience it multiple times of the course of their life. Having anxiety is normal, but when this feeling is especially intense and frequent, it may create a negative impact on social and professional life of an individual; in this case the condition is recognized as an anxiety disorder. There are a number of such disorders and in the contemporary society of the United States at least one quarter of a population has a tendency to fit the characteristics of one of the anxiety disorders at some point of their life (Shear, Cloitre, Pine & Ross, 2005).

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Anxiety disorders compose the prevalent group of all mental problems and affect people of all ages (Schneier, 2006; Hofmann & Smits, 2008). The scientists also have theories concerning the mechanism according to which anxiety disorder function.

For example, Clark (2009) notes that anxiety is caused by mistaken perceptions of the affected individuals; these perceptions make the patients believe that certain circumstances and influences are much more dangerous than they are in reality. Anxiety disorders can be treated, and today the researchers are focused on the search for various ways to address this issue. The main limitation is cognitive-behavioral theory which today is recognized as the most effective treatment is very expensive and the majority of people with anxiety disorder cannot afford it (Olatunji, Cisler & Tolin, 2006). This paper is focused of the exploration concerning alternative methods of treating anxiety disorders such as self-help. Besides, it discusses sources focused on anxiety disorders in children and adolescents and elaborates on what is currently happening in this field.

What Is Going on in the Field?

The contemporary scientists direct their focus and effort at a number of different perspectives and concepts of studying anxiety disorders. For example, there are groups of researchers focused on epidemiological surveys of large scale. They collect data concerning the evidence of rates, correlates and distribution of anxiety disorders on large territories evaluating the level of service use and comorbidity patterns (Simpson, Neria, Lewis-Fernández & Schneier, 2010).

Other groups of scientists research the evolution of diagnosis features ever since the disorders first started to be recognized six decades ago. There are also researchers exploring psychoanalytic perspectives on the feeling of anxiety and its concept in Freudian psychology, self-psychology and object relations. Besides, the modern research studies the roots and origins of anxiety from the point of view of epigenetics and Darwin’s evolution theory. Such researches target both humans and animals and order to determine the causes of anxiety taking into consideration biological and psychological components.

Finally, multiple studies are focused on the search for treatment for anxiety disorders among which there are cognitive-behavioral therapy, complementary and alternative therapies, pharmaceutical solutions, argumentation and first-line strategies. Since many of the patients with anxiety disorders are adults actively searching for help, there are studies exploring the options of self-help as a low-cost treatment method. Self-help is known to be an effective treatment of panic disorder and social phobia (Lewis, Pearce & Bisson, 2012).

Self-help is favored by the patients, which logical as individuals suffering from anxieties prefer to stay away from social interactions. During the self-help intervention a patient is provided with a treatment protocol according to which they are supposed to work on their own issues (Cuijpers & Schuurmans, 2007). During self-help interventions the contact between the patient and therapist is unnecessary and mainly is done with the purpose of professional support and encouragement.

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Abstract for “Anxiety Disorders in Children” by ADAA

Even though the majority of anxiety disorder patients are adults, children are also exposed to this problem. In fact, most of the adult patients developed their first phobias in childhood or adolescence and then kept them though the years. Untreated anxieties do not always go away as an individual matures and develops more rational way of thinking about their fears and worries. On the contrary, the individuals with untreated anxieties are likely to develop disorders. Besides, just like in cases of all psychological disorders, the presence of one issue attracts other problems.

For example, a patient with social anxiety or OCD may eventually develop an impulse control disorder, ADHD, depression or eating disorder. This way, the best way to address the rates of anxiety disorders in adults is to start treating children with such problems. “Anxiety Disorders in Children” written by Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA) covers the rates, characteristics, causes, outcomes and treatments for various anxiety disorders.

The work’s target readers are parents of school-aged children and adolescents. ADAA (n. d.) educates them about the risks of unreported and untreated anxiety disorders such as poor performance at school, social isolation, insomnia and even head and stomach aches. Anxiety disorders in children represent one of the widest and most common fields of pediatric psychopathology (Advances in Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorder Research, 2014). Child and adolescent psychiatry research is guided by behavioral science, genetics, developmental theory, neuroscience and epidemiology. All of these fields are interlinked during the research of causes of such issues as anxiety disorders in childhood.

“Anxiety Disorders in Children” provides detailed descriptions of such anxiety disorders as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, social and separation anxieties, selective mutism and some specific phobias (fears of objects and situations). The paper offers lists of behaviors typical for all of these disorders so that parents could observe their children’s habits and identify if there is something requiring professional attention. The paper explains that the contemporary theorists agree that anxiety disorders are caused by a number of psychological, biological and environmental factors.

For example, stress itself is unable to trigger anxiety disorders, it is the stressful events that are viewed as the causes. Among such events are rapid changes or new and challenging situations such as starting school, a loss of friend or a parent, moving to a new city. Genetic factor is also discussed as a possible cause of anxiety disorders. ADAA (2007) notes that there is a tendency where anxiety disorders may run within families, but not every parent suffering from this disorder passes it to the children. It is emphasized that anxiety disorders are not the results of poor parenting. Finally, the work discusses treatment options which are several.

It is mentioned that not every child reacts in the same way to a certain treatment. Besides, these treatments may be user separately or in a complex. The first discussed treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a talk therapy teaching the patients about techniques for overcoming anxieties and phobias. The other treatment options are acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Comparative Summary of Two Sources

The two compared studies are “Self-help Interventions for Anxiety Disorders: An Overview” by Cuijpers and Schuurmans and “Efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: Systematic review” by Lewis, Pearce and Bisson.

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Both papers are focused on the exploration of effects and efficiency of self-help interventions for the patients with anxiety disorders. The authors of the two studies agree that the main disadvantage of the anxiety disorder treatment that is considered the most effective today is its cost. Cuijpers and Schuumans (2007) mention that most self-help strategies are based on the techniques employed in cognitive-behavioral therapy, such as exposure, applied relaxation and cognitive restructuring. Lewis, Pearce and Bisson (2012) note that the main advantage of self-help interventions is less demand for time with the therapist, which facilitates lower cost and accessibility.

There is a number of media for self-help, among them there are DVDs, books, manuals, CDs. Self-help can be guided, unguided or partially replace the time with the therapist. Both of the studies collected the data acquired by the researchers over the whole history of self-help treatments for anxiety disorders starting decades ago. Lewis, Pearce and Bisson (2012) collected the data from electronic databases and worked with primary sources, while Cuijpers and Schuumans (2007) relied on the secondary sources.

Both studies state that self-help interventions are effective treatment for anxiety disorders, but they are significantly less efficient when no professional guidance is provided. Cuijpers and Schuumans (2007) recommend that self-help interventions are used as an initial part of stepped therapies where the patients work on their issues by means of self-help during the first step, and are treated with face-to-face therapy in case if self-help is not enough.

Reference List

Advances in Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorder Research. (2014). AACAP. Web.

Anxiety Disorders in Children. (n. d.). ADAA. Web.

Clark, D. M. (2009). Anxiety disorders: why they persist and how to treat them. Behavior Research and Therapy, 37, 5-27. Web.

Cuijpers, P. & Schuumans, J. (2007) Self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: An overview. Current Psychiatry Reports, 9, 284–290. Web.

Hofmann, S. G., & Smits, J. A. (2008). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 69(4), 621-632. Web.

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Olatunji, B. O., Cisler, J. M., & Tolin, D. F. (2006). Quality of life in the anxiety disorders: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 572–581. Web.

Lewis, C., Pearce, J., & Bisson, J. I. (2012). Efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: Systematic review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 200, 15–21. Web.

Schneier, F. R., M.D. (2006). Social anxiety disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine, 355(10), 1029-1036. Web.

Shear, M. K., Cloitre, M. C., Pine, D. P., & Ross, J. R. (2005). Anxiety Disorders in Women: Setting a research agenda. Web.

Simpson, H. B., Neria, Y., Lewis-Fernández, R., & Schneier, F. (2010). Anxiety Disorders: Theory, Research, and Clinical Perspectives. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. Web.

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