Anxiety Disorders and
Major Thought Disorders
CASSANDRA F. NEWKIRK
Anxiety is often experienced as a normal emotion of everyday life because as Kaplan and Sadock (2002) state, anxiety is an alerting signal warning of impending danger that serves as an adaptive function to allow one to get out of harm's way. Pathological anxiety exists when the response to a situation is inappropriate in intensity and duration. Kaplan and Sadock describe anxiety as an awareness of physiological sensations such as palpitations, sweating, and awareness of being nervous. The anxiety causes cognitive changes such that a person has difficulty thinking and learning new information because of a sense of confusion.
The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2000) lists the following anxiety disorders: panic disorder, with and without agoraphobia, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social phobia, obsessivecompulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, substance-induced anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder secondary to a medical condition and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified. Anxiety disorders may be difficult to distinguish from other major mental disorders, as anxiety can be associated with several diagnostic categories such as schizophrenia and depression. Anxiety may also be induced by medical conditions such as certain inflammatory diseases, or it may be an adverse reaction to medications.
Several surveys have estimated the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the population, and women are affected by them more than men. The National Institute of Mental Health's Epidemiologic Catchment Area study showed that anxiety disorders had the highest overall prevalence rate among the mental disorders with a lifetime prevalence of 14.6 percent (Mendlowicz and Stein 2000). The National Comorbidity Study showed that women have a lifetime prevalence rate of 30.5 percent compared to 19.2 percent for men (Kaplan and Sadock 2002). Esti-