Psychological Self-Help

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6
As we will see later, anxiety and depression are frequently and
closely associated. Intense anxiety is also a part of or connected with
many burdensome psychological or physiological conditions and
psychiatric disorders. For instance, some aspect of anxiety
accompanies neurotic disorders, including somatoform or somatization
or conversion (a physical problem with a psychological cause),
psychogenic pain, hypochondriasis (fear and excessive complaints of
bodily disease), dissociative reactions (amnesia, sleepwalking, multiple
personality), factitious conditions (faking an illness), obsessive-
compulsive disorders, phobias, and other disorders. See an abnormal
psychology text for a detailed description of these disorders. Some of
these problems are dealt with in the last section of this chapter. 
New Research about Fears, Panic, and Anxiety
Behaviors associated with anxiety, e.g. panic reactions, phobias,
and worries, are paradoxical since these behaviors, although
unpleasant, keep on occurring over and over, perhaps for months or
years. Being by their very nature unwanted, distressing, self-punishing
acts or experiences, why don't those behaviors gradually go away--
extinguish? Why don't people just stop or escape the behaviors? If you
were hurting yourself by holding your hand near a stove burner, you'd
stop. Why don't you stop getting uselessly scared or worried? The
usual answer given by psychologists is that the panic, compulsion,
phobia, or worry may be a useful warning that something is wrong or
they actually reduce our level of anxiety or stress in some way. That
"relief" is powerful enough, we must assume, that it overrides the
unpleasantness of the act or experience, such as compulsion, fear, or
worry. 
Psychologists are gradually learning more about the creation of
intense physiological stresses (more so in some people than in others)
that require rather extreme ("neurotic") acts/feelings, such as intense
fears or compulsions, to lessen the tension or dis-ease. Apparently,
something in an individual's history makes him/her more prone to use
an excessive (and neurotic) tension-reduction method, such as a
compulsion, prolonged worry, or a repeated obsession that becomes a
part of a disorder. 
First of all, it is obvious that anxiety disorders are not easily
stopped. Indeed, they often become chronic, presumably because they
produce some pay off, some benefit, such as worry or fretting may
help us feel we have done our best to deal with a scary situation. It
might surprise you how common anxiety disorders are. For reasons we
don't clearly understand, certain kinds of anxiety disorders, such as
panic attacks and phobia of insects or small animals, occur much more
often in women than in men. Perhaps the new research summarized
below will provide some hints as to why these disorders develop more
often in women. These gender differences start early--by age 6, girls
are twice as likely to feel anxious as boys or, at least, they admit
feeling anxious. 
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