“When does a normal fear become a phobia?”(Morris & Maisto 2005)
A national survey has found that anxiety disorders are more common than any other form of mental disorder. All human beings feel fear and this is a natural form of protection from danger. In a normal person, fear comes in an appropriate situation and after time subsides. However, if fear comes and the person afraid does not know why they are afraid or if fear comes in an inappropriate situation this fear may be an anxiety disorder. One of the most common forms of anxiety disorders among students is the panic disorder. (Morris & Maisto 2005)
Panic Disorder is an anxiety causing panic attacks. The panic attacks are recurring and are characterized by a sudden fear which is intense to the point of terror and do not have a specific reason. The symptoms during a panic attack vary, but may include dizziness, difficult breathing or fainting. (Morris & Maisto 2005)
Observational Case Study
As a teacher, this author has personal experience with several students who suffer from panic disorder. One particular student is a Japanese female, about 17 years old, and a student at a private high school in Japan. She has recurring episodes of panic attacks. Her symptoms are hyperventilation, dizziness, fainting and occasionally loss of motor control. In one instance, the loss of motor control was in the home of this writer. In this case, the student was unable to move any limbs and had to be physically carried to the car to be taken home. The reasons for the attacks vary but may happen for no apparent reason. The conditions leading up to the attacks are not all known, but two events may have contributed to the sudden onset of fear. One instance was a nighttime stalker experience where a stranger followed the young woman. This led to insecurity of being alone and of the dark. Another more traumatic incident was viewing a train accident where a man was killed by a train accident. This led to a fear of the sight of blood even in movies or on television.
The consequences of the attacks are many with the most observable being the subject’s growing fear of other stressful situations. The student often is unable to go to school on time and often must stay home. She has fewer friends than other students and has a hard time facing test days or public events. Her grades are also suffering from the panic attacks.
Some Psychology theorists believe that since phobias like snakes or spiders are much more common than other phobias there may be responses, which have been acquired through evolution and are hard-wired into our biological structure. This wiring causes intense fear when associated with certain stimuli and in some individuals becomes out of control. (Morris & Maisto 2005)
In the cognitive perspective of psychology, the people who are more likely to experience an anxiety disorder are those who feel no control over the events of their lives especially the stressful ones. An example is the higher rate of anxiety in high crime areas.
(Morris & Maisto 2005)
The biological perspective of psychology argues that heredity may be the cause of predisposition to anxiety disorder. (Morris & Maisto 2005)
The Freudian perspective on anxiety disorders is that impulses or thoughts, which are unacceptable, may break through to consciousness overwhelming the ego. He also believed there were defense mechanisms in place that protect the conscious mind but the price paid is anxiety. (Morris & Maisto 2005)
The case study of the young woman with panic attacks brings up an ethical dilemma. Since the panic attacks happen regularly difficulty arises in deciding how serious the attacks are. For example, how should the staff respond to the attacks as medical laypersons? If the attack became serious enough to cause injury or death would the school be responsible for not responding by calling for emergency assistance.
In another light, should the school allow students who have panic attack disorder to continue as students? The problem is deciding when the student should be turned over to a professional. Panic attacks cannot only be dangerous to the individual but also interrupt classes and cause the other students unnecessary fear and worry.
Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks are reported as the most common psychological disorder. However, psychologists from the different perspectives of evolution, biology, cognitive, and Freudian do not agree on the cause of this disorder. Irrespective of the true cause of panic disorder, the consequences are severe. In addition, an ethical dilemma exists posed by deciding when a panic attack is a real emergency and the effect on those around the person with the attacks. Finally, the prevention and treatment of panic attacks will remain unknown until enough research is done and to reach a point of eliminating Anxiety Disorders may require mapping the genetic structure of each human on the planet.