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What Are The Complications Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

How to OVERCOME FEAR and Anxiety | You need to WATCH this!

Constant fear and worry can cause stress that impacts your physical and mental well-being. Illness anxiety disorder can harm your relationships and life. You may miss out on time with loved ones because youre concerned about your health. Some people become severely depressed and even suicidal.

Illness anxiety disorder also puts you at risk for:

  • Financial struggles due to medical bills and missed work.
  • Medical disability and unemployment.
  • Unnecessary medical tests and potential test complications.

What Are Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses. The different types of anxiety disorders include:


A phobia is an intense fear around a specific thing like an object, animal, or situation. Most of us are scared of something, but these feelings dont disrupt our lives. With phobias, people change the way they live in order to avoid the feared object or situation.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense fear that lasts for a short period of time. It causes a lot of physical feelings like a racing heart, shortness of breath, or nausea. Panic attacks can be a normal reaction to a stressful situation, or a part of other anxiety disorders. With panic disorder, panic attacks seem to happen for no reason. People who experience panic disorder fear more panic attacks and may worry that something bad will happen as a result of the panic attack. Some people change their routine to avoid triggering more panic attacks.


Agoraphobia is fear of being in a situation where a person cant escape or find help if they experience a panic attack or other feelings of anxiety. A person with agoraphobia may avoid public places or even avoid leaving their homes.

Social anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder

Complications Of Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is treatable and you can make a full recovery. But it’s best to get medical help as soon as you can.

If you do not get medical help, panic disorder can escalate and become very difficult to cope with.

You’re more at risk of developing other mental health conditions, such as agoraphobia or other phobias, or an alcohol or drug problem.

Having panic disorder may affect your ability to drive. The law requires you to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency about a medical condition that could impact your driving ability.

Visit GOV.UK for further information about driving with a disability or health condition.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

People with illness anxiety disorder have ongoing but unrealistic fear about being seriously ill. The specific illness that they worry about often changes.

Some people with illness anxiety disorder may actually have a diagnosed physical illness. But because of illness anxiety disorder, they may feel their condition is more severe than it is.

Symptoms of illness anxiety disorder include:

  • Avoiding people or places due to worry about catching an illness.
  • Constantly researching diseases and symptoms.
  • Exaggerating symptoms and their severity .
  • High level of anxiety about personal health.
  • Obsession with normal body functions, such as heart rate.
  • Oversharing your symptoms and health status with others.
  • Repeatedly checking for signs of illness, such as taking your blood pressure or temperature.
  • Seeking reassurance from loved ones about your symptoms or health.
  • Uneasiness with healthy body functions like gas or sweating.

What Causes Illness Anxiety Disorder

It happens to the best of us, teacher stress sneaks up ...

Healthcare experts dont know why some people develop illness anxiety disorder. You may be more prone to illness anxiety disorder if you have a family history of:

  • Childhood trauma, such as child abuse or neglect.
  • Health anxieties or other anxiety disorders in your family.
  • Childhood illness or serious illness in your family during childhood.
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Trauma, such as rape or physical or emotional abuse.

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Types Of Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is defined as an extreme, irrational fear or aversion to a particular thing or situation such as a thunderstorm or being in small, tight places, etc. The fear is so intense it interferes with the way you live. Whats key here is that the object or situation usually does not pose significant danger, and yet the fear of it is intense and often interferes with your life.1

Within specific phobias, there are five different categories:1

  • Phobias of animals or insects like dogs, snakes, or spiders
  • Phobias of natural phenomena like heights, storms, or water
  • Phobias of blood or injury like getting a blood test or needles
  • Phobias of specific situations like flying in planes, driving cars, or being in confined places
  • Other phobias like choking, vomiting, or catching an illness

Its estimated that 12.5% of US adults and 19.3% of teens will deal with a specific phobia at some time in their lives, making it the most common type of phobia and the most common type of anxiety disorder overall. Adult women tend to develop specific phobias at twice the rate as men, while the numbers among teens are closer. Anxiety disorders across the board are more prevalent among women than men. The reasons for this are still being explored, but it likely relates to hormonal differences.4,5

What Are The Types Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Someone with illness anxiety disorder generally fits into one of these categories:

  • Care-seeking: You spend a lot of time in a healthcare setting. You seek advice from multiple specialists and request medical tests.
  • Care-avoidant: You avoid doctors and medical care. You might not trust doctors or you think they dont take your symptoms seriously. This can create more fear and anxiety.

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How Many People Seek Treatment

Despite the extent of suffering and impairment, only about half of adults with the disorder ever seek treatment, and those who do generally only seek treatment after 15 to 20 years of symptoms . Likely explanations for low rates and delays include individuals thinking that social anxiety is part of their personality and cannot be changed , lack of recognition of the condition by healthcare professionals, stigmatisation of mental health services, fear of being negatively evaluated by a healthcare professional, general lack of information about the availability of effective treatments and limited availability of services in many areas.

Treatment Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

How to Turn off the Fear Response: Create a Sense of Safety: Turn off Fight/Flight/Freeze Response

Several options as second-line agents have efficacy in GAD comparable to first-line agents but possess potential side effects or other risks that preclude first-line use . Benzodiazepines would be considered first in most cases, except where there is a risk of substance abuse, while bupropion XL would likely be reserved for later. Quetiapine XR remains a good choice in terms of efficacy, but given the metabolic concerns associated with this atypical antipsychotic, it should be reserved for patients who lack response or cannot tolerate antidepressants or benzodiazepines . It is important to note that drugs such as beta-blockers prescribed to address the physical symptoms of anxiety are ineffective in the treatment of GAD .

Videotaped feedback enhances the effects of exposure therapy.

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Dealing With Social Phobia

People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little.

Here’s who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:

  • Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fightflight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
  • Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don’t help and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn’t a person’s fault and isn’t something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.

How Do You Know If You Have Both

To answer this, think about how you feel after social interactions. Do you feel good about yourself or bad about yourself?

Keep in mind that everyone deals with awkward social interactions from time to time. Its how you handle and cope with these interactions that can determine whether you have both.

A person who doesnt have social anxiety can usually brush off an awkward social moment and move on.

For the socially anxious, however, the fear of embarrassment is too intense to brush off these types of incidents.

Often times, you cant stop thinking about the mistake. Youll replay it over and over in your head. Youll convince yourself that you looked stupid or made a fool of yourself. The more you engage in this type of negative self-talk, the more socially inept and helpless you can feel.

If you cant reign in these emotions, you may begin to experience depression as well.

Treatments are available to successfully improve social anxiety and depression when they occur together. If youre diagnosed with both, your doctor may choose a therapy that works for both conditions.

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What Happens When Someone Has Social Phobia

Extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear. As a result, a person feels uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations.

People with social phobia can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends. But meeting new people, talking in a group, or speaking in public can cause their extreme shyness to kick in.

With social phobia, a person’s extreme shyness, self-consciousness, and fears of embarrassment get in the way of life. Instead of enjoying social activities, people with social phobia might dread them and avoid some of them altogether.

How Can We Know Whether A Treatment Is Effective


Randomised controlled trials are the main way of determining whether a treatment is effective. Individuals who are diagnosed with social anxiety disorder are randomly allocated to the treatments under investigation or a control condition. Assessments are conducted at pre-treatment/control and post-treatment/control. The treatment is considered to be effective if significantly greater improvement is observed in the treatment condition than the control condition. In order to determine whether the improvements obtained by treatment are sustained, ideally participants should be systematically followed up for an extended period after the end of treatment.

RCTs are the best way of dealing with threats to internal validity . However, they do not necessarily deal well with threats to external validity . For this reason, it is helpful if data from RCTs are supplemented by data from large cohorts of relatively unselected people who receive the same treatment.

Researchers have traditionally distinguished between specific and non-specific treatment effects. The specific treatment effect refers to the amount of improvement that is attributable to the unique features of a particular treatment. The non-specific treatment effect refers to the amount of improvement that is attributable to features that are common to all well-conducted therapies.

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When Does Anxiety Need Treatment

While anxiety can cause distress, it is not always a medical condition.


When an individual faces potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival.

Since the earliest days of humanity, the approach of predators and incoming danger sets off alarms in the body and allows evasive action. These alarms become noticeable in the form of a raised heartbeat, sweating, and increased sensitivity to surroundings.

The danger causes a rush of adrenalin, a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain, which in turn triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the fight-or-flight response. This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety.

For many people, running from larger animals and imminent danger is a less pressing concern than it would have been for early humans. Anxieties now revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other crucial issues that demand a persons attention without necessarily requiring the fight-or-flight reaction.

The nervous feeling before an important life event or during a difficult situation is a natural echo of the original fight-or-flight reaction. It can still be essential to survival anxiety about being hit by a car when crossing the street, for example, means that a person will instinctively look both ways to avoid danger.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders now include the following diagnoses.

Possible causes include:

Are You Suffering From Anxiety

Take our 2-minute anxiety quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

A phobia is an intense as well as irrational fear toward one or more things or situations for which the level or intensity of fear does not match the actual danger of what you fear.

A phobia can be specific, like a fear of dogs or being high off the ground. But it can also be overarching, like being in any social setting or public place.2

While fear is a natural and universal human emotion, having a phobia is a medical diagnosis and not a word to be tossed around lightly. To understand phobias, it is helpful to have a deeper understanding of fear and why we experience it.

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How Can Social Phobia Affect Someone’s Life

With social phobia, thoughts and fears about what others think get exaggerated in someone’s mind. The person starts to focus on the embarrassing things that could happen, instead of the good things. This makes a situation seem much worse than it is, and influences a person to avoid it.

Some of the ways social phobia can affect someone’s life include:

  • Feeling lonely or disappointed over missed opportunities for friendship and fun. Social phobia might prevent someone from chatting with friends in the lunchroom, joining an after-school club, going to a party, or asking someone on a date.
  • Not getting the most out of school. Social phobia might keep a person from volunteering an answer in class, reading aloud, or giving a presentation. Someone with social phobia might feel too nervous to ask a question in class or go to a teacher for help.
  • Missing a chance to share their talents and learn new skills. Social phobia might prevent someone from auditioning for the school play, being in the talent show, trying out for a team, or joining in a service project. Social phobia not only prevents people from trying new things. It also prevents them from making the normal, everyday mistakes that help people improve their skills still further.
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Are There Different Types Of Social Anxiety Disorder

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Individuals with social anxiety disorder vary considerably in the number and type of social situations that they fear and in the number and range of their feared outcomes. These two features can vary independently. For example, some people fear just one or two situations but have multiple feared outcomes . Others can fear many situations but have only one feared outcome . Because of this variability, researchers have considered whether it might be useful to divide social anxiety disorder into subtypes. Several subtypes have been suggested, some of which are defined by specific feared outcomes . The most common distinction is between generalised social anxiety disorder, where individuals fear most social situations, and non-generalised social anxiety disorder, where individuals fear a more limited range of situations however, some authors have suggested that the difference between these subtypes is a difference in degree. The generalised subtype is associated with greater impairment and higher rates of comorbidity with other mental disorders . The generalised subtype also has a stronger familial aggregation, an earlier age of onset and a more chronic course. While most psychological therapies are applied to both subtypes, evaluations of drug treatments have mainly focused on generalised social anxiety disorder.

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Treatment Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

The unmet need for SEPAD-specific treatment has led to psychotherapies that focus on relationships and separation anxiety. These approaches use the therapist-patient relationship to recapture and better understand important elements of earlier pathologic parent-child relationships. Panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy is an affect-focused therapy that specifically targets separation anxiety as a core component of panic disorder. Preliminary efficacy is shown in patients with prominent separation anxiety symptoms across different anxiety and mood disorders. High separation anxiety levels constitute a central organizing element in patient self-perception as incompetent and unable to manage developmentally normative tasks without the presence of their central attachment figures. Panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy emphasizes free association, centrality of transference, unconscious thoughts that underlie physical sensations of panic, and difficulty with separation and autonomy. The therapist focuses on these processes as they relate to panic symptoms. Common themes of difficulty with separations and unconscious rage inform interpretive interventions. The pre-determined 24-session, 12-week time limit enhances the opportunity to work with separation anxiety and permits the re-experiencing and better understanding .

it may amplify effects from positive and negative exposures if taken pre-exposure.

What Other Mental Disorders Tend To Be Associated With Social Anxiety Disorder

Among children and young people, comorbidity of anxiety disorders is also very high, as is comorbidity between anxiety and mood and behavioural disorders . The specific comorbidities of social anxiety in this age group are less well explored, but in a large sample of young people found that 41.3% of those with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder also had a diagnosis of substance misuse , 31.1% a mood disorder and 49.9% another anxiety disorder . Social anxiety is a substantial predictor of nicotine use in adolescence . In some people, social anxiety may be expressed as selective mutism .

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