Sunday, February 25, 2007

Anxiety Can Lead to Panic Attacks and Substance Abuse

Currently, it seems many people have a psychological problem. For college students, we may develop emotional distress from the academic pressures of college, being away from home, or dealing with a boyfriend/girlfriend. Any one of these issues could lead to more complex physiological issues. In an article in Behavior Modification, Zvolensky and Schmidt focus on anxiety sensitivity. The article, Introduction to Anxiety Sensitivity, outlines five other articles which deal with the disorder. Anxiety sensitivity is “the fear of anxiety-related bodily sensations, which arise from beliefs that the sensations have harmful personal consequences.” People who have high anxiety sensitivity worry terribly about issues which most people would brush off, such as the common cold. They believe that something as harmless as the common cold could lead to something much more serious or even fatal. The authors then connect anxiety sensitivity to the onset of panic attacks, other psychological disorders, and substance abuse. Five articles are used to support their case.

The first article they summarize is a study involving college-age young adults. The study found that anxiety sensitivity “contributed 16 % of the total of panic onset…” This study clearly establishes a correlation between the two issues. The second article goes on to suggest that anxiety syndrome is responsible for increased levels of agoraphobic avoidance even for those who have not experienced panic attacks. Those who develop Agoraphobia suffer from a condition in which any situation can become embarrassing and inescapable. A person suffering from this disorder can suffer from panic attacks, even from seemingly normal activities. For college students, walking to class is something we each do every day. Someone who has anxiety-induced Agoraphobia might suffer from a panic attack should they have to perform such a simple task. For them, walking to class could be outside of their comfort zone. The authors note that many studies have linked anxiety sensitivity to avoidance in general, not just agoraphobic avoidance. Therefore, they call for more research to be conducted on the subject to validate these claims and propose possible treatments. The third article the authors focus on young adults and how they react to anxiety symptoms. The authors note that there is currently not much research on this subject which focuses on young adults. The study did not conclusively link anxiety sensitivity to other child anxiety disorders; therefore, more research must be done on the subject.

The last two articles the authors focus on are more relevant to college students because these articles link anxiety sensitivity to substance abuse disorders. The fourth article specifically focuses on how AS is related to alcohol use. In a certain two-year study, researchers found that “AS was uniquely associated with the later development of alcohol use disorder diagnoses.” The trial, however, was non-clinical and does not provide conclusive evidence. The authors, therefore, conclude that more research is needed. According to a U.S. government website, 31 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and 6 percent meet the criteria for alcohol dependence (A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences). These numbers, however, are extremely debatable. I do not believe that thirty percent of the people I know abuse alcohol. What exactly constitutes alcohol abuse? Many sources would say that many of our drinking habits, such as playing drinking games, constitute alcohol abuse. On the other hand, most of us would certainly deny that playing a drinking game constitutes alcohol abuse. Given the amount of college students who have problems with alcohol abuse, it would be interesting to see what percentage of these students suffer from anxiety sensitivity. If it is found that a portion of the so called alcohol abuse by college students is related to anxiety sensitivity, this could lead to increased awareness and more programs which deal with college students and their drinking habits.

The fifth article the two authors address deals with a specific case study involving heroin users who suffer from anxiety sensitivity. The study found that a “targeted intervention” can reduce anxiety sensitivity, heroine cravings, and improve the overall emotional state of the patient. This intervention includes “(a) psychoeducation about anxiety..., and (c) skills training focused on heightening emotional acceptance, tolerance, and nonevaluative awareness (to facilitate willingness).” Although this treatment shows potential, the authors contend that more research is needed to access its validity.

The authors of “Introduction to Anxiety Sensitivity” outline five different case studies involving Anxiety Sensitivity disorder. They arrive at the conclusion that even though each of these case studies provides an important insight into the condition, more research must be done. Finally, the authors seem to be in favor of additional clinical, scientifically oriented research to determine treatments for the disorder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Panic attacks have a variety of causes, some physical, some mental and some emotional. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to panic attacks, while gender also plays a role, as women are more prone to panic attacks than men.