Anxiety disorders - Psychology AQA B

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Phobia= a persistent and unreasonable fear of a particular object, activity or situation. The fear is
disproportionate to the danger actually posed and usually leads to avoidance of the object,
situation or activity.
A phobia occurs when it becomes maladaptive; interferes with everyday life
The characteristics of a phobia: by DSM-IV
Exposure to the phobic stimulus will almost invariably provoke an immediate anxiety
response. Behaviours displayed may include a panic attack. Other behaviours may include
crying, freezing or clinging.
The phobic situation is avoided or endured with intense anxiety or distress. This interferes
significantly with the person's normal routine, occupation, social activities or relationships.
E.g. agoraphobia where the person may not be able to leave the house
Marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable. It is cued by the presence or
anticipation of a specific object or situation. The person recognises that the fear is
excessive or unreasonable
The DSM-IV identifies three categories of phobia:
1. Agoraphobia- fear of open spaces
This is the most serious phobic disorder. It is associated with fear of leaving home, being in
a crowd, being in a public place, or having a panic attack in a public place, unable to find
help. It may lead to the sufferer becoming housebound. It results in avoidance behaviour,
whereby the person avoids situations in which panic attacks in a public place may occur.
2. Social phobia - fear of interacting and performing in front of people.
Generalised social phobia: a fear of a variety of social interactions such as speaking
to people and going to parties etc.
Social phobia for specific situations: such as public speaking. Panic will arise if the
individual is faced with such a situation so those are avoided where possible.
Such phobias are a severe and persistent fear of social or performance situations, in which
embarrassment may occur.
Such phobias are different to agoraphobia as the fear is to do with being judged by others
and/or intense feelings of embarrassment about performing in front of others.
Other divisions are performance, interaction and generalised.
3. Specific phobia ­ fear of specific objects, animals or places.
This may include fear of items such as needles (belonophobia), heights (acrophobia),
enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or animals such as spiders (arachnophobia).
They have been found to develop in children aged seven years and can continue to
develop into adulthood.
For it to be classified as a specific phobia, the fear must be excessive, triggered
immediately upon exposure and affect everyday life (i.e. be maladaptive)

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Explanations of phobias: Behavioural
Classical conditioning
Has been used to explain the acquisition of phobias by demonstrating that the pairing of an
unconditional stimulus (UCS) that caused fear (UCR) with an initially neutral stimulus causes the
neutral stimulus to be feared by the person (conditioning). The neutral stimulus then becomes the
object of the phobia.…read more

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A classic study by Watson and Raynor demonstrated how a fearful response can be conditioned
through classical conditioning.
Watson and Raynor: Little Albert
Aim To see whether it was possible to create a phobia in a child by using classical conditioning
Method Watson and Raynor used a lab experiment to test their theory. When Little Albert was about nine
months old, Watson and Raynor presented him with a range of stimuli (e.g.…read more

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Evaluation of behavioural explanations
Empirical evidence:
o Watson and Raynor ­ investigated classical conditioning of a phobia with little
o Di Nardo et al ­ In a study of people with a fear of dogs, found that 60% could
relate their fear to a frightening incident with a dog
Just because it is demonstrated that some fears can be acquired through classical
conditioning, doesn't mean that all fears are.…read more

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Explanations of phobias: Psychodynamic
People have unconscious wishes and thoughts that cause unconscious conflict between the ego
and the id.
The ego is threatened by this conflict and fears that the anxiety caused will overwhelm it. This
would result in it not being able to function at all.
This is because all the ego's energy would be used up coping with the anxiety of feelings of panic.…read more

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Evaluation of psychodynamic explanations
Empirical evidence from Freud ­ little Hans
Uses the case study method which produces qualitative data and this gives insight and
As the explanations resolve around an unconscious level in the human mind, this makes
scientific enquiry very difficult; we cannot know directly about a person's unconscious
thoughts. It is therefore unfalsifiable and so lacks scientific credibility.
Little evidence has been found to support the agoraphobic explanation as a result of
separation anxiety.…read more

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Psychodynamic Treatments for phobias
Techniques are aimed at confronting fears and lifting the ego defence mechanisms that are in
place to protect them from anxiety.
Insight can be gained into what is unconsciously causing the symptoms.
Various techniques can be used in assessing the unconscious, such as free association and dream
Free association: where patients relax and say out loud everything that comes
into their mind.…read more


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