Psychology Knowledge

Understanding and Applying Psychology in Your Home


PTSD, Anxiety, Panic, & Phobias

If you are experiencing unexplained fear or panic, anxiety, worry, or having symptoms that stem from some traumatic experience, you may be having symptoms of a disorder that responds to some established psychological treatments. The following discussion helps you understand the symptoms typically associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), various anxiety disorders, panic atacks (panic disorder) and phobias.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma diagnosis shared by men and women who have been troubled by traumatic experiences, and continue to have symptoms stemming from that trauma that significantly interferes with their lives.

The trauma that triggers PTSD can be wartime experiences, sexual abuse, serious car accidents, and even simply observing a dangerous situation. While not everyone responds to trauma in the same way, for those who develop a disorder, some of the following symptoms are typically noted.

Individuals who have PTSD often avoid situations that might evoke the memory of the trauma, or that seem to place them in similar danger.  They often have an unusually exaggerated startle reflex, or jumpiness, and they tend to feel anxious or depressed. Trauma survivors may experience flashbacks, which are essentially a vivid reliving of the past trauma and memories surrounding them, as if they are real. Nightmares are common. Difficulty sleeping, irritability, and tendency to have an intense hyper vigilance are also common symptoms. PTSD sometimes also leads to dissociation or Dissociative Disorders.

Treatment of PTSD usually involves therapy, although some medications can also be helpful. Therapy can be very helpful in learning to manage or eradicate flashbacks and other disruptive symptoms.

Individuals with dissociative symptoms, in which there is often a loss of time (often as long as several days) or a feeling of unreality, are especially likely to be referred for therapy.

Complex PTSD in which chronic and persistent severe trauma has occured, presents its own set of problems.

 Generalized Anxiety Disorder

When anxiety symptoms are noted to be present in many -- and often nearly all areas of a person's life, they likely qualify for the criteria of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These individuals may worry, but their anxiety is often much more pervasive than merely excessive worry. It often interferes dramatically with the life of the individual with an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms, in addition to excessive and constant worry, include a rapid heart rate, unusual sweating and jitteryness, confusion, unreasonable and unexplainable fears and anxiety. Shortness of breath, nausea, insomnia, shortness of breath, and diarrhea are also seen. Anxiety mostly interferes with falling asleep, while early morning wakening (not able to get back to sleep) is more often a symptom of depression.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is responsive to some types of psychotherapy, and also responds to anti-anxiety medications. A problem with treating this disorder with these medications is, that while they are effective, many of the more effective ones are very addictive and so are not as useful when used long term, when tolerance develops.

Panic Attacks!

Panic attacks are very scary, and persons who are having them, are often are worried that they are going to die, typically because the symptoms feel like a heart attack. In addition to a sudden very rapid heart beat or chest pain, there is usually difficulty breathing, restlessness, tingling numbness or cold hands, and a sense of foreboding.

Various relaxation and breathing techniques can be learned that control the symptoms of a panic attack, and anti-anxiety medication can bring rapid-short term relief from a panic attack.

Both panic attacks and phobias also can be treated with systematic desensitization, in which the client masters gradually more vexingly anxious situations.

Additionally ,immersion therapies in which persons overcome their anxiety, panic attack or phobia by immersion in thier fear, is often helpful. Sometimes this is done through virtual exposure by video-game type exposure to anxiety-provoking stimuli, controlled by the patient.


Persons may experience any of a number of phobias. Some phobias can be ignored or at least tolerated, but others, like agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) can make some people virtually housebound. Some of the more problematic phobias that can need clinical attention, in addition to agoraphobia are:

  • social phobias
  • claustrophobia (closed spaces)
  • fear of germs (contamination, often seen in obsessive-compulsives)
  • panphobia (fear of everything).
Sign Up for Dr. Berndt's Newsletter!

Email & Social Media Marketing by VerticalResponse



 Psychology Knowledge Feed

 psychologist quote about neurosis

"Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity."

--Sigmund Freud

Overcoming Anxiety book


Shop Now  formerly #1 Kindle Ebook

               in Anxiety and Self-Help