Source: image of 2000 yard stare: public domain; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tom_Lea_-_2000_Yard_Stare.jpg
Hello, class. So anxiety disorders, if you recall, are disorders where a person feels nervous or uneasy or in other words anxious in a pervasive or particularly strong or unnecessary kind of way. Which impairs their life in some way as well, either socially, physically, or psychologically through the increased anxiety or stress they might feel.
Now stress disorders are a type of anxiety disorder, which are caused by something specific within a person's environment. Whereas other anxiety disorders have no real apparent cause. Or it's a cause that isn't necessarily something that is rational in some way. For example, a generalized anxiety disorder is just a general feeling of anxiety that a person has with no actual cause within the environment. Or a phobia is an irrational fear of something that really isn't a problem or isn't any kind of danger to us.
For example, a one phobia that you might have is Triskaidekaphobia, which is the fear of the number 13. Something you really don't have to worry about much.
Now stress disorders have a recognizable stressor, which is to say that it's something certain, either an event or thing within the environment, that threatens a person and causes some degree of stress or anxiety to them. Oftentimes these stressors can be significant events and major changes within a person's life. Now they can include specific people that a person might have in their life.
For example, if you're child, a school bully might be an undue stressor on your life. Or normal occurrences that a person has. For example, a short-term work project with a deadline that's very important would be a stressor in your life.
However, they can also be much more significant stressors, which can cause those large degrees of stress and especially lead to stress disorders. Things like traumatic stress. Traumatic stress is major events that cause a person psychological or emotional harm or damage. Things like natural disasters, or if a person is raped or tortured, all those things that are really serious in someone's life and can cause huge amounts of stress or anxiety.
Another thing we might talk about is acculturative stress, which is caused by moving to a foreign country and all the requirements needed to adapt to a new and strange place. So this is something that's especially common for immigrants coming over to the United States. But it's also true of anybody who's moving to any place that's significantly different from the place that they're originally from, from their homes.
So all of these stressors, which lead to the stress disorders, can also include symptoms that could disrupt a person's life, things like insomnia or nightmares that a person might have. Jumpiness and irritability, poor concentration. They might have a short temper. Avoidance or emotional withdraw from others. So they don't have that social support as well.
And the person can often also relive or revisit the events in their mind. In other words, they would have a flashback, where they relive the events like it's really happening to them in real time today. And they can also avoid things that remind them of whatever that event might be, especially those traumatic events that we talk about.
Now there are two different types of stress disorders. But the only difference between these two being the amount of time that the person displays the symptoms and displays this mental disorder. So if the symptoms last for less than a month, we would call it Acute Stress Disorder, which is to say it's a shorter and sharper amount of time. That's what acute means.
Now if the symptoms last for a month or longer, we refer to it as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Now PTSD is very common for soldiers that are returning from the military duty. In fact, the majority of PTSD cases come from this source. And this is because, a lot of times after being exposed to all those terrible sights and sounds of war as well as the constant stress of being in danger of being attacked, can lead this person to have the development of these stress disorders. And all of these physical symptoms that result.
Now a lot of times if a person has a stress disorder, it can lead to the development of unhealthy coping strategies that they might have. For example, a lot of people that have acute stress disorder or PTSD might develop things like drinking problems, drug abuse, or they might resort to self harm as a way of trying to cope with all of the stress and anxiety that they've been feeling.
Now many therapies, for example psychodynamic therapy that treat stress disorders help the person to recognize these unhealthy coping strategies, either mental or behavioral that they have, and to develop healthy ones. And try to understand and eventually the goal is to accept what has happened to them in the past as well.