Tag Archives: Anxiety disorder

Some Health Quaries & Answers

Help, I’m claustrophobic
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Q: I am a 53-year-old man with no illnesses. I have been suffering from claustrophobia for a long time. I cannot ride an elevator, travel in tube rail, enter a tunnel or sit in a confined space. I cannot bear to have the window closed. My office is air-conditioned, because of which I took voluntary retirement. I feel miserable. Is there any remedy?

…….claustrophobia

A: Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder which produces an intense and irrational fear of enclosed spaces. It is common, affecting 3 to 5 per cent of the population. A person suffering from claustrophobia may panic when inside an elevator, an aeroplane, a crowded room or any other confined area. Once a person has experienced a number of panic attacks, he or she becomes increasingly afraid of experiencing another. Such people start to avoid situations that may bring on the attack. However, any coping technique that relies solely on avoiding these situations can only make the phobia worse. It is also not feasible. Anticipation of confinement intensifies the feelings of anxiety and fear. Psychological methods are used for the treatment of claustrophobia. Sometimes medications are also needed. Successful treatment requires six to eight weeks.

Planning a baby

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He refuses to eat

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Q: Our son is 18 months old and does not eat any of the baby foods like Ceralac and Farex. We even imported some ready-to-eat Heinz products but he does not like them either. Please help.

A: It is better to put the child on a normal diet and have him sit with the rest of the family for meals. You may need to reduce the amount of spices in the food so that he can also enjoy it. Allow him to try and eat on his own, while you break the food into small pieces and feed him with a spoon from the side. Cut the milk intake to 400 ml a day. Do not top up meals with milk, or else he will get the idea that he does not need to make an effort to chew solid food. Many children do not like the synthetic taste of precooked weaning foods. Try tasting it. You may not like it either.

I have emphysema

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Q: I smoke around 30 cigarettes a day. A few days ago, I had great difficulty in breathing and the doctor says I have “emphysema”. What can I do?

A: Emphysema is a chronic disease of the lung that causes shortness of breath. It occurs when the lung tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lung are destroyed. Treatment for emphysema depends on the severity of the ailment.

In your case the damage seems to have occurred because of cigarettes. Immediately stop smoking (and not reduce the number of cigarettes). It is difficult to quit “cold turkey” but you do not really have an alternative. Medications can be used to improve the functioning of the lung by opening up the passages. These are best given by inhalation, either by using inhalers with a spacer or by home nebulisation with a machine. Bronchodilating tablets may also be required. If the blood oxygenation is not satisfactory, oxygen may have to be given. Antibiotics need to be taken only if there is an infection.

Heel pain

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Q: I have terrible pain if I rest my heel on the ground. An X-ray showed a “calcaneal spur”. The doctor has recommended surgery, but I do not want it.

A: No one knows why a heel or calcaneal spur occurs. Excessive friction on that part of the bone seems to result in such a condition. It is more likely to occur in athletes, especially if they do not stretch before and after activity, and overweight people.

Soft cushioned footwear supports the foot and reduces the pain. Regular physiotherapy usually helps. If the pain is unbearable and persists even at rest, injections of corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications into the affected area can be tried. Surgery should be considered a last resort.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)

Illustration of Gowers' tract

Image via Wikipedia

Definition:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic anxiety disorder most commonly characterized by obsessive, distressing,repetitive thoughts and related compulsions. Compulsions are tasks or “rituals” which attempt to neutralize the obsessions.

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OCD is distinguished from other types of anxiety, including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life. The phrase “obsessive-compulsive” has become part of the English lexicon, and is often used in an informal or caricatured manne to describe someone who is meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed in a cause, or otherwise fixated on something or someone.

Although these signs are often present in OCD, a person who exhibits them does not necessarily have OCD, and may instead have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) or some other condition. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is very frustrating to the affected person and any friends and family.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by an inability to resist or stop continuous, abnormal thoughts or fears combined with ritualistic, repetitive and involuntary defense behavior.It is an anxiety disorder in which people have thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). A person may have both obsessions and compulsions.

Causes:

Psychological

Scientists studying obsessive-compulsive disorder are split into two factions disagreeing over the illness’s cause. One side believes that obsessive-compulsive behavior is a psychological disorder; the other side thinks it has a neurological origin.

Biological

There are many different theories about the cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The majority of researchers believe that there is some type of abnormality with the neurotransmitter serotonin, among other possible psychological or biological abnormalities; however, it is possible that this activity is the brain’s response to OCD, and not its cause. Serotonin is thought to have a role in regulating anxiety, though it is also thought to be involved in such processes as sleep and memory function. In order to send chemical messages, serotonin must bind to the receptor sites located on the neighboring nerve cell. It is hypothesized that OCD sufferers may have blocked or damaged receptor sites that prevent serotonin from functioning to its full potential. This suggestion is supported by the fact that many OCD patients benefit from the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — a class of antidepressant medications that allow for more serotonin to be readily available to other nerve cells. For more about this class of drugs, see the section about potential treatments for OCD.

The Stanford University School of Medicine OCD webpage states, “Although the causes of the disorder still elude us, the recent identification of children with OCD caused by an autoimmune response to Group A streptococcal infection promises to bring increased understanding of the disorder’s pathogenesis.”

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common than was once thought. Most people who develop it show symptoms by age 30. There are several theories about the cause of OCD, but none have been confirmed. Some reports have linked OCD to head injury and infections. Several studies have shown that there are brain abnormalities in patients with OCD, but more research is needed.

About 20% of people with OCD have tics, which suggests the condition may be related to Tourette syndrome. However, this link is not clear.

Symptoms and prevalence:

*Obsessions or compulsions are not due to medical illness or drug use
*Obsessions or compulsions cause major distress or interfere with everyday life
*An example of obsessive-compulsive disorder is excessive, repeated handwashing to ward off infection.

The person usually recognizes that the behavior is excessive or unreasonable.
OCD manifests in a variety of forms. Studies have placed the prevalence between one and three percent, although the prevalence of clinically-recognized OCD is much lower, suggesting that many individuals with the disorder may not be diagnosed. The fact that many individuals do not seek treatment may be due in part to stigma associated with OCD. Another reason for not seeking treatment is because many sufferers of OCD do not realize that they have the condition.

The typical OCD sufferer performs tasks (or compulsions) to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety. To others, these tasks may appear odd and unnecessary. But for the sufferer, such tasks can feel critically important, and must be performed in particular ways to ward off dire consequences and to stop the stress from building up. Examples of these tasks are repeatedly checking that one’s parked car has been locked before leaving it, turning lights on and off a set number of times before exiting a room, repeatedly washing hands at regular intervals throughout the day, touching objects a certain amount of times before leaving a room, or walking in a certain routine way. Physical symptoms may include those brought on from anxeties and unwanted thoughts, as well as tics or Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms: rigidity, tremor, jerking arm movements, or involuntary movements of the limbs.

There are many other possible symptoms, and it is not necessary to display those described in the lists below to be considered as suffering from OCD. Formal diagnosis should be performed by a psychologist, a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst. OCD sufferers are aware that their thoughts and behavior are not rational, but they feel bound to comply with them to fend off feelings of panic or dread. Although everyone may experience unpleasant thoughts at one time or another, these are short-lived and fade away in time. For people with OCD, the thoughts are intrusive and persistent, and cause them great anxiety and distress.

Contamination:
A major subtype of the fear category is the fear of contamination:(see mysophobia); some sufferers may fear the presence of human body secretions such as saliva, blood, sweat, tears, vomit, or mucus, or excretions such as urine, semen or feces. Some OCD sufferers even fear that the soap they are using is contaminated. These anxiety-driven fears may cause a person to experience significant distress, which may make it difficult for a person with OCD to tolerate a workplace, venture into public locations, or conduct normal social relationships.

Performing tasks:
Symptoms related to performing tasks may include repeated hand washing or clearing of the throat; specific counting systems or counting of steps; doing repetitive actions — more generally, this can involve an obsession with numbers or types of numbers (e.g., odd numbers). These obsessive behaviours can cause individuals to feel psychological distress, because they are very concerned about having “made mistakes” in the number of steps that they have taken, or the number of stairs on a staircase. For some people with OCD, these obsessive counting and re-counting tasks, along with the attendant anxiety and fear, can take hours of each day, which can make it hard for the person to fulfill their work, family, or social roles. In some cases, these behaviors can also cause adverse physical symptoms: people who obsessively wash their hands with antibacterial soap and hot water (to remove germs) can make their skin red and raw with dermatitis.

Intrusive thoughts and fears:
Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome, involuntary thoughts, images or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions, are upsetting or distressing, and can be difficult to be free of and manage.[8] Intrusive thoughts, urges, and images are of inappropriate things at inappropriate times, usually falling into three categories: inappropriate aggressive thoughts, inappropriate sexual thoughts, or blasphemous religious thoughts. Most people experience these thoughts; when they are associated with OCD or depression, they may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, and persistent. Many people experience the type of unpleasant or unwanted thoughts that people with more troubling intrusive thoughts have, but most people are able to dismiss these thoughts.[8] When intrusive thoughts co-occur with OCD, patients are less able to ignore the unpleasant thoughts and may pay undue attention to them, causing the thoughts to become more frequent and distressing.

Violent or aggressive thoughts:
Intrusive thoughts may involve violent obsessions about hurting others or one’s self. They can include such thoughts as harming an innocent child, jumping from a bridge, mountain or the top of a tall building, urges to jump in front of a train or automobile, and urges to push another in front of a train or automobile. A survey of healthy college students found that virtually all of them had intrusive thoughts from time to time, including imagining or wishing harm upon a family member or friend, impulses to attack or kill a small child, or animal, or shout something rude or violent. A person with OCD may meet up with their best friend, to whom they bear no ill will, and an image of them stabbing their friend may suddenly appear in their imagination.

While some individuals with OCD who have these unwanted images pop into their minds are able to dismiss the images as random “static” generated by the mind, others are tormented by the thoughts, and they may worry that they are actual desires that they may act on, or that they are “going crazy.” In some cases, the person struggling with these horrible images may try to deal with them by developing compulsions. For example, a person who is tormented by unwanted thoughts of them stabbing their mother with a kitchen knife may ensure that all kitchen knives are kept locked away, to prevent the perceived danger that they may “act upon” the horrible thoughts.

The possibility that most patients suffering from intrusive thoughts will ever act on those thoughts is low; patients who are experiencing intense guilt, anxiety, shame, and upset over bad thoughts are different from those who actually act on bad thoughts. The history of violent crime is dominated by those who feel no guilt or remorse; the very fact that someone is tormented by intrusive thoughts, and has never acted on them before, is an excellent predictor that they won’t act upon the thoughts. According to Baer, a patient should be concerned that intrusive thoughts are dangerous if the person doesn’t feel upset by the thoughts, rather finds them pleasurable; has ever acted on violent or sexual thoughts or urges; hears voices or sees things that others don’t see; or feels uncontrollable irresistible anger.

Inappropriate sexual thoughts:
Sexual obsessions involve intrusive thoughts or images of “kissing, hugging a lot, touching, fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse, and rape” with “strangers, acquaintances, parents, children, family members, friends, coworkers, animals and religious figures”, involving “heterosexual or homosexual content” with persons of any age. Like other intrusive, unpleasant thoughts or images, most people have some inappropriate sexual thoughts at times[citation needed], but people with OCD may attach significance to the unwanted sexual thoughts, generating anxiety and distress. The doubt that accompanies OCD leads to uncertainty regarding whether one might act on the bad thoughts, resulting in self-criticism or loathing.

One of the more common sexual intrusive thoughts occurs when an obsessive person doubts his or her sexual identity, a symptom of OCD called homosexuality anxiety or HOCD.[14] As in the case of most sexual obsessions, sufferers may feel shame and live in isolation, finding it hard to discuss their fears, doubts, and concerns about their sexual identity. A person experiencing sexual intrusive thoughts may feel shame, “embarrassment, guilt, distress, torment, fear that you may act on the thought or perceived impulse and, doubt about whether you have already acted in such a way.” Depression may be a result of the self-loathing that can occur, depending on how much the OCD interferes with daily functioning or causes distress. The possibility that most patients suffering from intrusive thoughts to sexually assault people will ever act on those thoughts is low; patients who are experiencing intense guilt, anxiety, shame, and upset over bad thoughts are different from those who actually act on bad thoughts.

Related conditions
OCD is often confused with the separate condition obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The two are not the same condition, however. OCD is ego dystonic, meaning that the disorder is incompatible with the sufferer’s self-concept. Because disorders that are ego dystonic go against an individual’s perception of his/herself, they tend to cause much distress. OCPD, on the other hand, is ego syntonic — marked by the individual’s acceptance that the characteristics displayed as a result of this disorder are compatible with his/her self-image. Ego syntonic disorders understandably cause no distress. Persons suffering from OCD are often aware that their behavior is not rational and are unhappy about their obsessions but nevertheless feel compelled by them. Persons with OCPD are not aware of anything abnormal about themselves; they will readily explain why their actions are rational, and it is usually impossible to convince them otherwise. Persons with OCD are ridden with anxiety; persons who suffer from OCPD, by contrast, tend to derive pleasure from their obsessions or compulsions. This is a significant difference between these disorders.

Equally frequently, these rationalizations do not apply to the overall behavior, but to each instance individually; for example, a person compulsively checking their front door may argue that the time taken and stress caused by one more check of the front door is considerably less than the time and stress associated with being robbed, and thus the check is the better option. In practice, after that check, the individual is still not sure, and it is still better in terms of time and stress to do one more check, and this reasoning can continue as long as necessary.

Some OCD sufferers exhibit what is known as overvalued ideas. In such cases, the person with OCD will truly be uncertain whether the fears that cause them to perform their compulsions are irrational or not. After some discussion, it is possible to convince the individual that their fears may be unfounded. It may be more difficult to do ERP therapy on such patients, because they may be, at least initially, unwilling to cooperate. For this reason OCD has often been likened to a disease of pathological doubt, in which the sufferer, while not usually delusional, is often unable to realize fully what sorts of dreaded events are reasonably possible and which are not.

OCD is different from behaviors such as gambling addiction and overeating. People with these disorders typically experience at least some pleasure from their activity; OCD sufferers do not actively want to perform their compulsive tasks, and experience no pleasure from doing so. OCD is placed in the anxiety class of mental illness, but like many chronic stress disorders it can lead to clinical depression over time. The constant stress of the condition can cause sufferers to develop a deadening of spirit, a numbing frustration, or sense of hopelessness. OCD’s effects on day-to-day life — particularly its substantial consumption of time — can produce difficulties with work, finances and relationships. There is no known cure for OCD as of yet, but there are a number of successful treatment options available.

Related/Spectrum disorders
People with OCD may be diagnosed with other conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa, social anxiety disorder, bulimia nervosa, Tourette syndrome, Asperger syndrome, compulsive skin picking, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania, and (as already mentioned) obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. There is some research demonstrating a link between drug addiction and OCD as well. Many who suffer from OCD suffer also from panic attacks. There is a higher risk of drug addiction among those with any anxiety disorder (possibly as a way of coping with the heightened levels of anxiety), but drug addiction among OCD patients may serve as a type of compulsive behavior and not just as a coping mechanism. Depression is also extremely prevalent among sufferers of OCD. One explanation for the high depression rate among OCD populations was posited by Mineka, Watson, and Clark (1998), who explained that people with OCD (or any other anxiety disorder) may feel depressed because of an “out of control” type of feeling.

Some cases are thought to be caused at least in part by childhood streptococcal infections and are termed PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections). The streptococcal antibodies become involved in an autoimmune process. Though this idea is not set in stone, if it does prove to be true, there is cause to believe that OCD can to some very small extent be “caught” via exposure to strep throat (just as one may catch a cold). However, if OCD is caused by bacteria, this provides hope that antibiotics may eventually be used to treat or prevent it.

Diagnostic criteria:
To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must have either obsessions or compulsions alone, or obsessions and compulsions, according to the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria. The Quick Reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV-TR (2000) states six characteristics of obsessions and compulsions:

Obsessions:

1.Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and that cause marked anxiety or distress.

2.The thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems.

3.The person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.

4.The person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind, and are not based in reality.

Compulsions:

1.Repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

2.The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not actually connected to the issue, or they are excessive.

In addition to these criteria, at some point during the course of the disorder, the individual must realize that his/her obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable or excessive. Moreover, the obsessions or compulsions must be time-consuming (taking up more than one hour per day), cause distress, or cause impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning. OCD often causes feelings similar to those of depression.

Diagnosis: Exams and Tests :

Your own description of the behavior can help diagnose the disorder. A physical exam can rule out physical causes, and a psychiatric evaluation can rule out other mental disorders.

Questionnaires, such as the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, can help diagnose OCD and track the progress of treatment.

Treatment :

According to the Expert Consensus Guidelines for the Treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, behavioral therapy (BT), cognitive therapy (CT), and medications are first-line treatments for OCD. Psychodynamic psychotherapy may help in managing some aspects of the disorder, but there are no controlled studies that demonstrate effectiveness of psychoanalysis or dynamic psychotherapy in OCD.

Behavioral therapy

The specific technique used in BT/CBT is called exposure and ritual prevention (also known as “exposure and response prevention“) or ERP; this involves gradually learning to tolerate the anxiety associated with not performing the ritual behavior. At first, for example, someone might touch something only very mildly “contaminated” (such as a tissue that has been touched by another tissue that has been touched by the end of a toothpick that has touched a book that came from a “contaminated” location, such as a school.) That is the “exposure”. The “ritual prevention” is not washing. Another example might be leaving the house and checking the lock only once (exposure) without going back and checking again (ritual prevention). The person fairly quickly habituates to the anxiety-producing situation and discovers that their anxiety level has dropped considerably; they can then progress to touching something more “contaminated” or not checking the lock at all — again, without performing the ritual behavior of washing or checking.

Exposure ritual/response prevention has been demonstrated to be the most effective treatment for OCD. It has generally been accepted that psychotherapy, in combination with psychotropic medication, is more effective than either option alone.

However, more recent studies have shown no difference in outcomes for those treated with the combination of medicine and CBT versus CBT alone.

Recently it has been reported simultaneous administration of D-Cycloserin (an antibiotic) substantialy improves effectiveness of Exposure and Response prevention. See :->http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18245177


Medication
Medications as treatment include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as paroxetine (Seroxat, Paxil, Xetanor, ParoMerck, Rexetin), sertraline (Zoloft, Stimuloton), fluoxetine (Prozac, Bioxetin), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluvoxamine (Luvox) as well as the tricyclic antidepressants, in particular clomipramine (Anafranil). SSRIs prevent excess serotonin from being pumped back into the original neuron that released it. Instead, serotonin can then bind to the receptor sites of nearby neurons and send chemical messages or signals that can help regulate the excessive anxiety and obsessive thoughts. In some treatment-resistant cases, a combination of clomipramine and an SSRI has shown to be effective even when neither drug on its own has been efficacious.

Benzodiazepines are also used in treatment. It’s not uncommon to administer this class of drugs during the “latency period” for SSRIs or as synergistic adjunct long-term. Although widely prescribed, benzodiazepines have not been demonstrated as an effective treatment for OCD and can be addictive.[32]

Serotonergic antidepressants typically take longer to show benefit in OCD than with most other disorders which they are used to treat, as it is common for 2–3 months to elapse before any tangible improvement is noticed. In addition to this, the treatment usually requires high doses. Fluoxetine, for example, is usually prescribed in doses of 20 mg per day for clinical depression, whereas with OCD the dose will often range from 20 mg to 80 mg or higher, if necessary. In most cases antidepressant therapy alone will only provide a partial reduction in symptoms, even in cases that are not deemed treatment-resistant. Much current research is devoted to the therapeutic potential of the agents that effect the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate or the binding to its receptors. These include riluzole, memantine, gabapentin (Neurontin) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Low doses of the newer atypical antipsychotics olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone and risperidone (Risperdal) have also been found to be useful as adjuncts in the treatment of OCD. The use of antipsychotics in OCD must be undertaken carefully, however, since, although there is very strong evidence that at low doses they are beneficial (most likely due to their dopamine receptor antagonism), at high doses these same antipsychotics have proven to cause dramatic obsessive-compulsive symptoms even in those patients who do not normally have OCD. This is most likely due to the antagonism of 5-HT2A receptors becoming very prominent at these doses and outweighing the benefits of dopamine antagonism. Another point that must be noted with antipsychotic treatment is that SSRIs inhibit the chief enzyme that is responsible for metabolising antipsychotics — CYP2D6 — so the dose will be effectively higher than expected when these are combined with SSRIs. Also, it must be noted that antipsychotic treatment should be considered as augmentation treatment when SSRI treatment does not bring positive results.

Alternative Drug Treatments

The naturally occurring sugar inositol may be an effective treatment for OCD. Inositol appears to modulate the actions of serotonin and has been found to reverse desensitisation of the neurotransmitter’s receptors. St John’s Wort has been claimed to be of benefit due to its (non-selective) serotonin re-uptake inhibiting qualities, and studies have emerged that have shown positive results. However, a double-blind study, using a flexible-dose schedule (600-1800 mg/day), found no difference between St John’s Wort and the placebo. Studies have also been done that show nutrition deficiencies may also contribute to OCD and other mental disorders. Certain vitamin and mineral supplements may aid in such disorders and providethe nutrients necessary for proper mental functioning.

Recent research has found increasing evidence that opioids may significantly reduce OCD symptoms, though the use of them is not sanctioned for treatment and considered an “off-label” use, factors being physical dependence and long term drug tolerance. Anecdotal reports suggest that some OCD sufferers have successfully self-medicated with opioids such as tramadol (Ultram) and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), though the off-label use of such painkillers is not widely accepted, research on this has been limited. Tramadol is an atypical opioid that may be a viable option as it has a low potential for abuse and addiction, mild side effects, and shows signs of rapid efficacy in OCD. Tramadol not only provides the anti-OCD effects of an opiate, but also inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin (in addition to norepinephrine). This may provide additional benefits, but should not be taken in combination with antidepressant medication unless under careful medical supervision due to potential serotonin syndrome.

Recent studies at the University of Arizona using the tryptamine alkaloid psilocybin have shown promising results. There are reports that other hallucinogens such as LSD and peyote have produced similar benefits. It has been hypothesised that this effect may be due to stimulation of 5-HT2A receptors and, less importantly, 5-HT2C receptors. This causes, among many other effects, an inhibitory effect on the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain in which hyperactivity has been strongly associated with OCD.

Emerging evidence suggests that regular nicotine treatment may be helpful in improving symptoms of OCD, although the pharmacodynamical mechanism by which this improvement is achieved is not yet known, and more detailed studies are needed to fully confirm this hypothesis. Anecdotal reports suggest OCD can worsen when cigarettes are smoked as a way of obtaining nicotine.

Psycho surgery

For some, neither medication, support groups nor psychological treatments are helpful in alleviating obsessive-compulsive symptoms. These patients may choose to undergo psychosurgery as a last resort. In this procedure, a surgical lesion is made in an area of the brain (the cingulate bundle). In one study, 30% of participants benefited significantly from this procedure. Deep-brain stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation are possible surgical options which do not require the destruction of brain tissue, although their efficacy has not been conclusively demonstrated.

In the US, psychosurgery for OCD is a treatment of last resort and will not be performed until the patient has failed several attempts at medication (at the full dosage) with augmentation, and many months of intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy with exposure and ritual/response prevention. Likewise, in the UK, psychosurgery cannot be performed unless a course of treatment from a suitably qualified cognitive-behavioural therapist has been carried out.

Psychotherapy is used to:

*Provide effective ways of reducing stress
*Reduce anxiety
*Resolve inner conflicts

Behavioral therapies may include:

Exposure/response prevention: You are exposed many times to a situation that triggers anxiety symptoms, and learn to resist the urge to perform the compulsion.
Thought-stopping: You learn to stop unwanted thoughts and focus attention on relieving anxiety.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

Though in its early stages of research, Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has shown promising results. The magnetic pulses are focused on the brain’s supplementary motor area (SMA), which plays a role in filtering out extraneous internal stimuli, such as ruminations, obsessions, and tics. The TMS treatment is an attempt to normalize the SMA’s activity, so that it properly filters out thoughts and behaviors associated with OCD

Neuropsychiatry

OCD primarily involves the brain regions of the striatum, the orbitofrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex. OCD involves several different receptors, mostly H2, M4, NK1, NMDA, and non-NMDA glutamate receptors. The receptors 5-HT1D, 5-HT2C, and the M opioid receptor exert a secondary effect. The H2, M4, NK1, and non-NMDA glutamate receptors are active in the striatum, whereas the NMDA receptors are active in the cingulate cortex.

The activity of certain receptors is positively correlated to the severity of OCD, whereas the activity of certain other receptors is negatively correlated to the severity of OCD. Correlations where activity is positively correlated to severity include the histamine receptor (H2); the Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor(M4); the Tachykinin receptor (NK1); and non-NMDA glutamate receptors. Correlations where activity is negatively correlated to severity include the NMDA receptor (NMDA); the Mu opioid receptor (? opioid); and two types of 5-HT receptors (5-HT1D and 5-HT2C) The central dysfunction of OCD may involve the receptors nk1, non-NMDA glutamate receptors, and NMDA, whereas the other receptors could simply exert secondary modulatory effects.

Pharmaceuticals that act directly on those core mechanisms are aprepitant (nk1 antagonist), riluzole (glutamate release inhibitor), and tautomycin (NMDA receptor sensitizer). Also, the anti-Alzheimer’s drug memantine is being studied by the OC Foundation in its efficacy in reducing OCD symptoms due to it being an NMDA antagonist. One case study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that “memantine may be an option for treatment-resistant OCD, but controlled studies are needed to substantiate this observation.”The drugs that are popularly used to fight OCD lack full efficacy because they do not act upon what are believed to be the core mechanisms. Many trials are currently underway to investigate the efficacy of a variety of agents that affect these ‘core’ neurotransmitters, particularly glutamatergic agents

Prognosis:

OCD is a long-term (chronic) illness with periods of severe symptoms followed by times of improvement. However, a completely symptom-free period is unusual. Most people improve with treatment.

Possible Complications:

Long-term complications of OCD have to do with the type of obsessions or compulsions. For example, constant handwashing can cause skin breakdown. However, OCD does not usually progress into another disease.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with daily life, work, or relationships.

Prevention :

There is no known prevention for this disorder.

You may click to see->How mad are you?

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000929.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive-compulsive_disorder

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome No Longer Seen as ‘Yuppie Flu’

For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms. Skeptics called the illness “yuppie flu” and “shirker syndrome.”

CLICK & SEE
Donna Flowers was once debilitated by chronic fatigue but has tamed her disease with exercise and treatment.

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But the syndrome is now finally gaining some official respect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in 1999 acknowledged that it had diverted millions of dollars allocated by Congress for chronic fatigue syndrome research to other programs, has released studies that linked the condition to genetic mutations and abnormalities in gene expression involved in key physiological processes.

The agency has also sponsored a $6 million public awareness campaign about the illness. And last year, it released survey data suggesting that the prevalence of the syndrome is far higher than previously thought, although these findings have stirred controversy among patients and scientists.

Some scientists and many patients remain highly critical of the C.D.C.’s record on chronic fatigue syndrome. But nearly everyone now agrees that the syndrome is real.

“People with C.F.S. are as sick and as functionally impaired as someone with AIDS, with breast cancer, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Dr. William Reeves, the lead expert on the illness at the disease control agency, who helped expose its misuse of chronic fatigue financing.

Chronic fatigue syndrome was first identified as a distinct entity in the 1980s. (A virtually identical illness had been identified in Britain three decades earlier and called myalgic encephalomyelitis.) The illness, which afflicts more women than men, causes overwhelming fatigue, sleep disorders and other severe symptoms. No consistent biomarkers have been identified and no treatments have been approved for addressing the underlying causes, although some medications provide symptomatic relief.

Patients say the word “fatigue” does not begin to describe their condition. Donna Flowers of Los Gatos, Calif., a physical therapist and former professional figure skater, said the profound exhaustion was unlike anything she had ever experienced.

“I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day but still felt sleep-deprived,” said Ms. Flowers, 51, who fell ill several years ago after a bout of mononucleosis. “I had what we call ‘brain fog.’ I couldn’t think straight, and I could barely read. I couldn’t get the energy to go out of the door. I thought I was doomed. I wanted to die.”

Studies have shown that people with the syndrome experience abnormalities in the central and autonomic nervous systems, the immune system, cognitive functions, the stress response pathways and other major biological functions. Researchers believe the illness will ultimately prove to have multiple causes, including genetic predisposition and exposure to microbial agents, toxins and other physical and emotional traumas. Studies have linked the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome with an acute bout of Lyme disease, Q fever, Ross River virus, parvovirus, mononucleosis and other infectious diseases.

“It’s unlikely that this big cluster of people who fit the symptoms all have the same triggers,” said Kimberly McCleary, president of the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America, the advocacy group in charge of the C.D.C.-sponsored awareness campaign. “You’re looking not just at apples and oranges but pineapples, hot dogs and skateboards, too.”

Under the most widely used case definition, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome requires six months of unexplained fatigue as well as four of eight other persistent symptoms: impaired memory and concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, disturbed sleeping patterns and feelings of malaise after exertion.

The broadness of the definition has led to varying estimates of the syndrome’s prevalence. Based on previous surveys, the C.D.C. has estimated that more than a million Americans have the illness.

Last month, however, the agency reported that a randomized telephone survey in Georgia, using a less restrictive methodology to identify cases, found that about one in 40 adults ages 18 to 59 met the diagnostic criteria — an estimate 6 to 10 times higher than previously reported rates.

Many patients and researchers fear that the expanded prevalence rate could complicate the search for consistent findings across patient cohorts. These critics say the new figures are greatly inflated and include many people who are likely to be suffering not from chronic fatigue syndrome but from psychiatric illnesses.

“There are many, many conditions that are psychological in nature that share symptoms with this illness but do not share much of the underlying biology,” said John Herd, 55, a former medical illustrator and a C.F.S. patient for two decades.

Researchers and patient advocates have faulted other aspects of the C.D.C.’s research.

Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a microbiologist and chronic fatigue expert at St. George’s University of London, said the agency’s gene expression findings last year were “rather meaningless” because they were not confirmed through more advanced laboratory techniques.

Kristin Loomis, executive director of the HHV-6 Foundation, a research advocacy group for a form of herpes virus that has been linked to C.F.S., said studying subsets of patients with similar profiles was more likely to generate useful findings than Dr. Reeves’s population-based approach.

Dr. Reeves responded that understanding of the disease and of some newer research technologies is still in its infancy, so methodological disagreements were to be expected. He defended the population-based approach as necessary for obtaining a broad picture and replicable results. “To me, this is the usual scientific dialogue,” he said.

Dr. Jose G. Montoya, a Stanford infectious disease specialist pursuing the kind of research favored by Ms. Loomis, caused a buzz last December when he reported remarkable improvement in 9 out of 12 patients given a powerful antiviral medication, valganciclovir. Dr. Montoya has recently completed a randomized controlled trial of the drug, which is approved for other uses, but the findings have not been released.

Dr. Montoya said some cases of the syndrome were caused when an acute infection set off a recurrence of latent infections of Epstein Barr virus and HHV-6, two pathogens that most people are exposed to in childhood. Ms. Flowers, the former figure skater, had high levels of antibodies to both viruses and was one of Dr. Montoya’s initial C.F.S. patients.

Six months after starting treatment, Ms. Flowers said, she was able to go snowboarding and take yoga and ballet classes. “Now I pace myself, but I’m probably 75 percent of normal,” she said.

Many patients point to another problem with chronic fatigue syndrome: the name itself, which they say trivializes their condition and has discouraged researchers, drug companies and government agencies from taking it seriously. Many patients prefer the older British term, myalgic encephalomyelitis, which means “muscle pain with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord,” or a more generic term, myalgic encephalopathy.

“You can change people’s attributions of the seriousness of the illness if you have a more medical-sounding name,” said Dr. Leonard Jason, a professor of community psychology at DePaul University in Chicago.

You may click to see:->Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Facts and Statistics

Chronic Fatigue — The Facts You Should Know

Coping With the Reality of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sources: The New York Times

Autism

Major brain structures implicated in autism.

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Defenition:
Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome.

Most infants and young children are very social creatures who need and want contact with others to thrive and grow. They smile, cuddle, laugh, and respond eagerly to games like “peek-a-boo” or hide-and-seek. Occasionally, however, a child does not interact in this expected manner. Instead, the child seems to exist in his or her own world, a place characterized by repetitive routines, odd and peculiar behaviors, problems in communication, and a lack of social awareness or interest in others. These are characteristics of a developmental disorder called autism……….CLICK & SEE

Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by multigene interactions or by rare mutations. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Other proposed causes, such as childhood vaccines, are controversial and the vaccine hypotheses lack convincing scientific evidence. Most recent reviews estimate a prevalence of one to two cases per 1,000 people for autism, and about six per 1,000 for ASD, with ASD averaging a 4.3:1 male-to-female ratio. The number of people known to have autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, at least partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.

Autism affects many parts of the brain; how this occurs is poorly understood. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. There is no cure. Few children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, but some become successful, and an autistic culture has developed, with some seeking a cure and others believing that autism is a condition rather than a disorder.

Characteristics  :  Autism is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than one single symptom. The main characteristics are impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, restricted interests and repetitive behavior. Other aspects, such as atypical eating, are also common but are not essential for diagnosis. Individual symptoms of autism occur in the general population and appear not to associate highly, without a sharp line separating pathological severity from common traits.

Symptoms:
Autism is usually identified by the time a child is three years of age. It is often discovered when parents become concerned that their child may be deaf, is not yet talking, resists cuddling, and avoids interactions with others.

A preschool age child with “classic” autism is generally withdrawn, aloof, and fails to respond to other people. Many of these children will not even make eye contact. They may also engage in odd or ritualistic behaviors like rocking, hand flapping, or an obsessive need to maintain order.

Many children with autism do not speak at all. Those who do may speak in rhyme, have echolalia (repeating a person’s words like an echo), refer to themselves as “he” or “she”, or use peculiar language.

The severity of autism varies widely, from mild to severe. With proper supports, many of these children are able to perform well in a school setting and may be able to live independently when they grow up. Other children with autism function at a much lower level. Mental retardation is commonly associated with autism. Occasionally, a child with autism may display an extraordinary talent in art, music, or another specific area.

Autistic individuals display many forms of repetitive or restricted behavior, which the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R) categorizes as follows.

* Stereotypy is apparently purposeless movement, such as hand flapping, head rolling, or body rocking.
* Compulsive behavior is intended and appears to follow rules, such as arranging objects in a certain way.
* Sameness is resistance to change; for example, insisting that the furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.
* Ritualistic behavior involves the performance of daily activities the same way each time, such as an unvarying menu or dressing ritual. This is closely associated with sameness and an independent validation has suggested combining the two factors.
* Restricted behavior is limited in focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single television program.
* Self-injury includes movements that injure or can injure the person, such as biting oneself. Dominick et al. reported that self-injury at some point affected about 30% of children with ASD.

No single repetitive behavior seems to be specific to autism, but only autism appears to have an elevated pattern of occurrence and severity of these behaviors.

Other symptoms
Communication:

* Lack of pointing to direct others’ attention to objects (occurs in the first 14 months of life)
* Does not adjust gaze to look at objects that others are looking at
* Cannot start or sustain a social conversation
* Develops language slowly or not at all
* Repeats words or memorized passages, such as commercials
* Does not refer to self correctly (for example, says “you want water” when the child means “I want water”)
* Uses nonsense rhyming
* Communicates with gestures instead of words

Social interaction:

* Shows a lack of empathy
* Does not make friends
* Is withdrawn
* Prefers to spend time alone, rather than with others
* May not respond to eye contact or smiles
* May actually avoid eye contact
* May treat others as if they are objects
* Does not play interactive games

Response to sensory information:

* Has heightened or low senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste
* Seems to have a heightened or low response to pain
* May withdraw from physical contact because it is overstimulating or overwhelming
* Does not startle at loud noises
* May find normal noises painful and hold hands over ears
* Rubs surfaces, mouths or licks objects

Play:

* Shows little pretend or imaginative play
* Doesn’t imitate the actions of others
* Prefers solitary or ritualistic play

Behaviors:

* Has a short attention span
* Uses repetitive body movements
* Shows a strong need for sameness
* “Acts up” with intense tantrums
* Has very narrow interests
* Demonstrates perseveration (gets stuck on a single topic or task)
* Shows aggression to others or self
* Is overactive or very passive

Causes:
The cause of autism remains unknown, although current theories indicate a problem with function or structure of the central nervous system. What we do know, however, is that parents or “inadequate parenting” do not cause autism.

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Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism.

Genetic factors seem to be important. For example, identical twins are much more likely than fraternal twins or siblings to both have autism. Similarly, language abnormalities are more common in relatives of autistic children. Chromosomal abnormalities and other neurological problems are also more common in families with autism.

A number of other possible causes have been suspected, but not proven. They involve digestive tract changes, diet, mercury poisoning, vaccine sensitivity, and the body’s inefficient use of vitamins and minerals.

The exact number of children with autism is not known. A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that autism and related disorders are more common than previously thought, although it is unclear if this is due to an increasing rate of the illness or an increased ability to diagnose the illness.

Autism affects boys 3 to 4 times more often than girls. Family income, education, and lifestyle do not seem to affect the risk of autism.

Some parents have heard that the MMR vaccine that children receive may cause autism. This theory was based, in part, on two facts. First, the incidence of autism has increased steadily since around the same time the MMR vaccine was introduced. Second, children with the regressive form of autism (a type of autism that develops after a period of normal development) tend to start to show symptoms around the time the MMR vaccine is given. This is likely a coincidence due to the age of children at the time they receive this vaccine.

Several major studies have found NO connection between the vaccine and autism, however. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that there is no proven link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

Some doctors attribute the increased incidence in autism to newer definitions of autism. The term “autism” now includes a wider spectrum of children. For example, a child who is diagnosed with high-functioning autism today may have been thought to simply be odd or strange 30 years ago.

Screening & Diagnosis:

:All children should have routine developmental exams by their pediatrician. Further testing may be needed if there is concern on the part of the clinician or the parents. This is particularly true whenever a child fails to meet any of the following language milestones:

* Babbling by 12 months
* Gesturing (pointing, waving bye-bye) by 12 months
* Single words by 16 months
* Two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months (not just echoing)
* Loss of any language or social skills at any age.

These children might receive a hearing evaluation, a blood lead test, and a screening test for autism (such as the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) or the Autism Screening Questionnaire).

A health care provider experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of autism is usually necessary for the actual diagnosis. Because there is no biological test for autism, the diagnosis will often be based on very specific criteria laid out in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV.

The other pervasive developmental disorders include:

* Asperger syndrome (like autism, but with normal language development)
* Rett syndrome (very different from autism, and only occurs in females)
* Childhood disintegrative disorder (rare condition where a child acquires skills, then loses them by age 10)
* Pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), also called atypical autism.

An evaluation of autism will often include a complete physical and neurologic examination. It may also include a specific diagnostic screening tool, such as:

* Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R)
* Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
* Childhood Autism rating Scale (CARS)
* Gilliam Autism Rating Scale
* Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test-Stage 3

Children with known or suspected autism will often have genetic testing (looking for chromosome abnormalities) and perhaps metabolic testing.

Autism encompasses a broad spectrum of symptoms. Therefore, a single, brief evaluation cannot predict a child’s true abilities. Ideally, a team of different specialists will evaluate the child. They might evaluate speech, language, communication, thinking abilities, motor skills, success at school, and other factors.

Underdiagnosis and overdiagnosis are problems in marginal cases, and much of the recent increase in the number of reported ASD cases is likely due to changes in diagnostic practices. The increasing popularity of drug treatment options and the expansion of benefits has given providers incentives to diagnose ASD, resulting in some overdiagnosis of children with uncertain symptoms. Conversely, the cost of screening and diagnosis and the challenge of obtaining payment can inhibit or delay diagnosis. It is particularly hard to diagnose autism among the visually impaired, partly because some of its diagnostic criteria depend on vision, and partly because autistic symptoms overlap with those of common blindness syndromes.

The symptoms of autism and ASD begin early in childhood but are occasionally missed. Adults may seek retrospective diagnoses to help them or their friends and family understand themselves, to help their employers make adjustments, or in some locations to claim disability living allowances or other benefits.

Sometimes people are reluctant to have a child diagnosed because of concerns about labeling the child. However, failure to make a diagnosis can lead to failure to get the treatment and services the child needs.
Treatment

An early, intensive, appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children with autism. Most programs will build on the interests of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities. Visual aids are often helpful.

Treatment is most successful when geared toward the child’s particular needs. An experienced specialist or team should design the individualized program. A variety of effective therapies are available, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech-language therapy, medications, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Sensory integration and vision therapy are also common, but there is little research supporting their effectiveness. The best treatment plan may use a combination of techniques.

APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS (ABA)

This program is for younger children with an autism spectrum disorder. It highly effective in many cases. ABA uses a one-on-one teaching approach that relies on reinforced practice of various skills. The goal is to get the child close to typical developmental functioning.

ABA programs are usually conducted within a child’s home, under the supervision of a behavioral psychologist. Unfortunately, these programs can be very expensive and have not been widely adopted by school systems. Parents often must seek funding and staffing from other sources, which can be hard to find in many communities.

TEACCH

Another program is called the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH). TEACCH, developed as a statewide program in North Carolina, uses picture schedules and other visual cues. These help the child work independently and to organize and structure their environments. Though TEACCH tries to enhance a child’s adaptation and skills, there is also an acceptance of the deficits associated with autism spectrum disorders. In contrast to ABA programs, TEACCH programs do not anticipate that children will achieve typical developmental progress in response to the treatment.

MEDICINE

Medicines are often used to treat behavior or emotional problems that people with autism may have. These include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, attention problems, irritability, mood swings, outbursts, tantrums, aggression, extreme compulsions that the child finds it impossible to suppress, sleep difficulty, and anxiety. Currently, only risperidone is approved for treatment of children ages 5-16 with irritability and aggression associated with autism.

DIET

Some children with autism appear to respond to a gluten-free or a casein-free diet. Gluten is found in foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. Casein is found in milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Not all experts agree that dietary changes will make a difference, and not all reports studying this method have shown positive results.

If considering these or other dietary changes, seek guidance from both a gastroenterologist (doctor who specializes in the digestive system) and a registered dietitian. You want to be sure that the child is still receiving adequate calories, nutrients, and a balanced diet.

OTHER APPROACHES

Beware that there are widely publicized treatments for autism that do not have scientific support, and reports of “miracle cures” that do not live up to expectations. If your child has autism, it may be helpful to talk with other parents of children with autism, talk with autism specialists, and follow the progress of research in this area, which is rapidly developing.

At one time, there was enormous excitement about using secretin infusions. Now, after many studies have been conducted in many laboratories, it’s possible that secretin is not effective after all, but research is ongoing.

Support Groups
For organizations that can provide additional information and help on autism, see autism resources.

Prognosis:
There is no cure. Children recover occasionally, sometimes after intensive treatment and sometimes not; it is not known how often this happens. Most children with autism lack social support, meaningful relationships, future employment opportunities or self-determination. Although core difficulties remain, symptoms often become less severe in later childhood. Few high-quality studies address long-term prognosis. Some adults show modest improvement in communication skills, but a few decline; no study has focused on autism after midlife. Acquiring language before age six, having IQ above 50, and having a marketable skill all predict better outcomes; independent living is unlikely with severe autism. A 2004 British study of 68 adults who were diagnosed before 1980 as autistic children with IQ above 50 found that 12% achieved a high level of independence as adults, 10% had some friends and were generally in work but required some support, 19% had some independence but were generally living at home and needed considerable support and supervision in daily living, 46% needed specialist residential provision from facilities specializing in ASD with a high level of support and very limited autonomy, and 12% needed high-level hospital care. A 2005 Swedish study of 78 adults that did not exclude low IQ found worse prognosis; for example, only 4% achieved independence. A 2008 Canadian study of 48 young adults diagnosed with ASD as preschoolers found outcomes ranging through poor (46%), fair (32%), good (17%), and very good (4%); only 56% had ever been employed, most in volunteer, sheltered or part time work. Changes in diagnostic practice and increased availability of effective early intervention make it unclear whether these findings can be generalized to recently diagnosed children.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism
http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/autism/overview.html
http://www.lipsychiatric.com/common-disorders.asp#aut

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Agoraphobia

Definition:
The word “agoraphobia” is an English adaptation of the Greek words agora (a) and phobos (ß), and literally translates to “a fear of the marketplace.”

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Panic disorder is characterized by repeated and unpredictable attacks of intense fear and anxiety. Agoraphobia, literally “fear of the marketplace”, develops from a panic disorder in more than one-third of cases.

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Agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include crowds, wide open spaces or traveling, even short distances. This anxiety is often compounded by a fear of social embarrassment, as the agoraphobic fears the onset of a panic attack and appearing distraught in public.

Agoraphobics may experience panic attacks in situations where they feel trapped, insecure, out of control or too far from their personal comfort zone. In severe cases, an agoraphobic may be confined to his or her home. Many people with agoraphobia are comfortable seeing visitors in a defined space they feel they can control. Such people may live for years without leaving their homes, while happily seeing visitors in and working from their personal safety zones. If the agoraphobic leaves his or her safety zone, they may experience a panic attack.

It is an anxiety disorder, often precipitated by the fear of having a panic attack in a setting from which there is no easy means of escape. As a result, sufferers of agoraphobia may avoid public and/or unfamiliar places. In severe cases, the sufferer may become confined to their home, experiencing difficulty traveling from this “safe place.”

Agoraphobia is fear of being in places where help might not be available, and is usually manifested by fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.

Prevalence:
The one-year prevalence of agoraphobia in the United States is about 5 percent. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3.2 million Americans ages 18-54 have agoraphobia at any given time. About one third of people with Panic Disorder progress to develop agoraphobia.

Gender differences
Agoraphobia occurs about twice as commonly among women as it does in men. The gender difference may be attributable to social-cultural factors that encourage, or permit, the greater expression of avoidant coping strategies by women. Other theories include the ideas that women are more likely to seek help and therefore be diagnosed, that men are more likely to abuse alcohol as a reaction to anxiety and be diagnosed as an alcoholic, and that traditional female sex roles prescribe women to react to anxiety by engaging in dependent and helpless behaviors. Research results have not yet produced a single clear explanation as to the gender difference in agoraphobia.

Causes :
Agoraphobia often accompanies another anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder or a specific phobia.
If it occurs with panic disorder, the onset is usually in the 20s, and women are affected more often than men. People with this disorder may become housebound for years, which is likely to hurt social and interpersonal relationships.

There is no one single cause associated with agoraphobia.

There is no one single cause associated with agoraphobia. Instead, there are a number of factors that contribute to the development of agoraphobia. These factors include:

Family factors:

*Having an anxious parent role model.

*Being abused as a child
*Having an overly critical parent.
Personality factors:
*High need for approval.
*High need for control.
*Oversensitivity to emotional stimuli.
Biological factors:
*Oversensitivity to hormone changes.
*Oversensitivity to physical stimuli.
*High amounts of sodium lactate in the bloodstream.

.Research has uncovered a linkage between agoraphobia and difficulties with spatial orientation.Normal individuals are able to maintain balance by combining information from their vestibular system, their visual system and their proprioceptive sense. A disproportionate number of agoraphobics have weak vestibular function and consequently rely more on visual or tactile signals. They may become disoriented when visual cues are sparse as in wide open spaces or overwhelming as in crowds. Likewise, they may be confused by sloping or irregular surfaces. Compared to controls, in virtual reality studies, agoraphobics on average show impaired processing of changing audiovisual data.

Some scholars have explained agoraphobia as an attachment deficit, i.e., the temporary loss of the ability to tolerate spatial separations from a secure base.

Symptoms:
*Fear of being alone
*Fear of losing control in a public place
Fear of being in places where escape might be difficult
*Becoming housebound for prolonged periods of time
*Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
*Feelings of helplessness
*Dependence on others
*Feeling that the body is unreal
*Feeling that the environment is unreal
*Anxiety or panic attack (acute severe anxiety)
*Unusual temper or agitation with trembling or twitching

Additional symptoms that may occur:
*Lightheadedness, near fainting
*Dizziness
*Excessive sweating
*Skin flushing
*Breathing difficulty
*Chest pain
*Heartbeat sensations
*Nausea and vomiting
*Numbness and tingling
*Abdominal distress that occurs when upset
*Confused or disordered thoughts
*Intense fear of going crazy
*Intense fear of dying

Diagnosis:
Most people who present to mental health specialists develop agoraphobia after the onset of panic disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1998). Agoraphobia is best understood as an adverse behavioral outcome of repeated panic attacks and subsequent anxiety and preoccupation with these attacks that leads to an avoidance of situations where a panic attack could occur.[16] In rare cases where agoraphobics do not meet the criteria used to diagnose Panic Disorder, the formal diagnosis of Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder is used.

DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria
A) Anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home alone; being in a crowd, or standing in a line; being on a bridge; and traveling in a bus, train, or automobile.

B) The situations are avoided (e.g., travel is restricted) or else are endured with marked distress or with anxiety about having a panic attack or panic-like symptoms, or require the presence of a companion.

C) The anxiety or phobic avoidance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Specific Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to a single situation like elevators), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., avoidance of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of leaving home or relatives).

D)The individual may have a history of phobias, or family, friends, or the affected person may tell the health care provider about agoraphobic behavior.
The individual may sweat, have a rapid pulse (heart rate), or have high blood pressure.

Treatments:
Agoraphobia can be successfully treated in many cases through a very gradual process of graduated exposure therapy combined with cognitive therapy and sometimes anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Treatment options for agoraphobia and panic disorder are similar.
The goal of treatment is to help the phobic person function effectively. The success of treatment usually depends upon the severity of the phobia.
Systematic desensitization is a technique used to treat phobias. The person is asked to relax, then imagine the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful. Graded real-life exposure has also been used with success to help people overcome their fears.

Cognitive behavioral treatments
Exposure treatment can provide lasting relief to the majority of patients with panic disorder and agoraphobia. Disappearance of residual and subclinical agoraphobic avoidance, and not simply of panic attacks, should be the aim of exposure therapy. Similarly, Systematic desensitization may also be used.

Cognitive restructuring has also proved useful in treating agoraphobia. This treatment uses thought replacing with the goal of replacing one’s irrational, counter-factual beliefs with more accurate and beneficial ones.[citation needed]

Relaxation techniques are often useful skills for the agoraphobic to develop, as they can be used to stop or prevent symptoms of anxiety and panic.[citation needed]


Psychopharmaceutical treatments

Anti-depressant medications most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders are mainly in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class and include sertraline, paroxetine and fluoxetine. Benzodiazepine tranquilizers, MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants are also commonly prescribed for treatment of agoraphobia.


Alternative treatments

Eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR) has been studied as a possible treatment for agoraphobia, with poor results.As such, EMDR is only recommended in cases where cognitive-behavioral approaches have proven ineffective or in cases where agoraphobia has developed following trauma.
Alternative treatments of agoraphobia include hypnotherapy, guided imagery meditation, music therapy, yoga, religious practice and ayurvedic medicine.

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Additionally, many people with anxiety disorders benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. There is preliminary evidence that aerobic exercise may have a calming effect. Since caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, they should be avoided


Prognosis:
Phobias tend to be chronic, but respond well to treatment.

Possible Complications :
Some phobias may affect job performance or social functioning.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms suggestive of agoraphobia develop.

Prevention:

As with other panic disorders, prevention may not be possible. Early intervention may reduce the severity of the condition.

.Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agoraphobia
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000931.htm

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