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Outline the clinical characteristics of one anxiety disorder

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Outline the clinical characteristics of one anxiety disorder (10 Marks) Anxiety is an adaptive response, an individual with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety that is disproportionate to threats that are presented. Phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorders. Phobias are an extreme irrational fear of certain situations, objects, people or activities; the level of fear is so great the object or situation is avoided whenever possible. Phobias are classified into three categories, specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia. Agoraphobia and social phobia usually interfere with the individuals' daily life, whereas specific phobia generally has less impact. Specific phobias are a fear of specific objects such as animals, the environment, a situation or blood and guts. The prevalence is 4-7% of the population. Specific phobias can be caused from direct experience, observation or from being told to fear the object. The clinical characteristic for this is for the individual with the phobia to avoid the feared object. The anxiety from the situation often results in restlessness, jumpy behaviour; in general the individual finds it difficult to relax and may experience a startled response when presented with the feared stimuli. Social phobias are due to the individual's self-consciousness of their behaviour and a fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations. Social phobia can be related to shyness. ...read more.


Davison found phobias of neutral stimuli cannot be easily conditioned as Albert's experiment suggested; he tried to condition phobias of neutral stimuli in a laboratory but had little success. However being in an experimental setting may have prevented the participants from behaving naturally; therefore the fear was not conditioned. The behaviourist concept of stimulus generalising suggest that a fear response to one thing can be generalised to other things, and as predicted by the behavioural concept Albert generalised the phobia of white rats to other furry white objects such as cotton wool, fur and white beards. However his reactivity may predispose him to the anxious disorder. Due to Albert being a child he may have developed his fear of the rat because he was immediately able to recognise the appearance of the animal is least like a human, he feared other objects that were similar to the rat because he developed a cognitive bias unconsciously. Also the research evidence on phobias being a result of traumatic experiences lacks reliability, as shown by Davison it is difficult to replicate Watson and Rayners experiment; although it was found 50% of people suffering from certain phobias recalled a traumatic experience that had triggered their phobia, therefore supporting classical conditioning. The other 50% of phobics that cannot recall an unpleasant experience initiating their phobia could be due to repression of the expression. ...read more.


The experiment with Albert demonstrated classical conditioning. However, research indicates that phobias do not depend on having previously encountered a frightening situation, and individuals that have experienced frightening encounters do not necessarily develop a phobia. Social learning theory is a behavioural explanation that may apply to some specific phobias. The cognitive explanation suggests that the individual suffering from the phobia have cognitive biases which cause the individual to exaggerate the threat posed by the stimuli. Some individuals may react to their bodily responses in a catastrophic way more than other individuals because they have a higher physiological reactivity. The social explanation can be used to explain the development of phobias through parental rearing styles and life events. The main problem with obtaining information about parental rearing styles may be the individual perceives the style differently from how it actually was. The main problem with obtaining information on life events is that it was in the past the so remembering them may be distorted and some events may have been forgotten. All three accounts of psychological explanations can be used to describe the development of phobias; however there are other explanations of anxiety disorders that are not psychological such as the evolutionary explanation. According to preparedness argument phobias are adaptive because they are a fear of things that would have been a threat to humans in the EEA. The evolutionary explanation is a counter perspective of the conditioning explanation and may explain why replications of Watson and Rayner's experiment failed to condition phobias to neutral stimuli. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The content written here is extensive, but doesn't appear to reflect the amount that many candidates would be able to write under proper exam conditions with the allotted 30 minutes given for questions of this nature, so whilst what is ...

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Response to the question

The content written here is extensive, but doesn't appear to reflect the amount that many candidates would be able to write under proper exam conditions with the allotted 30 minutes given for questions of this nature, so whilst what is written is predominantly accurate, it is hard to gauge the candidate's exam abilities. There is an excellent understanding of the nature of anxiety disorders, and the first question sees a relatively straight-forward and precise answer which nicely covers the three main phobias with excellent detail and description. I like the references to the DSM-IV as the symptoms being described have to be sourced by either this book or another trusted source published bu the World Health Organisation, and so this is a plus to see.

With regard to the answer to the second question, candidates are required to briefly discuss the theories behind anxiety disorders and then discuss the strengths and weaknesses with this theory. The candidate masterfully completes this task, though perhaps in too much detail that would mean the candidate would not finish in the time normally allotted. And as such some of the detail in the description of the theories and beliefs about anxiety disorders is unnecessary. Only comment on the bare necessities to convey the differences between the behavioural, social and cognitive theories and then discuss the strengths and limitations of said theories, citing the appropriate empirical evidence to support your claims. Without this empirical evidence, you are not contextualising the evaluation and this can lead to losing easy marks.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is very good and very extensive. There is a balanced discussion given to each theory and this shows the examiner the candidate is able to demonstrate evaluative abilities that maintain balance and order. My only gripe with the analysis is that it feels as if it is carried into the conclusion. The conclusions of questions like these really aren't worth many marks other than for structure, as there is an enormous amount of analytical content required elsewhere in the essay and not much time is left to form such an extensive conclusion as is shown here. As a result, it is recommended that the conclusion merely re-iterate the introduction, which must be equally as brief so as to maximise analysis marks (12/20 marks are attributed to AO2 - critical evaluation - in Q2). So it is best to keep the analysis in the middle of the essay and have only a very brief conclusion; conclusions by nature should not feature analysis anyway.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is excellent. The candidate has clearly taken the time to read and re-read their work to ensure maximum clarity of written expression. There is good evidence of the candidate using psychological terminology appropriately and accurately, which indicates to the examiner a great level of knowledge and confidence in their analysis of psychology. There is no cause for concern with regard to grammar, spelling or punctuation.

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