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Association: Some problems are really disguises of deeper problems

Let us now return to the behavioural principle of Classical Conditioning (see Anxiety: How is it caused? for a full explanation of Classical Conditioning).  In summery, if two objects are regularly presented at the same time, (in Pavlovís dog example, Pavlov rang a bell whenever food was presented to the dog) one object will usually stimulate the same emotions that the other object stimulated (the dog would salivate whenever the bell was rung, even if food was not present).  If a child experiences ongoing stress, then this stress may be associated with other items that existed alongside the original stressful item.  Neurotic patients often have phobias, and many neurotics specifically have dislike for many foods.  Psychoanalytic theory proposes that this kind of phobia is in fact a displacement: a childís stress and fear begins to be directed against food at a time when most children are learning to enjoy new tastes.  Patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are riddled with fears concerning their surroundings and terrible catastrophies that might occur to them.  Again, psychoanalytic theory proposes that a personís underlying trauma has begun to be directed towards the world around the individual, instead of towards the original source of the trauma.  In fact, this is slightly more complex than Classical Conditioning: this transference of fear from an original source to another source is actually known as Ďdisplacementí, and is better seen in the example of Jack and his cat Jeremy above (see Psychoanalysis: Core principles). 

How do we reduce anxiety?

So how do we reduce anxiety.  For the purposes of the model I am proposing, I will present the problem as two-fold.

  1. Psychoanalytic theory proposes that there are underlying root problems that tend to cause the gamut of manifestations the are associated with anxiety. 
  2. This second distinction is crucial to my understanding of treatment for anxiety.  The gamut of manifestations of anxiety resulting from the underlying problem, is constituted by highly maladaptive behaviours that contribute to negative lifestyle patterns that force the individual into unproductive situations that can place her under considerable additional stress.