Case Studies: Examining Anxiety

Learning Objectives

  • Identify anxiety disorders in case studies

Case Study: Jameela

Jameela was a successful lawyer in her 40s who visited a psychiatrist, explaining that for almost a year she had been feeling anxious. She specifically mentioned having a hard time sleeping and concentrating and increased feelings of irritability, fatigue, and even physical symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. She was always worried about forgetting about one of her clients or getting diagnosed with cancer, and in recent months, her anxiety forced her to cut back hours at work. She has no other remarkable medical history or trauma.

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For a patient like Jameela, a combination of CBT and medications is often suggested. At first, Jameela was prescribed the benzodiazepine diazepam, but she did not like the side effect of feeling dull. Next, she was prescribed the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor venlafaxine, but first in mild dosages as to monitor side effects. After two weeks, dosages increased from 75 mg/day to 225 mg/day for six months. Jameela’s symptoms resolved after three months, but she continued to take medication for three more months, then slowly reduced the medication amount. She showed no significant anxiety symptoms after one year.[1]

Case Study: Jane

Jane was a three-year-old girl, the youngest of three children of married parents. When Jane was born, she had a congenital heart defect that required multiple surgeries, and she continues to undergo regular follow-up procedures and tests. During her early life, Jane’s parents, especially her mother, was very worried that she would die and spent every minute with Jane. Jane’s mother was her primary caregiver as her father worked full time to support the family and the family needed flexibility to address medical issues for Jane. Jane survived the surgeries and lived a functional life where she was delayed, but met all her motor, communication, and cognitive developmental milestones.

Jane was very attached to her mother. Jane was able to attend daycare and sports classes, like gymnastics without her mother present, but Jane showed great distress if apart from her mother at home. If her mother left her sight (e.g., to use the bathroom), Jane would sob, cry, and try desperately to open the door. If her mother went out and left her with a family member, Jane would fuss, cry, and try to come along, and would continually ask to video-call her, so her mother would have to cut her outings short. Jane also was afraid of doctors’ visits, riding in the car seat, and of walking independently up and down a staircase at home. She would approach new children only with assistance from her mother, and she was too afraid to take part in her gymnastics performances.

Jane also had some mood symptoms possibly related to her medical issues. She would intermittently have days when she was much more clingy, had uncharacteristically low energy, would want to be held, and would say “ow, ow” if put down to stand. She also had difficulty staying asleep and would periodically wake up with respiratory difficulties.[2]

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  1. Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., & Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 93–107.
  2. Hirshfeld-Becker DR, Henin A, Rapoport SJ, et alVery early family-based intervention for anxiety: two case studies with toddlersGeneral Psychiatry 2019;32:e100156. doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2019-100156