Anxiety seems to be pervasive in our society today. More and more people are showing up at doctors’ offices and therapists’ offices complaining about feeling anxious and having panic attacks. Anxiety negatively impacts many areas of our lives. It affects our ability to function at work, socially, and in relationships. It affects our relationships, our ability to try new things and to expand into life. Sadly, it also hinders our ability to fulfill our purpose and to actualize our dreams.
I know about anxiety. Not just from books and training but also from personal experience. Anxiety can feel debilitating. An enemy at the front door always there to remind us how unsafe we are in the world.
WHAT IS ANXIETY
Anxiety is a set of symptoms that are experienced in response to a known or unknown trigger and is felt subjectively as danger. It is our Autonomic Nervous Systems natural response to perceived threat. At times, when there is a real threat, anxiety is useful to mobilize our system for defense. However, when our nervous system get stuck in a defensive state of hypervigilance when there is not actual danger this can be experienced as anxiety.
Symptoms are generally experienced physically, cognitively/psychologically, and spiritually (unless they are related to a physiological condition which is outside of the scope of this article);
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty breathing
- Other distressing physical sensations
- Distorted, rigid, thinking
- Fear-based thoughts
- Intrusive thoughts
- Excessive worry
- Sleep difficulties
- Lack of purpose
- Existential angst
CAUSES OF ANXIETY
The causes of anxiety are multifaceted. When anxiety is caused by a real threat it is a normal and healthy fight-flight-freeze response to danger. But when anxiety is caused by a perceived threat it becomes maladaptive and troublesome. We can often get trapped in a fight-flight-or freeze pattern that shuts us off from our natural healthy responses to life. Some causes for anxiety are;
- Early childhood or late-onset trauma
- Prolonged exposure to daily stress
- Inconsistent parenting in early childhood
- Attachment and relationship difficulties
- Life events that are stressful such as job loss, divorce, parenting difficulties.
- Unresolved grief and loss
- Learning disabilities and other conditions such as ADHD
- Confusion about ones purpose and feeling lost and overwhelmed by life
- Lack of external and internal resources
- Medical conditions
Anxiety is a complicated condition but you can learn to manage anxiety. Anxiety points to areas of our lives that need attention and can be a gift of growth if we are willing to engage with its teachings
Please note that the information in the article is the opinion of the author and is not meant as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a professional. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only.