Why is Anxiety such a Worry?
We live in an era where we are bombarded with news of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and world events that threaten our peace and security. These are streamed to us electronically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Fear is a natural human response to enable us to deal with threatening or dangerous situations. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe. When we perceive something that is threatening our safety our bodies go into action. Adrenaline gets pumped into the bloodstream and muscles. Blood drains from the skin and gets diverted into large muscle groups like the legs ready to make a quick getaway. Our heart pounds getting revved up for action. All this in a split second. For example if we find ourselves in the path of a speeding vehicle this quick response activates to get us out of the way -the flight part of the fight or flight response. We go into survival mode!
Now wouldn’t it be helpful if that was the only time we felt fear? It would only be activated when we really needed it and other times we could get on with our lives. The problem is that for most of us fear strikes when it is neither helpful nor wanted. We can literally become paralysed by fear. If this happens over a long time it becomes habitual, a learned behaviour. Many of us label ourselves as “worriers” and that becomes how we define ourselves.
Worry is a special form of fear. Whilst we can define fear as caused by external factors, worry or anxiety is produced internally, it’s the meaning we attach to something threatening. The body reacts in exactly the same way.
The reason anxiety is such an issue in today’s world, from young children to the elderly, is that worry is fear that has unpacked its bags and taken up residence. Worry never moves out on its own – it has to be evicted. That’s when we need to seek help whether from a health professional in the form of medication and/or counselling.
Therapy can help you get to the source of the anxiety and help you deal with how your mind has attached itself to a particular meaning when the initial cause is long gone. Maybe this was an actual fear in the past which has got turned into excessive worry through rumination or obsessive negative thoughts and behaviour.
The good news is that therapy can help you distinguish between what is a helpful fear part and what is an unhelpful worry part so that you can start enjoying life again in all its fullness.