“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it, just as we have learned to live with storms”
Anxiety is something that touches every person on the planet for the simple fact that biologically we are all wired for survival. Anxiety is a ‘built-in’ protection device of the body. If we couldn’t detect danger and experience feelings like fear, worry and apprehension, then we wouldn’t be able to keep ourselves safe.
Anxiety in and of itself is therefore normal. It’s a by-product of the brain and body’s stress response system that governs our fight or flight response. In ancient times, we needed to protect ourselves from bears or lions in the wild. Today things like relationship problems, work stresses, negative thoughts and worrying about paying bills on time trigger that same ancient response. So, what happens is the hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal glands that says ‘release stress hormones’! adrenaline! cortisol! And so, your heart starts to pound, your pupils dilate, your airways open and you are ready to fight or run.
Anxiety becomes a problem when a person regularly feels disproportionate levels of fear, worried thoughts, apprehension and tension and the stress response is activated over and over. When this happens, daily functioning can become difficult and anxiety disorders occur.
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder [GAD] – this is the most common anxiety disorder. Many people suffer from GAD and are unaware of why the feel the way they do. GAD is a chronic condition whereby people experience excessive intrusive thoughts and worry for no specific reason.
- Specific Phobias – This is where people are intensely afraid of particular objects or situations. They understand it’s irrational but cannot help their overwhelming feels of panic.
- Social Anxiety or Phobia – People who suffer from this fear negative judgements from others and embarrassment in public situations. This can cause people to avoid human contact as they often fear rejection, intimacy and humiliation.
- Agoraphobia – This is a fear of being trapped in a place, event or situation.
- Selective Mutism – This is an anxiety where children stop speaking at certain places or situations such as school. It can be an extreme form of social phobia.
- Panic disorder – People with panic disorder suffer from debilitating panic attacks where for no apparent reason they experience shortness of breath, sweating, confusion and terror and literally feel like they are dying.
Counselling can offer many tools, strategies and ways of thinking that can significantly diminish the impact that anxiety has over your life. It can offer relief and a sense of empowerment as you realise that you do have more power over these dreaded feelings than you think.
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