Thankfully our body has a natural, inbuilt response to stressful or dangerous situations – and we know this response as “Anxiety”.
Briefly, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, worry or fear that may – or may not – be related to a specific event. As part of human evolution, this feeling is a response that has been developed to alert us to danger to our physical or mental wellbeing with the hope of keeping us safe.
When Anxiety Interrupts Daily Life
While everyone experiences anxiety as a “normal” part of their daily lives, for some, anxiety can be debilitating. This experience can mean that their daily lives are brought to a standstill by the physical or mental symptoms anxiety can generate. When stress or fear interrupt life to this extent, this experience may be regarded as a more serious Anxiety Disorder.
Those who have experienced anxiety as overwhelming may also understand that fighting these anxious feelings is not helpful, and in fact, can actually increase anxiety’s intensity. What can be most helpful, is taking time to understand (“get to know”) and develop your own creative, self-support skills which can be tailored to meet your needs. These self-support skills, can, over time, lead to finding ways to manage and work with anxious feelings when they occur.
Getting to know anxiety can include considering your own individual experiences, where they occur in your body, and what they can look like to others, for example:
- Tight chest or racing/pounding heart;
- Blushing or feeling hot, sweaty, tingly or numb;
- Headaches or dizziness;
- Finding it difficult to swallow or dry mouth;
- Stomach aches or pain.
- Ongoing worry (sometimes worrying about worrying);
- Mind jumping from one worry to another;
- Imagining disastrous events, or the worst possible outcomes to events;
- Always being “alert” for incoming danger.
- Avoiding doing activities that you really enjoy;
- Pacing, foot tapping or other incessant movement;
- Snapping at others very easily;
- Talking very quickly.
It may also help to understand that anxiety can have a myriad of causes. Getting to know possible causes is another valuable source of information which can act as a building block in developing life-long skills of self-support.
Possible Causes of Anxiety
Being human: As mentioned earlier, humans have over time, developed these symptoms not only to alert our bodies to danger, but also to give physical assistance to fight back, remain quiet (freeze) or to flee from danger. For example, a fast beating heart, quick breathing and excessive sweating are all a part of the body’s preparation for a quick response to threat.
Overthinking: This can be a personal process that has been developed to ensure all aspects of any situation are considered and therefore no mistakes are made, ie always expecting the worst and trying to ensure it cannot happen. While this can be helpful in certain situations, constantly overthinking can lead to an inability for the mind to “turn off” and allow relaxation.
A series of stressful life events: These events can include change across different areas of life. For example, having a new baby in the home can often mean changes to living environment, less income, and less chance to socialise in familiar ways.
Or, the anxiety may be related to old events that have been difficult to cope with in the past, like having been bullied at school, and then again encountering difficult work relationships. It’s important to remember that the experience of a “stressful event” will be different for everyone, and it is your own personal experience that is important.
Temperament: Our own personal temperament, may be related to intergenerational aspects of our family. Therefore if someone in your family has experienced anxiety there is an increased chance that you too will have a similar experience.
The good news is, there are now many approaches that can be used to assist those who experience Anxiety. If you would like to find out more about treatment options for anxiety in children, teens or adults, please make an appointment with me as I have a keen interest in this area.
Author: Wendy Taylor, B Sc (Psych); M Couns; PG Dip Psych; M Psych; MAPS.
Wendy Taylor is a Brisbane psychologist with extensive experience in working with children, adolescents, young adults and their parents, across a range of issues. Wendy’s therapeutic approach is client-centred and strengths-based, as she assists clients to identify, develop and build on individual strengths and community resources, to support ongoing capacity for personal growth and sense of fulfilment across the life span.
To make an appointment, you can book Brisbane Psychologist Wendy Taylor online, or freecall 1800 877 924 today.
- Freeman, J.C., Epston, D., & Lobovits, D. (1997) Playful approaches to serious problems: Narrative therapy with children and their families. New York, NY: WW Norton & Co.