Anxiety can actually help you by motivating you to prepare for a big test or by keeping you on your toes in potentially dangerous situations. It’s very important to realise that one should never be seeking a cure for anxiety, as in the total elimination of anxiety from your life. You need anxiety to equip you to get out of the way of real and present danger, to motivate you to do your best in school, work and sporting events.
Occasional anxiety is part of normal life. However, for some people anxiety is a constant factor in their lives. When a person has anxiety problems, it interferes with their ability to function normally on a daily basis. Anxiety problems can cause people to feel intense, long-lasting fear or worry, in addition to other symptoms.
Problems with too-high a level of anxiety involving unrealistic fear and worry are very common. It is estimated that that they affect about 16 of the U.S. population including people of all ages, races and backgrounds with one exception. Women tend to be more likely to have problems with anxiety than men. Either that, or as with all areas of health, they report their issues more than men.
Anxiety is a set of responses which everyone has when they perceive a threat to their safety, that is, when they feel danger. The human body is hardwired to automatically pump adrenaline into our system when danger confronts us. That awareness of a danger signals the involuntary nervous system to send immediate messages throughout the body, to either ‘fight’ (take the situation head on) or ‘flight’ (escape from the situation) or ‘freeze’ (as in a kangaroo caught in the headlights). This ‘fight flight or freeze’ response is characterised by:
* Increased heart rate & blood pressure
* Increased breathing rate
* A feeling of fear or apprehension
* Trembling, shaking or a feeling of restlessness
The anxiety response is essential to deal with dangerous or stressful situations. However, if this reaction of fear does not subside when the real and present danger is over, it can become an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorder has a significant impact on a person’s life. The person will feel edgey all the time. They react to situations in a fear-filled way, even when the situation is not a threat or a danger. They know at an intellectual level, that their reactions to situations are inappropriate. They know that they are not really in danger. That awareness often means that people with high levels of anxiety criticise themselves for feeling those fears. If you feel fear sometimes amounting to terror, in a crowded restaurant, or at the Mall, or in a lecture theatre at College, it makes sense at one level to avoid those situations. After all, who wants to suffer through mounting feelings of fear? That’s why it’s so important to seek help. While the first couple of episodes of fear can be tolerated, the way anxiety disorder and panic attacks develop is an ever-repeating cycle of (1) eg fear and panic felt at a concert;(2) next time you’re going to a concert, you anticipate that you might feel that panic again (3) just thinking you might feel it, almost always guarantees that you will. (4) Not surprisingly, you want to escape from the situation and eventually, you (5) start avoiding going to concerts. With the proper therapy, you can learn very quickly and easily how to react in a different way to situations that now make you have panic attacks.
Are you an overly anxious parent?
Being a parent can provide everyone with legitimate moments of worry and even high anxiety. If your child has a high fever, you’d have to be made of concrete not to be anxious, fearful and a bit worried. Many first time parents err on the side of caution with their very young children whose temperature is often due to something as unthreatening as teething. It’s a balancing act. If you’ve raced your two year old to the Emergency Room at the local hospital with a high fever, which immediately dissipates after one dose of paracetamol or aspirin, no one would immediately diagnose you as overly anxious.
If from other symptoms you know that that child is cutting her or his two year old molars and likely to run a fever, then taking that child to the ER with every fever spike ( before administering an aspirin and waiting half an hour, to see if the fever eases) that’s perhaps an indicator that you’re overly anxious. So what? With young children, it’s better to be sure than sorry. Right? Yes. And no. Many of you reading this article will know that the panicky reactions you had to your two year old’s temperature spikes have never really left you.
You worry excessively if your nineteen year old daughter is even half an hour late. You constantly nag (or try to motivate) your adult children about their University assignments. Your adult children keep many things secret from you because they know your reaction will be an over-the-top show of concern. You spend far too many hours worrying and fear-filled about your children’s latest partner: none of whom is ever good enough.
It is normal for parents to worry about their children when they first learn to drive, and it’s even more normal to worry when children don’t come home at an expected time. What I’m referring to here is once again, a matter of degree. When a parent is actually becoming so distressed about an adult child being late that s/he is almost vomiting or getting diarrhoea, then we are looking at anxiety which has become dysfunctional. As with all anxiety, it can be conquered.
Dr Jeannette Kavanagh has a counseling and coaching Practice in Melbourne Australia, to help people find their unique solutions to anxiety and panic attacks. Visit www.calmingwords.com to sign up for your free MP3 Relax on Cue.