What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined in different ways. It is difficult to describe in one definition all the mechanisms related to anxiety. The most common definition of anxiety is usually something like:
Anxiety is an emotion caused by an observed or experienced threat, which most often leads to avoidance or evasion of it.
Anxiety is a reaction that shows itself in a situation that makes us anxious. During this confrontation, we will feel intense emotions that can lead to situation avoidance.
E.g., If you are agoraphobic, you will avoid open spaces after a while, and you will tend to stay at home much more often because you will be more afraid of public areas.
Please note that you can find some resources for tips on how to live with anxiety at the end of the article.
What is the meaning of anxiety?
Anxiety has lost its raison d’être over time. As we said, anxiety enabled us to survive. Nowadays, we are barely confronted with danger. We are now more anxious because of the situations we value but of which are not endangering our lives. Eg., you must not arrive late to work for an important meeting. Just the thought of arriving late can cause anxiety symptoms. Arriving late for a meeting is not a life-threatening situation. The original meaning of anxiety has therefore been lost.
Anxiety is horrible, so why do we even experience it?
Anxiety goes back to the dawn of time and is a device brought about by nature. This device helped our ancestors to survive by assessing situations as dangerous. If you are facing a perilous situation, anxiety will help your body react faster and so increase your chances of survival. Unlike depression, anxiety is integrated from birth to help us survive.
If anxiety is innate to all of us, why do some people have anxiety disorders and others do not?
Everyone has the opportunity to develop an anxiety disorder because everyone is born with anxiety. But, not everyone will develop an anxiety disorder. Also, there are other factors necessary to have an anxiety disorder.
Predisposition + event + coping style=
Besides us all having a predisposition to fear, a particular situation or event is necessary to trigger a link between fear and anxiety. This situation must be overwhelming because we will reflect on the situation which will remain in our thoughts. However, even adding a predisposition and shocking event together will not automatically equal an anxiety disorder. This is where we introduce the ‘coping style’. This means that what matters is how you manage the situation next and how you decide to handle the situation. This choice can lead to either healthy anxiety or unhealthy anxiety.
A metaphor for the onset of anxiety
To help you discern the primary meaning of anxiety and anxiety disorders, here is a metaphor for how anxiety disorder might appear.
Anxiety disorders can be likened overeating. The human being is pre-programmed to survive while eating. Since the dawn of time, man eats. If we do not eat, we die. In the beginning, there were no leftovers, and we ate what we needed. If you had caught a big animal, this food could be used for several days later. It was a survival technique.
Now, as society has evolved, more and more food has been available. Because of this overabundance, some people are overweight, which can lead in extreme cases to death. Although we initially wanted what we needed and as much as we needed it, we eat things that are not healthy, and we overeat. Anxiety is quite similar to a pre-programmed food diet to help us survive. If we encounter danger, our body reacts to this danger with an anxiety reaction. Anxiety will sometimes cause us to escape danger or even defend ourselves.
Modern society has evolved into a safe community, so nowadays we are rarely confronted with anxiety. This has the effect that the natural mechanism is sometimes triggered by something that is not a real danger, such as agoraphobia. An open space represents life, not a threat. In this way, something natural, which initially had a healthy reason to be part of us, is finally misused and becomes unhealthy.
What happens if anxiety progresses?
Unhealthy anxiety can have a dramatic effect on your life. It can prevent you from doing certain things you wish to do, feel happy and carry out everyday activities. Anxiety can have a considerable effect even on the smallest things. Eg., people who don’t dare to go out of the house have a hard time doing their shopping, which can be dull if you want or need to cook.
Many anxious people no longer feel they can make decisions about their own lives. It’s as if anxiety had taken over. Many anxious people are also aware that the anxiety they feel is unreal and that they shouldn’t feel any anxiety in such a situation. But they can not stop this anxiety. It overwhelms them, and they cannot help themselves.
The anxiety of anxiety
As anxiety progresses, you will also experience more consequences of anxiety. Thus, it often happens that sufferers become anxious just experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. They find hyperventilating so frightening that the anxiety of anxiety appears. You then experience real anxiety anxiety.
This then is a kind of vicious circle that can have an extreme effect on your happiness and your quality of life. After a short time, you will become anxious if you think of the symptoms of anxiety or anxiety. You will not be able to do what you love and do everyday activities. For example, a person with agoraphobia can no longer go to the store to shop because they are too anxious. This may mean that he or she has nothing left to cook with. If you also know that you have the opportunity but that anxiety controls your life, it can be very frustrating.
What are the critical consequences of anxiety?
Anxiety has many consequences. For yourself, anxiety can have a significant influence on your satisfaction, your image of yourself and your joy in general. Often, people with anxiety feel they are losing control of their lives. This can sometimes lead to a reduced image of oneself or even depression. Because of the feeling that you no longer have control of your life, people believe that it is challenging to treat anxiety. It’s totally false. It is possible to break the vicious circle of anxiety and regain happiness. In this way, you will believe again in your abilities and will be the master of your life once more.
Looking for tips on how to live with anxiety?
Check out the slideshow below for 10 tips on how to live with anxiety. The full article on anxiety tips can found here.