04 Nov

What is your understanding of anxiety? When you think about the word “anxiety,” what definition, thought, image, etc. pops up? Are you reminded of a past trauma or do you feel anxious at the thought of having to meet a deadline? Simply reading all of these questions may be triggering for you so I’ll do my best to help you develop a better understanding of anxiety, and ways in which understanding it can make your life better.

Defining Anxiety

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety is an anticipation of future threats. Think about having to go in for a job interview. It has yet to occur, which gives us time to sit and plan ahead for all of the things that can possibly go wrong. For instance, we may start to think about the number of people interviewing us. We may then start to calculate the last time we did an interview and may not feel that our interviewing skills are up to par. We may then start to think about the questions that may be asked, in which we may start to convince ourselves that we will not be able to answer them…despite having the experience to back us up. Another example could be that you may experience intense fear at the thought of having to be separate from someone or something. There are different types of anxiety and people respond differently based on may factors, to include developmental levels, level of resilience, different types of situations, traumatic experiences, etc.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has a list of anxiety disorders, some of those are as follows:

  • Separation Anxiety
  • Selective Mutism
  • Specific Phobia
  • Social Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety

You may look at this list and immediately began to try and diagnose yourself to see where you “fit.” Please don’t! If you have any concerns, best practice is for you to see a licensed mental health professional or a licensed physician.

Everyone is different and respond to things differently. Resiliency plays a huge role in how we respond to situations. It does not make you less of a person if your level of resiliency is not as high as the next person. The good thing is, counseling can help you learn the appropriate tools to utilize to help strengthen your resilience to help you learn how to manage situations, improving your mental wellness…which makes your life better!

So…what are the three UNEXPECTED ways that understanding anxiety can make your life better?

Unexpectedly Understanding Anxiety

  1. Anxiety is a mental and physical reaction to perceived threats. When you anticipate that something bad is going to happen, your mind thinks that you are in danger and it responds accordingly. For instance, lets say that you have a heighten fear of dogs. You have been attacked by a dog as a child and never had the opportunity to process the trauma. Your best friend may ask you to come over for a visit and mentions that she just got a new pet. Your initial response before going to visit your friend may be anticipated fear…”she has a new pet and it just might be a dog.” Your mind thinks it and your body responds accordingly. Your body may tense, your heart may race, your palms may be sweaty, etc. One of the good things about knowing that anxiety is a mental and physical reactions to “perceived” threats, is that we can sometimes narrow down this threat and get counseling to help us learn how to manage it.
  2. At some point in life, everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety. That’s right, even the most confident person that you know may have experienced anxiety symptoms. If you are the type of person who follows celebrities on their social media accounts, blogs, etc., you may have heard them mention having anxiety at the thought of doing something. This goes back to the “anticipation” of something happening. You are not in this alone!  You do not have to face your challenges alone. If you feel that no one understands what you are going through, there are qualified licensed professionals that help you explore your challenges and identify ways to manage them.
  3. Anxiety can grow if we simply avoid it and not manage it. If you think about what we have learned about anxiety so far, it can occur when we try to anticipate the outcome of something. The anticipation can make you feel as if you are in danger, creating fear. What we tend to do when we do not want to face something is AVOID it. Once we avoid it, it gives us this temporary feeling of relief. Think about being told that you the social event that you were going to attend has been cancelled. Whew, you got to avoid that large crowd with all those people who may want to ask you personal questions or seemingly look down on you. But, the thing about “temporary” is that is not permanent. The very thing that you avoided will likely present itself again, and now your anxiety levels are heightened. The good thing is that you can see a licensed counselor to help you learn how to break out of this cycle and learn how to manage your symptoms of anxiety.

This blog does not list all of the things associated with anxiety disorders. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, which may be influenced by different things in your life (relationships, finances, trauma, conflicts, etc.), professional counseling can help you relieve the burden of facing it alone. You can learn how to manage your challenges and live a more fulfilled life. You DESERVE it! You deserve to live a life unapologetically and carefree. Of course challenges are going to present itself, because nothing is perfect; however, you can learn tools that can be utilized continuously to help you strengthen your resiliency and learn how to manage and overcome obstacles.

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