Is this really anxiety? Or there is something really wrong with you? How can you know the difference?
Anxiety can affect any person at any stage of their life. It does not matter if they are introvert or extrovert, if they lead or not an active life, if they are married or not.
So the first thing you must remember is that you are not alone. Actually, many people experience anxiety even though from time to time you have the impression that you are very different from others. You might even have the feeling that you are the only one to suffer with anxiety.
Are anxiety and fear just the same?
In order to understand what anxiety is, let’s talk about fear first.
Fear is an emotion extremely important, because it defends and stimulates you to take action when you are in a dangerous situation. For example, you take a walk in the forest and suddenly you see a big wolf. Your body triggers the fear response and you start running for your live. The heart beats faster, the adrenaline and noradrenaline are pumped and your muscles give you the energy to go far away from the danger.
The experience of anxiety is very similar to the experience of fear. However, the main difference is that anxiety happens when you aren’t in an objectively dangerous situation.
A person can imagine that she or he is in danger, but the reality is different. For example, you must give a speech during an important event and you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts. You might have thoughts like: ,,I am not good enough”; ,, I will ruin this event” ; ,,I will embarrass myself”. None of these are facts. None of this has happened, yet your body reacts as if they did. And this is the distinct flavour of anxiety. Your body reacts to your own fearful thoughts and not to an actual danger.
If you suffer from anxiety you must have experienced a lot of heart pounding, sweating, fogginess, pain in the body, digestive issues. And all these symptoms only aggravate your anxiety and make you think you are having a heart attack or some other serious disease. But is it so?
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
It is necessary to know yourself and know the biological response of your body to threat or danger, actual or anticipated. This response has been named the fight or flight response, which main purpose is to protect the individual.
It is important to remember that the experience of anxiety is not in itself harmful. When the fight or flight response is activated, three main systems are affected: physical, cognitive and behavioural.
When you believe that you are in danger, the physical system undergoes some changes to help you run or fight:
An increase in heart rate and strength of beat – The blood is pumped faster and the oxygen gets delivered more rapidly to the various tissues.
A redistribution of blood – The blood flow is changed in such a way that it goes away from places where is not needed in that moment (fingers, toes) to the areas it is likely to be needed (large organs, muscles)
An increase in sweating – In this way the body becomes more slippery, making it harder for a predator to grab and it also has a cooling effect.
Decreased activity of the digestive system – This allows more energy to be sent to systems related to fight or flight.
Muscle tension – The muscles are tensed up in preparation for fight or flight.
Further symptoms of anxiety
When you feel anxiety, you want to escape from the place you are and this may not be possible, so you start to express the feelings through behaviours such as foot tapping, pacing or snapping at people.
One main cognitive change in the flight or fight response is that the individual shifts the attention to the surroundings in order to look for potential danger. Unfortunately, this translates to difficulty in concentrating and many wonder if it is something wrong with them. That might be your case too. But it is just the anxiety, which can be treated.
If you are fed up letting anxiety rule your life I want you to know that you are not alone. I am here to help you to get your life back.
If you want to know more about Tools to Reduce Anxiety, check out the link below
A six weeks virtual programme to help you get your life back