Anxiety – A Weakness Within
Varying degrees of anxiety throughout life during certain events is normal. Feeling anxious about a job interview, feeling a little nervous or uneasy on a first date, nervousness when moving to a new area – these are all normal human reactions to these types of experiences. These types of feelings can certainly be remedied or managed through different cognitive techniques, self-talk, meditation, etc.
Anxiety disorders, like depression on the other hand are not a healthy expression of uneasiness. Anxiety disorders are debilitating and inhibiting. They interfere with life and create a great deal of unneeded and even overwhelming stress.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders. Amongst these disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
While these are the most common anxiety disorders, there are also more specific and varied types of anxieties. The cause of anxiety disorders has not been narrowed down to a set of causes, as it very well depends on the individual who is suffering with the disorder. It does seem though that anxiety disorders emerge and develop due to a combination of unique brain structuring, neurochemical imbalances, and environmental factors.
Because anxiety disorders tend to run in family lines, it is assumed that they can be passed down from one or both parents. This shows that there are potential genetic factors, though this has not yet been confirmed for sure. It has been shown in certain brain scans that those who suffer with anxiety disorders have changes in regions that control memory linked with strong emotions.
This suggests that either they have a predisposition to high intensity of fear and stress that leads to negative interpretations of events and memories, thus creating anxiety disorder, or that based upon the “evidence” (according to the brain) of certain traumatic memories, the brain learns to fear and stress. Either way, studies have shown that severe or long-lasting stress does change neural pathways in the brain (in other words, based upon stress levels and interpretation of events in life, we learn how we ought to think).
Anxiety Disorders Long-term Effects on Life
As people, we only have so much emotional capacity, and if that capacity is being drained by an anxiety disorder, like social phobia or GAD, it can lead us to make negative choices, get caught up in addictions or bad habits, exhibit poor performance and poor behavior, and more. This being the case, it is important to understand that these types of disorders can be managed in many aspects, leading to a better way of life with far more balance.
The disorder may very well never disappear, but we are capable of bettering our circumstances and seeking out resources to help us find peace and renewed ease.
Medications can be helpful for anxiety, and are sought out by many who struggle with these disorders, but in addition there are tons of other resources available to help build new habits and work through personal triggers and causes of anxiety.
For instance, most who struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder also struggle with perfectionism. Teaching a sufferer of S.A.D. how to begin accepting themselves for their imperfections and to work through sources of shame in a healthy way on a daily basis can make a phenomenal difference. There are also many cognitive techniques that can aid in anxiety disorders. Many have also had a lot of success with meditational and spiritual methods to balance their mind and create a new reality for themselves.
For those who are close with individuals that struggle with anxiety disorders, there are ways to help. Here are some key points to abide by when trying to help and support those who suffer with anxiety:
1. Do not downplay their feelings: the last thing that a person struggling with anxiety needs to be told is “don’t worry about it” or “oh, you’re fine, stop overreacting”. Realize that this person is facing real stress, and no matter how small the situation is, it is big to them.
2. But also, do not feed the anxiety: just as importantly, don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. The 2nd last thing a person struggling with anxiety needs to hear is, “yeah, that is scary.” Don’t come down (or up) to their level and fear with them. Let them know that it is going to be okay and that the moment will work itself out how it does. Perhaps it won’t go incredible, but maybe it’ll go good at least, and they can be grateful for any little piece of good they experience.
3. Validate them: help your loved one understand that it’s okay to feel some fear or stress. It is difficult what they’re going through, and you understand that. But also, let them know that this is just their brain telling them that there is a threat, when in reality anxiety is not a fact or a prediction. It is only a feeling. It is a disconnect between the emotional and logical centers of their brain. There is no real threat, only what is perceived. It is just a thought; it has no control over their life.
4. Don’t let the label limit them: Remember, anxiety can be worked through. New habits can be built. It will most likely never go away completely, but somebody can still get to the place where they can perform well and feel a great deal of calm in their everyday life. They do not have to suffer with this in such a difficult degree for the rest of their life; they can learn how to bring their fear and stress down. As long as they believe though that “I have social anxiety, so therefore I don’t go to social events” or anything thereabouts, they will never overcome their fears and learn to manage their anxiety in healthy ways. Help them by encouraging them to just do what they can and to love themselves amidst their mistakes.
They might make mistakes, maybe even a lot of them depending on the event, but teach them to understand this is part of their progression, just like the rest of us, and they deserve to live a full life just like anybody else.
5. Build them: Many times those struggling with anxiety can fail to see all the things they are actually doing very well at. Help your loved one see the things they do right; accentuate the meaning of these things. Encourage your loved one and help them to see their truly powerful value. Let them know they are loved and that you understand and are aware of their struggles; and you also know they are capable of great things and have many strengths.
6. Be a trusted confidant: Help your loved one understand that when they are going through suffering and they feel the need to express it, you are there. They don’t necessarily need you to make it better, and sometimes there’s not a great deal that you can do to make it better. If you can, then offer that educated help. But quite often, what they really need in these times, is just a person to support them with presence, with love, and without judgement.
7. Base their value on courage, not performance: Acknowledge mistakes in a manner of “we all make mistakes, no worries. You’re just progressing. It happens to all of us.” Once again, careful not to downplay feelings, but do not catastrophize with them or feed the anxiety. Help them to base their own value on their courage to put themselves out there and to try. Say, “yeah, that was rough huh? But what matters is that you put yourself out there, and I think that’s so awesome. You put in the effort and I’m proud of you for doing that. That’s who you are.”
Managing anxiety is a daily effort, but before a person can discover their own personal management of it, they have to know how. We are experienced in these types of disorders and have professionals and staff members that understand and can help implement the tools needed to work through anxiety, both in the clinic and in patients’ everyday lives.