AnxietyAnxiety can manifest in many forms, from butterflies in the stomach, to ruminations in the mind, to panic, to paranoia. Although anxiety can have a negative correlation, we can actually understand anxiety as a defense mechanism that has its original function in survival. It serves as an alarm system, warning us of danger and potential threat. But so often, anxiety is felt in a debilitating and confusing way, disconnected from its original function. When it reaches this threshold, it only serves to make our lives more difficult. We ruminate, we worry, we catastrophize, we bite our nails, pace, and become obsessive.
At times a seemingly benign situation may activate this anxiety system in an attempt to mobilize the defenses for survival, yet the actual event taking place is not life threatening. But sometimes the mind does not differentiate between the two, and with the associations created in the brain circuitry, a current event creates a correlation to a previously dangerous event, and triggers the same response. When anxiety goes haywire, that's when it becomes problematic.
You may have experienced some of the following examples:
- Fear of rejection can lead to difficulty in forming new relationships
- Fear of ridicule can lead to an avoidance of public speaking or leadership roles
- Fear of the loss of relationships can cause us to do crazy things to maintain that attachment
- Fear of death and lack of control can lead to a phobic avoidance of things such as flying or even leaving one's house.
Anxiety can manifest in many forms and can be difficult to identify. While overcoming problematic anxiety is easier said than done, mastering anxiety is possible. We will never rid ourselves of anxiety, just like we will never rid ourselves of happiness or sadness. The goal is to learn when anxiety has a purpose, and when it's simply preventing you from facing your present situation.