Anxiety symptoms arise naturally and must be used properly
Anxiety symptoms arise naturally from our flight or fight response – that then gets out of control. And like a wind that fans flames and can create a massive forest fire, so anxiety can spread into all areas of our lives.
You are being emotionally hi-jacked
An anxiety symptom will manifest in a number of ways – as Phobias, Social Anxiety, Performance Anxiety, Agoraphobia and debilitating and uncontrollable Worrying and projection which is often called Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Some also argue that OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a manifestation of anxiety as indeed it is – but I prefer to see it an addiction.
What is the fight or flight response?
And why this has to be understood as central for excellent counselling therapy for anxiety?
The fight or flight response is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response from our limbic system that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.
When our fight or flight response is activated adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes.
- Our respiratory rate increases
- Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting
- Our pupils dilate
- Our awareness intensifies
- Our sight sharpens and our impulses quicken
- Our perception of pain diminishes
- Our immune system mobilises with increased activation. We become prepared – physically and psychologically – for fight or flight
By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. My counselling for Stress and Anxiety methods always will focus only on to the quietening down of fight or flight.
How anxiety symptoms take root
- The most dramatic manifestations of a powerful flight or fight reaction are Trauma and PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder). And because the immediate effects are so severe, the later consequences can also be severe – in terms of broken relationships, work problems and addictive behaviours.
- Anxiety might manifest as a Panic Attack. This is when the body is preparing to flee but nothing comes of it – i.e. there is no action that discharges the preparation. The consequences can be severe and immediate – similar to the experience of having a heart attack. This then can become a trauma in its own right
- Anxieties and in particular the fear of panic attacks and trauma will therefore lead to hyper-vigilance to body sensations and the avoidance of potentially threatening situations. These are classic anxiety symptoms.
- The anxiety symptoms of Hyper-vigilance and avoidance then make things worse by making life even more difficult. Some will not feel comfortable travelling or risking social situations – at an extreme, agoraphobia and social anxieties can easily manifest.
- And almost always excessive and unproductive worrying and projections will be part of it.
- This then can transmute into many other manifestations of anxieties – such as Performance Anxiety and Social Anxiety.
- Phobias can also arise, either from a high level of general anxiety or the response to a particular phobic experience – involving air travel, heights, an attack by a dog, hospital experiences – the list is endless.
- A special example of a phobic reaction could then become Agoraphobia – fear of leaving the safety of home.
- My experience is that addictive behaviours can often be traced to anxieties – as attempts to self medicate which then get out of control and typically further exacerbate the anxiety.
A permanent ‘problem’ of uncontrolled symptoms of anxiety needs a long-term solution
Drugs are often recommended by clinicians as the answer but in my experience, there are much better ways than this ‘quick fix’. What we need is the ability to use our anxiety well. We need to become a little bit anxious when we are going to do a presentation. We need to be able to become a little bit anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. We need to be able to panic if attacked and we need to be able to relax when it is unnecessary.
And when we no longer fear the fear and indeed can welcome it in and hear what it may be saying – well then we have no anxiety problem to deal with.