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Written by: Jeffiner Garcia

Anxiety: Real or Imagined?

Millions of people suffer from overwhelming symptoms of anxiety every day and may not be aware that anxiety is what they are experiencing. If you are unsure or asking yourself whether or not you are struggling with anxiety, then continue reading; this post may be for you.

Anxiety by definition is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent, real or perceived event, or something with an uncertain outcome. It is a nervous disorder often characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension and may sometimes be accompanied by compulsive behaviors and/or panic attacks. More simply put, anxiety is an emotion with differing levels of intensity. At the lower level of intensity, anxiety is a normal and adaptive emotion; at the higher levels of intensity, anxiety can become maladaptive and even pathological. Most people will experience some form of anxiety, but not all people will experience the same level of intensity, frequency or duration, all of which may be the deciding factor as to whether or not it is normal or classifies as an anxiety disorder. In order to understand anxiety, it is important to understand the difference between anxiety and fear, in order to fully comprehend what you are experiencing. Though the two emotions, fear and anxiety, are closely related, there are some very important differences to take into consideration. Fear is the normal response to immediate danger in the present moment and time, while anxiety is the anticipation of a threat that something may happen in the future.

Anxiety as an emotion cannot really be classified as good or bad in and of itself, however it is the response that takes place after which determines whether it was a good or bad experience. Anxiety plays a big role in our everyday survival instincts and achievements. Anxiety can be a motivator in many aspects of our lives and helps us to take necessary actions in many different situations. Imagine for a minute that you have something hot cooking on the stovetop and your young child begins to approach the stove; your reaction is to stop whatever it is you are doing and remove your child from getting too close to the hot stove. Now, imagine that you are a student getting ready to take an important exam, your final grade is riding on this exam. If you did not have some level of anxiety, you may not study and do poorly on the exam; anxiety is the driving force which motivates you to study. Without some level of anxiety, our bodies and minds are ill prepared to step into automatic action to prevent undesirable outcomes.

When anxiety ceases to be a motivator and instead becomes immobilizing, and renders you unable to perform your normal, everyday functions; it has become unhealthy and has reached a higher level of intensity. It may be likely that you are also experiencing symptoms of anxiety more frequently and longer in duration as well. This type of anxiety is not connected to the anticipation of a desirable outcome, instead it is connected to the constant rumination that something bad is always on the horizon. Anxiety at the higher levels can manifest in many different ways; changes in thought processes and patterns, changes in brain functioning and physiological symptoms. At the higher levels of anxiety, you may begin to have racing thoughts that are more often than not negative in nature. There have been reports that people have felt many physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, feeling heavy in the chest, numbness or tingling in the upper extremities, difficulty breathing and chest pains. Many people have reported that it feels as though they are having a heart attack, and still others report that they do not feel as if they are attached to their own bodies.

When anxiety reaches this level of intensity, it is likely that your life has become extremely impaired and you may be unable to do the things you used to enjoy. You may be wondering if anxiety is treatable, or if there is hope to getting back to the way you used to be; the answer to both of those questions is YES! There are many treatments for anxiety of all levels to include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is helpful in challenging, reframing and restructuring the maladaptive thought processes that come with anxiety, to Mindfulness practices, which focus on the bodies responses to anxiety and learning how to effectively calm these responses. One or more treatment modality may be utilized together or separately, depending on each individual’s needs and personality.

If you feel that you may be struggling with anxiety and are ready for a change, or you would like more information or a consultation, please feel free to contact us and set up an appointment. Don’t have insurance? It’s ok, we have many financial options available on an individual, case by case basis.