Break Free of Your Anxiety!

Sad manWorry, nervousness, insomnia, the inability to socialize—indeed, anxiety can be a major impediment to leading a healthy and fulfilling life.  But anxiety is a very treatable condition and you have the power to control it so that it doesn’t control you.

Anxiety, as a medical disorder, is extremely common in modern Western societies. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly 14% of Australians are affected by some kind of anxiety disorder. But the good news is that if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, it does not have to rule your life.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that helps us appropriately assess dangerous or risky situations. Think about when we humans were hunter gatherers: we had to be able to figure out—in double-quick time—what types of animals, foods or circumstances in general were dangerous in order to survive. Thus, our brains have developed the capacity to worry about things.

Because all brains are endowed with the capacity to worry, everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. In the hustle and bustle of contemporary life, however, we have a variety of situations that can cause worry and the evolution of our brains hasn’t quite caught up. For example, worrying about your husband if he is 30 minutes late for dinner is a normal anxious reaction. However, our brains sometimes struggle to differentiate between this normal worry and the fear of impending doom such as believing that your husband is dead because he is 30 minutes late.  In people with anxiety disorders, the capacity to realistically assess fear-inducing situations has diminished. To put it plainly, people with anxiety disorders always draw the worst possible conclusion: ‘yep, my husband is dead because he is 30 minutes late’ instead of ‘my husband is 30 minutes late because he got stuck in a meeting in the office’. 

There are many types of anxiety disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and phobias are some of the most common forms of anxiety and they each have their own sets of symptoms and causes. However, all anxiety disorders make people’s worries or fears constant and crippling and they translate to both physiological and psychological symptoms that include:

  • Feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness
  • Obsessive thoughts that are out of a person’s control
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Compulsive behavior

Above are just a few of the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety levels can ebb and flow for someone with an anxiety disorder, with symptoms typically intensifying during periods of high stress. Anxiety disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of biological pre-dispositions and environmental factors; with environmental factors, particularly during childhood, being the primary cause of anxiety.

Although anxiety is prevalent, it is completely treatable. You can get better. While many people opt for the pharmaceutical approach to controlling their anxiety disorders, you don’t necessarily have to;  treatment methods that focus on re-wiring thought patterns and neural pathways are much more helpful and really get to the root of the problem. Cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of thought monitoring that re-structures the way people approach their fears and reactions, is thought to be one of the most effective methods of treating anxiety. Other methods, such as hypnosis, are also very effective.

If you are suffering from anxiety and irrational fear, obsessions, and compulsions, then here is some food for thought:  a thought is only as powerful as the attention that you give it, and you are the one who decides how much attention you can give your own thoughts. You are the one who is in control of how you think and feel.

Are you struggling with an anxiety disorder and need a place to turn for help? Get involved in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. We are here to help and listen to everything you have to say.

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