Does this title sound familiar to you? Well, it should. Many people initially react to the suggestion “they’re anxious” with denial; often vigorous denial.
That probably stems from the once-held belief that anxiety was a sign of emotional weakness.
After all, how could someone be a successful “leader”, role model; a safe pair of hands, a competent parent or an in-control, take-charge person and be anxious?
Well statistically, male or female, there’s a strong chance you do experience anxiety fairly frequently.
Don’t believe me? Please, read on.
You might not even recognise what you’re experiencing for what it is.
If in fact you ARE experiencing anxiety in its multitude of forms, it’s almost certainly holding you back, bringing you down and leaving you drained and debilitated in many ways. In this article I’ll explain how.
Incidentally, this article is choc-full of hotlinks to specific subject areas. You might find it useful to click-through on the ones that you feel are relevant to you.
What are your chances of being an anxiety sufferer, statistically?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety. In fact, in any given 12-month period over 2 million Australians will experience it. A stunning 40% of all Australians will experience a significant panic attack in their lifetime, with 5% going on to develop an ongoing panic disorder where it’s left untreated.
If you live in Sydney the stat’s appear to be alarmingly higher. That’s due in part to the “hive effect”; a fun topic I’ll explain in detail in a later article in this series.
Of course, it’s not just an Aussie thing.
In 2017 the World Health Organisation estimated that worldwide, 260 million people have anxiety related disorders. It costs the global economy more than $1 trillion annually.
More than 40% of all American adults suffer with anxiety. Of those that do, less than one third actually recognise the symptoms and seek treatment.
And for those that do seek treatment only 10% of those actually receive effective treatment.
Absorb that. Only 3.3% of sufferers receive effective treatment.
THAT is important. In a vast majority of cases, anxiety sufferers under traditional medical and/or psychiatric care regularly take prescription medications for their anxiety. Yet of those, around 90% don’t experience effective relief…unless they keep taking their med’s.
Is it too far a stretch to suggest the med’s alone aren’t providing effective treatment? I say no, unless of course you feel a lifetime of dependency on drugs to help you hold your act together is OK.
Am I Stuck With Anxiety?
If you’re a sufferer, anxiety is a state that will evolve over your lifetime and often worsens with age. In other words, the longer you leave it, the worse the experiences are likely to get. That’s both in terms of severity and the range of ways it will effect and impact you.
However, just because feeling anxious is common it doesn’t automatically follow that you’re stuck with it, nor that it should be tolerated or even ignored. In fact, you owe it to yourself not to. As you’ll read in this article, the effects and secondary impacts can be far reaching and deeply insidious to your quality of life, your relationships, your career and of course your health.
There’s also a blurred distinction between anxiety and depression. Sometimes they coexist. Sometimes one leads to the other. That is a topic broad enough to deserve an article series all of its own. I’ll resist that temptation for now.
How Would I Know If Anxiety Is Affecting Me?
Anxiety can manifest in countless ways. As I’ve explained, it can often be experienced as patterns of feelings, thoughts or “worries”. These can be so powerful that they in turn trigger behavioural and even physical symptoms, reactions and responses.
Take a look through the following examples. Which of these apply to you and others close to you? Perhaps you hadn’t connected the dots, and associated the symptoms you’re experiencing with anxiety at all.
As these examples illustrate, the direct and indirect effects of anxiety can be significant.
Anxiety ultimately stems from the patterns of thought that you run.
Commonly, the sufferer has difficulty:
- distinguishing which thoughts are valid and which are imagined;
- determining which of those valid thoughts they should attend to and which they should ignore;
- making realistic assessments of probability or risk of the things they’re worried about actually happening; and ultimately,
- moving from thought to action and determining “what if anything they need to do about it”.
Here are some examples of the thought patterns experienced by anxiety sufferers:
- An “out-of-control” feeling.
- A tendency to worry about, or on behalf of, others.
- Excessive concern over what others think and feel about you.
- Nervousness in many social situations.
- Regularly feeling unsettled.
- Higher levels of overall stress that are difficult to shake.
- Lack of purpose, meaning and direction in life. Feeling overwhelmed.
- Questioning whether you’re good enough; “imposter” feelings.
- Difficulty coping with pressure, responsibility and accountability.
- Poor ability to distinguish between real vs imagined risk.
- A tendency to concentrate and dwell on worst case scenarios.
- Excessively argumentative.
- Discomfort with having your personal performance scrutinised.
- Feeling unhappy more regularly than feeling happy.
- Erratic and sometimes unpredictable emotions. Moodiness and irrational mood swings.
- Feeling of disconnect or detachment from the realities of life.
- Short temper; feeling like you’re often on the edge of emotional control, and sometimes losing it.
- A tendency towards anger and rage.
- Irrationality of mood, disproportionate reactions and responses.
- Obsession with distractive hobbies that distance you from reality and responsibility.
- Difficulty managing in challenging social situations, public speaking, meeting new people, especially ones of the opposite sex that you find attractive.
- A tendency to blame others or external factors for what happens in your life.
- An irrational sense of injustice.
- Tendency to take things “personally” and to heart.
- Difficulty distinguishing what you can and can’t control, and thus you worry about all of it.
- Poor self-control, which leads to binging and overindulging in things you know you shouldn’t.
- Intolerance and selfishness.
- Poor ability to get out of “worry mode” and “do something about it”.
- Constructing a restricted lifestyle within which you cocoon yourself in self-imposed “safe zones”.
- Feeling you’re stuck, and that life is passing you by.
- Poor motivation, procrastination and indecisiveness.
- Feeling burned out.
- Difficulty with focus.
- Feeling depressed.
- The view that returned love is performance-based.
- Unhealthy boundaries and poor social filters.
- Increasingly inward focus, often dwelling on personal health conditions and problems.
- Low self esteem, self image and body image.
- Unreasonable or inconsistent expectations of themselves vs. others.
These sorts of patterns, allowed to run amok, are high octane anxiety fuel. They in turn trigger biochemical and physiological reactions within the mind and body.
Some Physical Symptoms And Related Conditions
Your thoughts trigger feelings and emotions which in turn trigger physical reactions and responses and conditions.
Did you know that when you experience anxiety, there are up to 1500 different biochemical and physiological reactions that can be unconsciously triggered within the body? Many of them are unfortunately hard-wired in; the unhelpful legacy of an era when anxiety was a defence against being eaten by sabre-toothed tigers. Useful then…not so much now.
Most people that experience the following behaviors and physiological conditions don’t necessarily even associate them with anxiety. Some even rationalise or justify them as coping mechanisms.
Do any of these apply to you?
- Substance abuse and addictions, including smoking, excessive eating, prescription. medications and narcotics, gambling or pornography.
- Fear of intimacy and sexual dysfunction.
- Significant and regular feelings of Stress.
- Frequently feeling unwell, leading to frequent doctor visits and absenteeism from work.
- Excessive absorption in work, including “workaholic” tendencies.
- Panic attacks.
- Fear of any performance scenario where you might be judged.
- Fear of commitment.
- Trust issues.
- Become unrealiable.
- Compulsive or comfort eating and excessive weight gain.
- Obsessive Compulsive behaviours (OCD).
- Insomnia and sleeping disorders.
- Relationship issues, jumping from relationship to relationship in search of perfection.
- Infidelity, driven by poor self esteem and need for personal, physical and sexual validation.
- Live a restricted lifestyle (within their self-imposed “safe zones”).
- Fears and Phobias, often relating to things which you know don’t justify the reaction or response.
- Fear of public speaking or performance “in the spotlight”. “Choking” under pressure.
- Work instability and a tendency to jump from job to job because of “stress” issues. Declining work performance.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- Psoriasis and certain other skin disorders.
- Headaches and migraine.
- Higher than normal propensity to medicate.
- Erratic mood swings.
- Misophonia (disproportionately negative reactions to certain sounds).
…there are hundreds more.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, including:
- General anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Phobic disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorders are often accompanied by other related disorders. GAD rarely occurs alone, frequently occurring along with depression or substance abuse. According to the ADAA, half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and people who suffer from anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who don’t have an anxiety disorder. Along with depression, anxiety disorders are often also present in cases of eating disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Anxiety can also cause or exacerbate physical illnesses. Besides physical symptoms or discomfort directly associated with anxiety— such as an upset stomach, for example — evidence suggests that people who suffer from anxiety are also at greater risk for developing a number of chronic health conditions.
Most doctors acknowledge a mind-body connection — a relationship between your physical health and your emotional state — and it’s logical to suspect that a mind in a continual state of anxiety or emotional distress could make a body more susceptible to disease. Anxiety has been linked to multiple chronic health conditions including heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory ailments. Anxiety is also a prime suspect as a contributor to substance abuse because many people who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to turn to alcohol or drugs to calm or numb their anxious feelings.
Conclusions So Far…
Is bigger, broader and more far reaching than you appreciated, right?
So, ask yourself these simple questions.
- Does any of this apply to me?
- Might what I’m feeling or experiencing be related to anxiety?
- Most importantly, what should I do about it?
In the next article in this series, I’ll present some ideas and perspectives to help you get your head around anxiety. I’ll explode some myths and most importantly, provide you real strategies to deal with your anxiety. In Article 3, you’ll read about Anxiety Medications as well as a range of other treatment myths. (remember that 3.3% statistic, right?) In that Article, I expose some truths around the anxiety medication industry and reveal some facts they definitely don’t want you to know.
I’ll go on to show you the amazing positive effects that hypnotherapy treatments can have on anxiety, with extensive clinical proof.
Meantime, resist the temptation to rush into taking anxiety medications. There are other ways. If you’re already on that path, that’s not necessarily a disaster. As I’m sure your doctor will agree however, finding a natural way off them is an ideal and healthy thing.
In this series, I’ll show you how.
You’re also welcome to link to this site from yours if you see value in doing so.
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