Anxiety is in fact part of our survival response. It is our physical experience of our brain’s ‘early warning system’ of impending threat or danger (to life and limb). All sorts of people, experiences and events in our everyday life can activate an anxiety response without us really being aware of the ‘triggers’. We are usually only aware of the result – feeling anxious, worried, or panicky. Of course, almost always there is no real threat or danger present, so why are we feeling anxious?
Neuroscientific research over recent decades has found that the feeling of anxiety is caused by having a dysregulated nervous system. This is most often caused by past events which have been negative, distressing, emotionally overwhelming, or traumatic in some way. Because of this, these events dysregulate our nervous system. It stays dysregulated if we cannot properly process what has happened.
The Limbic System
Furthermore, we store the emotional memories of such event(s)in a part of the brain called the limbic system. Parts of our limbic system activate our survival response. So, being in our survival response causes the feelings of anxiety. We may have forgotten the negative events by the time we develop anxiety problems. As a result, we won’t be able to connect the past events to our current anxiety. Some of us do remember the negative events very well but we still tend not to connect them to our anxiety problems.
Thus, a dysregulated nervous system causes inner discomfort and that sense of ‘something bad about to happen’. Often, we will not be aware of any inner discomfort, because the way we feel inside is our ‘normal’. Anxiety is sometimes called ‘irrational fear’. When specific things trigger anxiety responses this is termed ‘havinga phobia’. In addition, sometimes anxiety may escalate to real feelings of panic or feeling out of control.
What Causes Panic?
The intense feelings of panic are caused when we are fully ‘triggered’ into our survival response. Usually this happens in an otherwise ordinary, everyday situation. Triggers are usually ‘sensory experiences’ (i.e. a sight, sound, smell, taste, action, or bodily sensation) which somehow remind the limbic system of our unresolved emotional memories. Triggers can be diverse, so it can be difficult to pinpoint them although we can work on this. Of course, the vast majority of everyday situations are not actually life-threatening, so we do not need a survival response. However once triggered, our limbic system will still ‘sound the alarm’ As if we are in real danger. We are vulnerable to all sorts of triggers until we properly resolve the emotional conflict or trauma.
Over time, anxiety or panic may increase to the point where it can have a significant impact on our life. Thus, it is quite common to gradually limit or control our lifestyle in an attempt to avoid, as far as possible, any situations which might ‘trigger’ our anxiety or panic.
Some therapies, including Suggestion Therapy, counselling, CBT, NLP and EFT (tapping), can offer some relief by aiming for a control of anxiety symptoms. Therapists usually achieve this by the input of positive suggestions, or teaching coping mechanisms or other tools/techniques. However, this often isn’t enough and many people prefer to aim for a resolution to the underlying causes – the unresolved emotions, and experiences.
How can I help?
I offer different approaches to help anxiety. The choice of which one (or more) to take depends on the individual and their circumstances. We usually make the decision together during the initial consultation.
Please browse my site for information on the various therapies / approaches that I practise.
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