The term “anxiety” can bring up a vast array of mental images. Perhaps a vision of a cartoon character with bulging eyes darting from side to side with beads of sweat cascading from their oversized forehead. Or maybe you resonate with the term within your own experiences which can jog your memory to the time you were perched atop of the doctors table, the sterile paper crinkling beneath your sweaty palms. Once the doctor entered the room, you are convinced they can hear the pounding of your racing heart.
Anxiety is a beast. This is how I paint it in a narrative light within the therapy room.
This uncomfortable emotion has no limits to circumstances it can weasel itself into. Google “phobias” and there is an endless list chalk full of anxiety-provoking situations that many have probably not thought of up until this moment. I can almost guarantee you every single human existing has come face to face with anxiety before, even if only for a fleeting moment.
Not to geek out on you, but anxiety is a predominate reason to why we exist today. If it were not for the sensation of nervousness, our ancestors would have probably tried to pet the Saber Tooth tiger instead of run from it and would definitely not have deflected the mammoth’s massive trunks trying to pound them as they attempted to salvage a sustainable meal. Anxiety is tied to something called our parasympathetic nervous system. Lightly put, this integral system is responsible not only for the functions of digestion or the ability to slow our heart rates down after a burst of adrenaline, but it’s the pause button to our ingrained “fight or flight” response.
Now, the hardwiring for humans is systemically flawed when we consider the biofeedback components of the “fight or flight” response. Sure, it served us well hundreds of years ago, but it doesn’t do much to benefit us present day. If anything, this primitive hardwiring, more or less, keeps some of us stuck in an anxious reel despite our logical minds screaming “hey, cut it out!”.
We could get into the age-old debate of “nature vs nurture” at this point of the tangent. However, for the sake of your attention span, anxiety is an emotional experience that impacts a large portion of humans gracing the Earth today. In fact, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the USA today, impacting roughly 40 million adults. When is Anxiety qualified to fit within a DSM diagnosis? Broadly, when Anxiety symptoms interfere with one’s ability to function for at least 6 months.
I’ll leave you on this cliffhanger.
Give you time to marinate in these anxiety fun facts.
Tickle that maladapted “fight or flight” response for a bit.
Stay tuned to the wrap around that will capture ways of attending to those anxious woes.