Mental Health & Well-Being – An In-depth Look Into Anxiety

What Is Anxiety?

From a life coaching perspective anxiety and its related conditions are among the most common psychological concerns facing our modern society. Affecting everyone from children to teens and men & women, with women being at higher risk for panic attacks. Teens suffering with anxious feelings is sharply on the rise due to the ever-increasing demands that society now places on them. Anxiety can manifest as a mild condition which may slightly affect ones lifestyle, to acute/chronic anxiety which often has a debilitating effect on an individuals life. The characteristics of anxiety disorders are not only identified by the distressing effects it has on the mind, but also by the (often) dysfunctional behaviour’s that reduce the apprehension.

Creation of Anxiety

  1. Genetics and the brain chemistry. Sufferers of anxiety related issues often show over arousal in the areas of the brain that deal with impulse control and habitual behaviour’s. This can possibly explain why some people seem to be more affected with apprehension than others.
  2. Observational learning. Children are highly influenced by their parents behaviour, so if the parent displays verbal and body language that indicate stress/anxiety on a continual basis, the child may take on such attributes as a learned behaviour and never really understand why they exhibit such behaviour.

Provocation of Anxiety

  1. Stimulus generalisation. Associating unconnected things as if they are connected to the perceived threat. This can be experienced if something odd, strange or out-of-the-ordinary is experienced. Most people can simply dismiss it and move on, but some sufferers of may start connecting previous times to what just happened and relate the two events, which can trigger an fear response. This is often experienced with social anxiety. The person may have experienced a difficult social event and will then relate those feelings every time they have to go into or attempt to go into social environments.
  2. Reinforcement. Anxiety is solidified by reinforcement. Every time your actions are anxious driven and therefore try to avoid or escape feared situations, the anxiety will reinforce and embed itself in your working memory. This may temporarily ease, but will reinforces phobic behaviour, making it stronger every time.

Panic Attacks & The Brain

The amygdala becomes active when it detects potential danger. This then triggers the sympathetic nervous system and ready’s it to fight, flight or freeze, along with getting the major senses tuned up so we can be aware of our surroundings to detect danger.

Anxiety of any kind starts at the activation of the amygdala. This can be triggered by a traumatic event or simply by the daily worry-provoking situations of modern day living such as traffic, angry clients, difficult boss, problematic children, tight deadlines etc.
During a panic attack the often subtle anxious feelings become over-exaggerated and amplified, which can create feelings of terror, as if there is an imminent threat to the persons safety. However, while the brain begins searching the outside world for threat, it fails to find any evidence of such an event taking place. This compounds the problem by creating suspicion as opposed to an actual threat where the brain will recognise exactly what the source of the danger is. So therefore the location itself becomes the threat so there is a desperate need to get away as fast as possible.

Panic Attacks & Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Often perceived as a nightmarish experience, consisting of intense dread, terror and a feeling of impending death, which can last from anywhere between a few minutes to hours in duration. The sufferer will commonly experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, faintness, feelings of non-reality, chest pains and overwhelming fear.

The memory of their panic attack can create a sense of dread. This then becomes a conditioned effect where the brain tries creates coping mechanisms which is designed to prevent such things from happening again, so it will show the person that certain locations, atmospheres, people etc. should be avoided at all costs. If this gets out of control it will manifest as a disorder which prevents the person from going out in public and have a negative impact on their life.
Often people who have phobic disorders like agoraphobia in this case, which is the fear of open spaces, may have such a fear because of previous panic attacks that may have happened in open public spaces.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised anxiety disorder or its common abbreviation GAD is when the sufferer of the condition continually feels tense, agitated, on-edge and apprehensive. They will experience unfocused, negative and out-of-control feelings, which creates a continual sense of worry that either something is wrong or that something bad is going to happen.

Thanks for reading,

Donovan – Life Coach


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