First of all, I want to make a few disclaimers. I am not an expert on anxiety. I only know how it affected me and how I was helped. I also know that maybe my anxiety might not have been as bad as yours is. All I know is – anxiety is bad! And if you don’t do something about it, it will only get worse.
I tried to do the videos. I promise. I tried SEVERAL times. But I kept crying and ugly on top of ugly crying is just NOT GOOD! 🙂 I couldn’t stand my voice and I feel much better writing my experience than talking about it. So, if you can spare a few minutes of reading, hopefully it will help the same way. Plus I can give you references and links much easier here! So again, please forgive me.
I have divided this series up into the following parts and will make a post on each of them:
Anxiety Part 1: What it is and how it happens
There you have it. I hope to do one a week. ~HOPE~ So let’s get started.
What is anxiety? If you google this, here is what you will find:
“A mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. Examples of anxiety disorders include panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms include stress that’s out of proportion to the impact of the event, inability to set aside a worry, and restlessness. Treatment includes counseling or medications, including antidepressants.
People may experience:
Whole body: fatigue, restlessness, or sweating
Behavioral: hypervigilance or irritability
Cognitive: racing thoughts or unwanted thoughts
Also common: anxiety, excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, poor concentration, or trembling.”
While that is a very broad description, you get the idea. Obviously if you are reading this you KNOW what anxiety is, but now that we have established it let me say the almighty Google doesn’t always get it right. Everyone is different. Everyone reacts differently. Different situations cause anxiety. But one thing I have learned from my experience and from talking with several others: It. Is. Horrible. And until someone has gone through it, they have no idea what it feels like. I didn’t. I thought things like anxiety and panic attacks and depression were just emotional states that an unstable individual thought they were going through. And it could be fixed if they would just think better thoughts. I am so ashamed of this but thankful that I can now be more compassionate to people who are going through it.
Please let me say this and I want to be very sensitive to whoever is reading this. There are people who are worriers. They just worry, worry, worry. They stress about everything. I actually think those people are at more of a risk to develop anxiety. But not all. I do think those people can change their thought process and reduce their worries and fears tremendously. However, the anxiety I am discussing in this series is what is described above. The attacks that come out of nowhere. EXCESSIVE fear. When it actually affects your health. When it cripples your life because you can no longer do what you used to.
So, how does it happen? The following excerpts are from the Mayo Clinic. (There is a wealth of information HERE.) I just want to hit the highlights, though.
“How a person responds to stressful events is based upon that person’s personality, their past experiences, their belief system, how they were raised, their body’s chemistry, etc. Some may have their wires crossed due to life and death experiences as a child, in military combat or a traumatic event as an adult…Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. But when you’re unable to cope well with the stress in your life, your mind and body may pay the price. Your body is hard-wired by nature (I disagree with this. I believe our bodies were designed this way by GOD!) to react to stress in a way originally meant to protect you against perceived threats from predators and aggressors…If your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. That’s because your body’s ‘fight or flight reaction’ – its natural alarm system – is constantly on.
An alarm system in our bodies goes off when we perceive a threat. The threat could be something small that scares us. For example: a dog chases you, your child is in trouble or you are stressed because you are fixing to take a test. Or it could be something bigger: A car accident, a house invasion, life or death situation, etc. Either way, these events causes a surge of hormones to be released into your body.
Adrenaline– increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boost energy supplies
Cortisol– increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. It also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.
This complex alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.”
It’s me again. Isn’t that amazing how God equipped our bodies to deal with these things?! “Nature” could not give us something so intricately designed. God created everything in nature and without Him nothing else would exist.
“The body’s stress response is usually self regulated. It decreases hormone levels and enables your body to return to normal once a perceived threat has passed. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities. But when the stressors of your life are always present…that reaction stays turned on….The long term activation of the stress response system- and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones- can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.”
From my experience, once this happens, it is a vicious cycle that never stops. Something has to be done to correctly re-wire your system to how it once was. And this is a process, not just an over-night cure.
My prayer is that the things that helped me will help others as well. And may I say to the people who might be reading this who have never experienced anxiety but know someone who has? Dismissing their fears or calling them irrational DOES NOT help. Do you really want to help them? Be there. Without your critical advice or lectures or superior attitude because YOU have never had problems like this. Let them know that even though you have no idea what they are going through, you will be there. Through it all.
Hopefully the above information has shed better light on why and how anxiety happens.