"What is anxiety?" is one of the most searched questions on the internet. Anxiety sufferers simply don't know WHY they developed anxiety, WHY they continue to suffer and WHY they can't find a solution to their problem, In this blog post and in a linked post I will give you all the information you need in a concise way to help you understand anxiety and what is the only true solution to anxiety. Reading this post can be the first step to a life free from anxiety.
You don't have one mind operating your reality, you have two. They are called the rational mind and the emotional mind (commonly referred to as the conscious and subconscious minds). They are two separate regions of your brain. The emotional mind is your primitive mind and one of its goals is to keep you safe.
To help you understand this reality, I will give you a parallel example of your vision. You may think that you have one picture in front of you when you visually observe something, that is not the case. You have a picture from your right eye and one from your left eye but they blend as one. You would only be aware of the two pictures if you had double vision. You have one "vision" but it consists of two pictures.
You have one "awareness" but it consists of two minds. The problem when you have anxiety is that the emotional mind is scared and you have not yet succeeded to help it overcome the fear. The problem is that it is creating a fight or flight readiness when there is no REAL danger, just imagined danger (a false alarm). You have two minds (two distinct thinking systems) sharing the one body. Also, you have two different voices (the "what if" statements are a typical emotional mind voice)
The emotional mind is creating the fearful thoughts AND releasing an adrenalin surge in your body to give you the increased energy and the bodily changes required to maximum fight or flee ACTION (bodily symptoms are explained below) and your rational mind can't understand why all this is happening. In addition, your mind becomes SCARED of the physical symptoms of adrenalin. You are afraid of being afraid.
Conventional therapy and counseling do not address the ROOT of the anxiety problem, you are just given strategies to "cope" with anxiety, leaving you with a life long struggle with it. Taking medication because you are scared does not make sense, it does not cure your fear, it just can affect the creation of the physical symptoms. Just as a painkiller does not solve the REASON for the signal of pain, it just numbs your sensation of the pain.
ANY situation, place, time, physical sensation, etc can be a trigger for DANGER. For instance, if you were once attacked inside a supermarket, the emotional mind can believe that every supermarket (or any building with people for that matter) can pose a threat to your safety.
The physical symptoms of the fight or flight response
Roughly, you have one-pint of blood for every stone weight you are. The blood is not always evenly distributed around your body, it goes to where additional blood is required and withdrawn from other areas (for instance, increased blood rushes to the genitals during sexual excitement).
During the fight or flight response blood rushes to your arms and legs to give more power for attack or flight, it rushes to the abdomen and chest muscles to strengthen them to act as a shield for extra protection. This is why you can feel a sensation of tightness in your chest and if you spend a lot of time in the fight or flight response the ongoing tension in your chest muscles can manifest as chest pains.
Blood is withdrawn from your internal organs in your stomach, resulting in those unpleasant stomach sensations. Bood is also withdrawn from your head giving a light-headed or faint feeling. You will not faint, your blood pressure rises during fight or flight, blood pressure needs to fall for you to faint.
You can also experience sweating to cool you down during the fight or flee, you have a rapid heartbeat to supply the additional blood supply to the areas required for action. You breathing becomes rapid for increased intake of oxygen. The problem is that you are NOT doing any fighting or fleeing, so you have excessive oxygen in your lungs. Your body will try to prevent any additional oxygen intake until this excess is used, this gives the feeling that you can't breathe. You will return to proper breathing when your body requires fresh oxygen.
You may begin to shake, this is the body trying to rid itself of the excessive adrenalin which has been released during the fight or flight response. A panic attack can best be described as an adrenalin explosion in your body due to a massive amount of adrenalin being released. This can feel very scary, so scary that you feel that you are going to die.
The good news is that ALL those sensations, thought very UNPLEASANT, are totally harmless - you are in no danger whatsoever.
My "aha" moment
As an anxiety therapist, I spent many years applying the "conventional" strategies with little success until I accidentally stumbled upon the method that revolutionized my approach to anxiety and my success rate with clients. It is the ONLY approach that offers a real solution to anxiety.
WHY the mind creates anxiety
Read my blog post to help you understand WHY the emotional mind creates anxiety. HERE is the link.