What is it? Where does it come from?
Anxiety is an automatic response to stress. In fact, humans evolved to worry about safety, which helped us to steer clear of any threat, prepare for future danger, and ultimately, survive. Some amount of anxiety is natural and can be helpful. Experiencing nervousness before public speaking is normal and can help the person prepare for their presentation. Increased hypervigilance when traveling to a new area is natural and helps to ensure that precautions are taken.
Aside from evolution, there are other factors that can influence anxiety, including personal experiences. These personal experiences may include how the individual learned how to respond to stress, prepare for changes, and identify what safety does or doesn’t look like.
The experience and it’s impact
For some individuals, any amount of anxiety leads to difficulty functioning, and the intensity of this anxiety feels overpowering. This can make everyday tasks or important areas of life, such as work, school, or relationships, difficult. It’s not uncommon for the individual to experience one (or more) of the following:
- Daily Life: Trouble sleeping or not getting restful sleep, difficulty doing what is planned for the day or week, and/or experiencing changes to appetite.
- The Body: Feeling physically tired, experiencing panic attacks, and/or feeling on-edge or restless.
- The Mind: Trouble concentrating, difficulty keeping focus, inability to think of what you want to say in the moment, trouble controlling the worries, and/or having trouble remembering information.
- Trying to Get By: Trying to go through tasks, obligations, or responsibilities in what feels like survival mode. The individual might be going-through-the-motions with a lot of effort while experiencing anxiety.
- Hindering Goals: Experiencing difficulty in working toward goals because anxiety is getting in the way. Add to this the possible feelings of self-doubt, panic, or dread that can lead to second guessing these goals.
How can therapy help?
Anxiety occurs along a continuum, from mild to severe intensity. No matter where you are along this continuum, therapy can help because it’s customized for you, your experience, and your goals. This might look like exploring and processing your experience with anxiety and what influenced it, discovering ways to overpower the anxiety so that it no longer controls you and the life you want for yourself, envisioning what you would like your life to look like, practicing strategies that will help you daily and long-term so that you can work towards the goals you would like to complete.
Don’t wait to get the help you need. If you would like to take the next step towards finding a therapist, contact Ethera to get matched with a provider.
About the Author: Robyn Tamanaha is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, writer, and podcaster. She has a private practice in Orange County, CA and is the host of the podcast Books Between Sessions.