Anxiety and Fear

To understand anxiety it is helpful to understand fear which is also known as 'Threat'.

Fear is related to a clear and imminent danger such as being chased by an attacker or being held up at gun point. Fearful events activate the threat system which in turn generates the symptoms related to anxiety.

Anxiety is a group of symptoms that we all experience from time to time and is a natural response to a real or imagined threat.

How are they the same?

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Anxiety and fear cause the same physical changes in the body. When you are in real danger you won’t notice the physical symptoms because you will be busy dealing with the threat and finding safety.

With an imagined threat and no real danger you will notice the physical symptoms because nothing dangerous is happening. These symptoms can feel really upsetting if you don’t understand what they mean.

  • Thoughts racing
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart beating faster
  • Breathing becomes quicker and shallow
  • and many more.

I can assure you they are normal and not a sign that there is anything wrong with you. Or that you are going mad.

During a real fear situation

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This is where fear and anxiety overlap. Imagine you have just stepped off the kerb to cross the road. Suddenly you see a bus coming straight towards you,

How do you feel? Panicked maybe.
What do you do? Jump back and get to safety - fast

Phew that was a close one. That is how efficient the anxious part of our brain is at dealing with threat. Our lives don't have the dangers and threats of our ancestors but there is still danger and it is our anxiety brain that comes to our rescue.

You could say the symptoms of anxiety are designed to make us temporarily ‘super-human’ so we can survive.

When a real threat passes

The body will naturally go into a ‘rest and digest’ or a ‘calm and connect’ response.

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We might find ourselves feeling very hungry and a need to talk to someone about what has happened. This helps us to process the danger and to feel a sense of safety and security among the people we feel most comfortable with.

This time is important for the body to restore its internal battery and return to its natural energy levels. In many ways the calm and connect response is our default setting. We only move away from this when we need to place our attention and energy elsewhere such as when we are in danger.

Why do we still need anxiety?

The anxiety response exists solely for our survival and will get you out of sticky situations. However human brains and society have evolved since the days when we needed the fear/threat response on a regular basis.

The modern brain has developed an amazing ability to do things that sets us apart from any other animal on the planet. It enables us to

  • Be imaginative and creative
  • Make plans
  • See projects through from beginning to end
  • Anticipate problems
  • Solve problems and develop contingency plans.

How are anxiety and fear different?

Like some apps on your phone the anxious part of our brain is running in the background, You do not notice it but the brain is constantly risk assessing. However it does not have the ability or the time to establish if a threat is a real or imagined. It won’t take any chances when it comes to your safety.

The downside is that if we are imagining terrible things happening we can experience a sense of

  • Apprehension
  • Nervousness
  • Uncertainty
  • Unease
  • Foreboding, angst or dread.

These unhelpful thoughts among others can trigger the anxiety response and create a vicious cycle.

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You could be controlled by anxiety but you can take control of it yourself. It's essential to learn how to manage your emotions proactively, preventing them from taking control over you.

How can I help?

We can work together to understand your vicious cycle and tailor an evidence based treatment plan. Letting you break that cycle or pattern of thinking and behaving that maintains your anxiety.

I can also help you learn strategies that will help you to change the way you think about your worries, concerns and your symptoms.

Allowing you to manage problems more effectively, relax and fully enjoy everything life can offer you, no matter how daunting.

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Leaving you free to enjoy life more fully.

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