Understanding anxiety

There are two kinds of anxiety. A normal reaction to something which is current in your life and “generalised” anxiety which comes about for other reasons.

What is “Generalised” Anxiety?
Generalised anxiety is when you are on a heightened sense of alert. Your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, flooding you with hormones in preparation to take action and yet there is no identifiable action to take.
It is like having a car engine running on idle and yet the car has no wheels and cannot go anywhere. You may experience your anxiety as a feeling of constant adrenalin running around your body.

What are the causes?
Each person’s reasons will be different, however the common links are:

To depress other feelings
The body doesn’t know the difference between physical and emotional pain. Therefore it could be this is your body’s automated defence to something you have yet to feel but which is close to the surface. You might say it is a “manic” last line of defence to stop you feeling: Sad, Depressed, Anger or Fear or from remembering something.

Why? – We form our coping mechanisms to what is happening in our early lives and therefore maybe at one point in your life, without knowing, you found a way of coping by not feeling certain feelings or believing certain feelings were wrong.

Undiagnosed Trauma
When we are faced with a life threatening situation our bodies “Automated Nervous System” acts for us without us having to think what to do. This is commonly called the “fight or flight” mode, although can also mean “freeze or flop”. At this time the body is flooded with hormones preparing us to take action. Once the threat has passed the body normalises itself and different hormones relax the body, as we come back into balance.

The memory of a trauma is stored in our bodies and for some can lie dormant for years or even the remainder of their.
Why? – For others the body remains sensitive to unconnected: noise, events, smells and what is seen and when this happens the automated nervous system can re- ignite at any time even though the threat has long since ended. It is as though the event is happening now and keeps repeating. At its worst this is Post Traumatic Stress, disorder.

The Automated Nervous system at work.
If you have ever swatted a fly away from your face or stopped suddenly at the edge of a curb without remembering you made the decision, this is the ANS at work. It is an unconscious process that goes on inside you to keep you safe. It also is why mice can flop when chased by a cat and people report feeling all limp when falling from height and then survive.

How can counselling help?
By exploring your thoughts and feelings it is possible to create a language for how you feel and in doing so you can identify the root cause. Then with new understanding and by expressing and working through how you feel, you can free yourself from being locked into feeling anxious.

When you have experienced a trauma and begin to identify this, we firstly work to help you regulate your feelings so you can function each day. As you become more able to cope and control how you feel, we can then decide if investigating your deeper feelings will be helpful. This isn’t the case for everyone because for some, their feelings are so strong, they retruamatise themselves each time.

We might also use techniques to help you identify patterns of behaviour which initially help but in the end leave you feeling more anxious and then work to change how you think, feel and behave in those moments.

Ref: TA Today: Stuart and Joines 2012. The Body Remembers: Babette Rothschild.

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