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Quick Q&A – Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is part of our sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety begins in the body; it is there to help us in the face of a threat or a perceived threat. Anxiety is a very normal part of the human experience.

From the time that we are born to the time that we die, we need to have anxiety as part of our makeup.

When does anxiety become a problem?

Anxiety becomes a problem when the experience of a perceived threat overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

Are some people more prone to anxiety than others?

Yes, some people are constitutionally and temperamentally more anxious than others.

Is anxiety becoming more common?

Anxiety is becoming more common, for two main reasons.

The first is because there’s so much out there talking about anxiety as a concrete health problem. The message we are receiving is almost that we shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety at all.

So, even when it’s within a normal range of anxiety, it can be perceived by a person as being abnormal, which in itself could be experienced as something psychologically threatening.

The second reason why there’s an increase in anxiety is because the pressures of everyday living have increased with things such as technology and our socio-economic climate.

There’s a lot of pressure on people to do more and to do it faster, so people are unable to have the space needed in order to manage their emotional experience – the frustrations and stresses and so on.

Can anxiety impact on our physical health?

Because anxiety starts in the body and is a bodily experience, chronic anxiety can have physical health consequences. For example, research shows that even ten minutes of experiencing high levels of anxiety – which might encompass other emotions such as anger or stress – reduces our immune response by 30 percent.

So, you can imagine that, if anxiety is experienced in a chronic way, that can have physical health consequences, often health problems such as asthma, eczema, dermatitis, possibly autoimmune problems.

Does anxiety always require treatment?

If someone is experiencing anxiety, they may find ways to be able to manage that anxiety themselves, but it depends on the severity and how long that anxiety has been going on.

If someone is experiencing severe anxiety – which means overbearing amounts of anxiety for a long period of time – that person should seek help in the form of psychotherapy.

But if it is a situational anxiety or it’s moderate and not very long-lasting, there are some things that an individual person can do in order to manage that anxiety. One of the first things a person can do when they’re experiencing anxiety is to acknowledge that it’s a normal response to a situation that they are perceiving as threatening, and that might be simply things like not knowing, a sense of uncertainty a fear of the unknown.

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