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    Why are we anxious?

    Who I am
    Louise Hay
    @louisehay
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org

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    Anxiety is a state of unease and worry, it implies waiting for something negative to happen. It is certainly not a pleasant state, but it is important to understand why it arises. In fact, it is a defensive mechanism, just like fear.

    Anxiety is a feeling that acts as an alert mechanism in the face of situations that we consider dangerous or threatening. This is a normal reaction that everyone experiences and it would be worrying if it did not activate in certain situations. Therefore, it is important to understand that generalized anxiety itself is not bad.



    The functions of anxiety

    - Protection. One of the functions of anxiety is to protect us from the possible dangers that threaten us. If something worries us, our attention level immediately increases and our senses sharpen to allow us to better monitor the environment. The problem is when we become hyper-vigilant and fearful, isolating ourselves from the world to avoid danger. In those cases, the protective function of anxiety went much further.

    - Motivation. Anxiety is a powerful driving force behind behavior. When we want to do something good and give our best, anxiety is activated, giving us an extra dose of energy to move forward with our projects and get the most out of it. Again, the problem arises when the anxiety level is too high and makes us question our abilities or pushes us to perfectionism.

    - Growth and development. Some degree of anxiety can stimulate personal growth. In fact, feeling a little generalized anxiety about what's going on in our life and worrying a little about the future can encourage us to leave our comfort zone. Anxiety pushes us to find out what we want to change, and then pushes us to do so. But sometimes anxiety takes root and we find ourselves trapped in a rumination mechanism that, instead of pushing us to growth, blocks us.



    What are the causes of anxiety?

    Anxiety, as an adaptive mechanism, is positive and functional, and is not a problem. However, in some cases it does not function properly and an anxiety disorder occurs, which can become very disabling and cause enormous discomfort, both psychologically and physically.

    Predisposing factors

    - Biological factors. Having direct relatives who suffer from an anxiety disorder has been found to increase the risk of suffering from this problem. In generalized anxiety, for example, it is estimated that one third of the risk of suffering from this disorder has a genetic component.

    - Temperamental factors and personality. People who often constantly inhibit their behaviors and those with a tendency to neurosis by maintaining negative affect have a higher risk of suffering from an anxiety disorder.

    - Environmental factors. Anxiety can also establish itself as a model of coping learned in childhood. Some lifestyles marked by stress cause anxiety to appear.

    Triggering factors

    - Situations that exceed our psychological coping resources (coping / coping strategies), such as the loss of a job or a loved one.

    - Events of vital importance that require significant adjustment effort, such as divorce or the diagnosis of a serious illness.

    - Obstacles that limit our ability to achieve our goals or maintain what we have already achieved.

    Maintenance factors

    - Fear of anxiety. When you suffer from anxiety, especially when you suffer from anxiety attacks or panic attacks, you are usually afraid of suffering from these attacks again. This fear of anxiety only aggravates it.


    - Loss of faculty due to anxiety itself, which means that we have even fewer resources to deal with problems or even new problems appear in areas that were not conflicting.


    - Inadequate coping strategies that accentuate the problem and the sense of inability to solve it, and this generates enormous desperation.

    Normally, there is no single factor that can explain why anxiety occurs and lasts over time, usually it depends on a confluence of situations and ways of dealing with it.

    The mechanism by which anxiety is generated

    Every day, our brain constantly evaluates all the stimuli coming from the environment, to analyze if some may be dangerous. In this mechanism are involved both the areas related to basic emotions, such as the amygdala and the thalamus, such as the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for giving a logical meaning to what we are experiencing.

    Basically, this is what happens in the brain:

    Phase One - Initial Threat Assessment. There is an automatic and very fast recognition of the stimuli. In this way we can classify them as threatening or not.

    Second phase - First activation in the face of the threat. The cognitive, emotional, physiological and behavioral reactions typical of anxiety are set in motion. In this phase we basically act by instinct, so we can feel the need to escape from the place or hide. Automatic anxious thoughts about the situation also appear that lead us to overestimate the damage and the likelihood of it occurring, as well as experiencing a strong intolerance to uncertainty.

    Third stage - Reflexive thinking. At this stage we are already able to think more or less clearly about these automatic ideas and what we are feeling. The prefrontal cortex kicks in and evaluates the true size of the threat, as well as the resources available to deal with it. Obviously, processing information is a little more complex and takes longer.


    A problem at one of these stages can explain why anxiety occurs. For example, our risk recognition system can be hyper-responsive, which means it will also react to situations that do not pose a real risk. In fact, it is a common problem in our society and especially in the case of social anxiety, in which we value many social situations as dangers that are instead completely harmless.


    It can also happen that we get trapped in the second phase, in this case the ruminative thoughts take over our mind and we can only think of the worst consequences, and this keeps us stuck in anxiety.

    Finally, it may be that we do not have the cognitive skills necessary to cope with the situation exactly and fight anxiety, in which case those worries that generate the anxiety state are maintained.

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