What is Anxiety? What can we do to deal with it?Heidi Hadley
Globally more than 300 million people suffer with depression and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders, many of whom live with both. The World Health Organisation found that these disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion in lost productivity each year.
With the recent World Bipolar Day on 30th March 2018 and the World Health day on 7th April, it is very important to raise awareness of this global health issue. In today’s blog we are going to look at what anxiety is and ways we can deal with the condition.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the physiological response to fear. At some time we have all experienced anxiety. We may have suffered with symptoms such as a pounding, racing heart rate. It may have been a tight chest with rapid breathing. Maybe you suffered with sweaty palms or had ‘butterflies’ in your stomach. Some individuals suddenly gain a burst of energy in the form of nervous energy/anxiety.
Short bursts of anxiety can be good. It can help us stay focused for an important event or to keep us safe in a dangerous situation. However, ongoing stress responses within the body which manifest themselves in the form of anxiety is detrimental to our health and well being. A prolonged period of anxiety is known as an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder occurs when a person suffers with the physiological stress responses in situations which are no longer in relation to dangerous scenarios, rather in every day events such as social settings, for instance catching public transport or meeting new people.
There are a variety of anxiety disorders, let us consider them:
Generalised anxiety disorder:
This disorder involves the excessive worrying about everything, everyone and anything. People worry about worrying.
Social anxiety disorder:
This disorder involves anxiety in social situations which are often deep seated and linked back to the fear of doing something wrong or worried about being judged by others.
This area of anxiety includes repeated panic attacks and the debilitating thoughts and worries of future panic attacks.
Individuals with this type of condition suffer with anxiety about having a lack of control, suffering with panic attacks in particular situations and circumstances. They fear not being able to escape or get the appropriate help.
This type of anxiety is triggered by an intense fear of situations or objects, for instance rats, dogs, heights and darkness.
What causes Anxiety disorders?
This is a huge subject in itself. Anxiety can occur for many reasons, it is not always clear cut. It can be from a family history of anxiety and depression. An event in one’s life can trigger anxiety, such as a diagnoses, ongoing health issues, bereavement, divorce, food sensitivities/intolerances and personality traits.
Anxiety can develop over time or suddenly, it really depends on the situation. Anxiety can be sustained by unhealthy and crippling thought patterns.
The Neurophysiology of Fear and Anxiety
Our brain is wired to unconsciously or subconsciously create a "self fulfilling prophecy." An area of our brain known as the amygdala plays a crucial role in the fight or flight response (stress response). If the amygdala is excessively sensitive and fires off a "danger" signal, it will automatically alter ongoing perceptions so that they appear threatening. This may be a basis for phobias and other anxiety disorders.
The fear may appear from an incident in childhood. Take for example a child encountering a growling dog which lunges at the youngster. The amygdala directly activates arousal centres. This results in an increase of excitability through the release of substances such as noradrenaline in the brain and adrenaline in the body. This results in the ‘soma’ or mind and body of the child becoming hyper alert and ready to deal with the "danger." This results in the child being in a state of fight or flight (fear). This creates a learned feedback loop in their body - any future dog that child encounters will trigger the amygdala. The body becomes hyper vigilant, fear is triggered and avoidance behaviour results. This fear becomes stored in the subconscious emotional memory.
What can we do to deal with Anxiety?
Diet and nutrition has become a huge area in the field of mental health. Due to the research into this area, we have learnt how the food or fuel we consume has a huge impact on our mental health. Check out my blogs entitled "Mood and Food" and "Is Sugar controlling you?"
One subject which has been covered extensively is refined sugars. We know that refined sugars are absorbed extremely quickly into our bloodstream. The result of this being that blood glucose levels spike very high. When this happens, we refer to this as hyperglycaemia. The body is truly amazing because very quickly insulin will kick in and remove excess glucose from our bloodstream. What can happen after this event is a sudden plunge in glucose levels. This is known as hypoglycaemia. The most common symptoms are, depression, anxiety, dizziness, crying spells, aggressiveness, insomnia, weakness and possibly loss of consciousness. When this happens, our adrenal glands kick in and tell the body’s stores of glycogen to release. This ‘call to action’ can also involve glucose from proteins and other substances present in our body. It’s a very unhealthy cycle to live in, It is a activity within the body of peaks and troughs. A real physical and emotional rollercoaster ride. It is unsustainable in the long term. Not only does it affect one’s mental health, it may create cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
The approaches used in Neuropsychology
Forms of talk therapy can be of huge benefit to people. A very effective form of therapy for anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a technique known as Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR).
The following information has been taken from https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
“EMDR therapy shows that the mind can heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes with the use of EMDR. Controlled studies have shown that 84-90% of single trauma victims no longer have PTSD after only three 90 minute sessions. Another study found 100% of single trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after six 50 minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. It has had so much success that the American Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organisation and the Department of Defence have recognised it as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences.”
Mindful Somatic Movement
Mindfulness is a fantastic skill to develop to help reduce the actions of the amygdala in any stressful setting. When mindfulness is combined with Somatics, you learn to release long held muscular tension and tightness. We have all endured stress and trauma in our life. We know that it can impact on our physical, emotional and mental health. So when we combine gentle somatic movement sequences with mindfulness techniques, we are retraining the brain to work more efficiently and effectively with our body. Do you recall times when you have felt stressed or fearful? Have you noticed your muscles ache as a result? Maybe you suffered with tension headaches as a result of muscle tightness and pain. If you live in a constant state of worry, fear, anxiety or hyper sensitivity to your perception of people’s comments and actions, you will live in a very tense, tight body. Your body is in a constant state of stress and anxiety. You begin to live in a very stiff, tight body which leads to pain, poor posture, limited mobility and a reduction in the quality of your life.
With Total Somatics, you learn how to work effectively with your mindset and apply mindfulness techniques. You learn how to release long held muscular patterns of tension caused by fear, stress and anxiety with Somatic Movements. This new level of understanding, skills and knowledge creates a feeling of empowerment as you become educated on how to use your mind and body more efficiently.
The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness program is available online at www.TotalSomatics.com You can learn and practise mindfulness with Total Somatics in the comfort of your own home.
If you would like to learn more about Somatics, download my free eBook entitled Somatics - What is it? How can it help me?
By writing this blog, I feel it is important to raise this subject of anxiety which affects each and every one of us in different ways. Please share this information and help make the subject of anxiety less of a ‘taboo’ subject and more of a discussion point for our future health and well being.
Heidi Hadley xx