Learning about Anxiety
Anxiety is a feeling that affects all of us. It can be helpful, and even has an evolutionary component. If we did not fear anything, we could easily get ourselves into situations that are dangerous and we could not handle. But when anxiety starts to overcome us or pops up when there is no real threat to ourselves, it starts to become a hinderance.
For some people, anxiety is expereinced around a few specific issues or experiences like talking in front of a group, taking tests, or meeting new people. For some, it is experienced as a more intense, panic-like feeling, also called a phobia like to spiders, flying, or public speaking. Still others feel more of a generalized, constant anxiety to several different things. Children may expereince separation anxiety when caregivers leave, it is time to go to school, or at bedtime. Others may feel a constant feel of dread as if something bad is about to happen.
Anxiety can take many forms, but what it always includes is avoidance. Avoidance feels good in the moment, and solves the issue of anxiety momentarily. If we just do not have to fly, then we can avoid the panic feeling. Or if we an just avoid the park in the mornings when there are a lot of dogs, then we are fine and don’t need to worry about our fear or dogs. The problem with avoidance is that it only serves to reinforce our fear. If we never face our fear and realize that we can experience the unpleasant feeling of anxiety, yet survive and come out okay on the other side, then we only continue our fear. This might not be too difficult to understand, but it certainly is difficult to carry out.
If you find yourself avoiding situations or experiences due to anxiety, it might be time to confront your fear. If you feel like you can’t do it all at once, try it in small steps. If you want some direction or feel like you can’t do it alone, therapists experienced in treating anxiety can help you to determine the steps, and teach you skills to help keep yourself calm when you are confronting, and eventually, conquering your fears.