What is Anxiety?

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Anxiety can arise as a natural reaction when facing stress or perceived dangers, reflecting our ancient fight-or-flight instincts kicking into high gear. People may feel worried, on edge, and acutely sensitive. Anxiety can emerge in specific situations where one anticipates defeat. However, anxiety disorders involve extreme and disproportionate fear or nervousness that persists regardless of the actual threat level.

The fight-or-flight response prepares our bodies to aggressively confront or swiftly evade threatening stimuli. This physiological reaction is vital for survival, allowing quick decision-making in life-threatening circumstances. Feelings of unease, perspiration, and increased alertness result from its activation. By heightening awareness of danger while accelerating heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, it empowers us to “mobilize energy”.

Anxiety disorders stem from an improperly or excessively triggered fight-or-flight response, inducing anxiety even absent real peril. While potentially advantageous in early humanity, symbolic threats now predominate—to self-image, social standing, and others’ judgments. When disproportionately activated, impaired functioning and excessive worry ensue instead of bolstered protection.

Screenshot 2024 04 16 at 7.13.54 PM What is Anxiety?

Curiously, those with anxiety disorders perform quite capably in authentic crises, their intensified response facilitating prompt action. But perceiving threats that don’t endanger life or exist solely in the mind sustains a debilitating state of heightened vigilance. It’s akin to redlining a high-performance vehicle stationary, expending energy wastefully.

In modernity, where threats involve reputation more than reality, a distorted threshold for combat or flight readiness often backfires in social contexts. The amplified response can either empower or burden depending on accurate calibration to circumstances. Treatment targets moderating, not eliminating, this response to align more closely with reality.

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