For those suffering from anxiety (or depression) it can feel like a life sentence, but the ironic truth is that the characteristic thought patterns associated with the condition are what manifests those no hope feelings and despair.
When anxiety levels rise the brain loses intellectual control and, to a greater or lesser extent, a primitive part of the brain, part of the limbic system responsible for flight or fight, steps andtakes over. We can recognise when this has happened by certain characteristics:
- Catastrophising – or coming up with the worst possible scenario. This would be normal if you were being chased by a dangerous polar bear it’s your best hope of survival, but your brain doesn’t know the difference between that and say, an argument, an unexpected bill, the threat of redundancy or maybe an illness so it will do the same thing.
- This primitive part of the brain is obsessional, the negative thoughts and worry, focusing on the problems or a specific obsession will go round and around in your mind, you wont be able to forget it.
- Vigilance – Your brain will keep reminding you of all the things you need to obsess and worry about. You might forget for a while if you’re focused on work, your children or a hobby or interest, but soon as you stop, it all comes back again.
- All or nothing – This primitive brain thinks ony in black and white, all or nothing. It comes from a time of eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, so it doesn’t see the options and shades of grey in the middle, just extremes.
- Self centered – It will make everything about you, it’s only concerned with your self preservation after all. Perhaps your talking to a friend on the phone and they seem distracted or a little offish with you; you’ll assume you’ve done something wrong or they’re annoyed with you for some reason, or maybe you receive an email at work and you jump to conclusions that it’s personally critical of you. The truth is, your friend is distracted by their own worries, or something on TV in the background or the author of the critical email has been annoyed by something else entirely and their own anger is being projected, or perhaps they’re not a good communicator – but you will make it all about you.
The important point to understand is that the brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, it only knows what you’re thinking and so, when you worry and what-if, negatively forecasting the future, it’s converted into anxiety . The more you do this, the greater anxiety you create which is turn activates the flight/fight primitive part of your brain – a vicious cycle,
So, anxiety will, can and does go away when you develop the skills and strategies to interrupt the negative thought patterns and reduce the feedback loop the HPA Axis (part of your primitive brain) has got stuck in.
In the next article I’m going to explain in greater scientific depth about the HPA axis and what keeps activating it, creating this vicious cycle, leading you to question if anxiety will ever go away.
Intrusive thoughts, what are they? What do they mean and how can we learn to manage them?
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Health anxiety is a form of anxiety where worrying, obsessing about health problems and fixating on sensations in the body manifests in a variety of physical symptoms which, in turn, creates anxiety that fuels the problem. However, anxiety in general does affect the body, so for those with health anxiety, these things become a particular concern.
Author & Video - Emma Triplett Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay Worrying about health and/or death are arguably amongst of the most common symptoms of anxiety but for some health becomes the sole focus of their anxiety and is given the term health anxiety....
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be hard to ignore if you’re living with someone who has it. The temptation is to buy into the OCD and either join the person helping out with their obsession by buying wet-wipes for the person with a germ OCD for example, or to try and stop them carrying out their habits or rituals, encourage them to resist the compulsion. What should you do for the best?
Can hypnotherapy actually help anxiety. A review of scientific studies suggests that hypnosis can help, but hypnosis is a tool that must be used alongside proven therapeutic techniques for anxiety to have any long term benefits.
One in four people, that’s a quarter of us, will at some time experience mental health problems during their life. It’s an astounding statistic from the World Health Organisation and according to a report by Mind there has been an increase from 15.5 per cent in 1993 to 26 per cent of adults reported having ever been diagnosed with at least one mental health problem in 2014. Many mental health problems including OCD, self-harm, eating disorders, insomnia and many physical problems are anxiety related, so why is anxiety increasing so rapidly.
At first glance anxiety and depression are very similar, they feel different; anxiety being fearful and worried whilst depression is feeling miserable, but you can have both at the same time. They are in fact interestingly similar and in this article we going to have a look at some of the similarities and differences both in the way they develop and in the way they are cured.
This is the third instalment of my mini series on anxiety in which I’m going to give you some top tips for dealing with anxiety when it strikes, but also ultimate strategies to reduce the positive feedback loop that’s creating the anxiety described in the last article ‘Where does anxiety come from?’
In the last article ‘Will anxiety ever go away?’ I described the typical characteristic thought patterns the primitive part of your brain displays when anxiety arises and why it can feel like a life sentence. In this article, for those of you who like to understand the science and what is happening to you psychologically and biologically, I’ve gone in depth with the science of the stress response as, for many, it helps knowing it is a normal physiological response that has an on/off switch. So, here we go, sit tight for the science…