Anxiety can be considered a normal human emotion, especially since anxiety can occur in different parts of your life. You can get anxious for an exam, a job interview, a speech, a presentation, or just waiting for a shipment to arrive. Just because anxiety is normal, however, doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Sometimes, when anxiety pushes a person to their limits, it can affect their lives in devastatingly negative ways. However, before one can examine the risks of anxiety, one should first learn just exactly what anxiety is.
As per the World Mental Health Survey Initiative (WMH), a cooperative survey combining the efforts of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, the World Health Organization, and other country-based researches around the world, it’s understandable that getting insight towards mental illnesses across different cultures can be challenging because of numerous societal factors. Regardless, anxiety disorder remains perhaps the most prevalent mental illness worldwide, affecting around 2.4 to 18.2-percent of the world’s population in any one year period.
This means it’s exactly because of the prevalence of anxiety disorders that these have to be taken seriously. Here’s what happens in your mind when you’re anxious:
- You worry about the future too much: People always have a tendency to worry about the future, but those with anxiety disorders tend to worry about the future too much. Worry in itself can be considered a kind of problem-solving which, when used correctly, can help a person prepare and plan for potentially negative events. Unfortunately, a major problem of worry is that it’s mostly reserved for future – and therefore uncertain – events. Moreover, when people do try to stop worrying, the more they worry – especially when tired or pained. Professionals suggest that when you do experience negative emotions such as excessive worrying, try finding better ways of lifting your mood. You can click here to find better ways of managing your anxiety disorder to better cope with uncertainty.
- You don’t tolerate uncertainty: Uncertainty tends to be a frightening thing, especially since this is proof that there’s no way of being sure about anything. Perhaps what’s alarming about uncertainty is if people with anxiety disorders tend to be intolerant towards them. Those who worry too much believe that they should be worried until their particular uncertainties were resolved – and more often than not, some individuals will tend to stop to worry about something because they’ve moved on to another thing to worry about.
- You exaggerate uncertainty: Another problem for anxious people in terms of uncertain events are their tendencies to exaggerate them. If you have an anxiety disorder, chances are you’ll overestimate the intensity and likelihood of the danger and the threat of the uncertain event. While this is a helpful method of planning ahead of time, doing this excessively can be harmful for you. Catching yourself while thinking distortedly can help reduce anxiety.
- You tend to jump to conclusions: Given that for anxious people, uncertainty comes with a lot of stress, they tend to be motivated to eliminate the discomfort by reducing uncertainty. Unfortunately, one method of doing this is by providing what they believe is an “acceptable” conclusion instead of solving the task at hand. The tendency then is to jump to conclusions that may not even necessarily be true in the first place.
- You tend to choke under pressure: Another dangerous thing anxious people tend to do when faced with stress and uncertainty is to choke under pressure. Too much arousal and excessive attention can worsen cognitive performance because it can be overwhelming. Arousal such as fear and anxiety can be extremely detrimental to a person, and may likely influence negative results because proper cognitive functions are hindered.
- You tend to misinterpret events: If you’re highly anxious, chances are you have a tendency to interpret events that are otherwise ambiguous into threatening or negative events. In a social situation, for instance, “that’s an interesting shirt” for them might mean something insulting rather than being an actual compliment. Disoriented and distorted notions of internal belief can cause anxiety.
- You tend to be defensive: When you’re highly anxious, it’s likely that you see the problem as something that is “out there” instead of it being something that comes from “inside” you. As such, there’s a tendency to use defensive methods such as projection to attach your unacceptable intentions, feelings, or thoughts to others. This can help distract you from noticing that there’s also an internal problem that needs solving. Realizing this, however, can greatly help you manage your anxiety much better.
- You tend to avoid the cause of anxiety: When you’re anxious, you may also tend to avoid the situation that’s causing the anxiety – such as being distracted, procrastinating, or “playing it safe.” Being socially-anxious, for example, might motivate you to just avoid social situations entirely even at the expense of your personal or professional life.
Anxiety, despite being a normal emotion, can have a devastating impact to the way you work as a person – especially when it comes to your personal life, work, and relationships. As explained above, perhaps the best first step towards managing and conquering your anxiety is to understand what it is and how it affects the mind. After all, knowing just how exactly anxiety works against you can be the push you need to make measures to make sure this doesn’t happen. If you feel as though your feelings of anxiety are becoming too intense, do keep in mind that professional help is available to be of assistance in this regard.
Philippa is a warm and friendly therapist from Life Resolutions who prides herself on making clients feel welcome and comfortable in the therapeutic space. She believes it is important to take the time to really understand each client and treats the client as the expert in the room as they know themselves best. She uses a collaborative approach with clients to enable them to take an active role in therapy.