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Getting the basics on Dysfunctional Anxiety

Nexus Psychology Blog

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May 27, 2014
Nexus Psychology Melbourne | Clinical Psychologists | Counselling Psychologists | Therapy | Anxiety | Depression | Emotional Issues
People are confronted with difficult and complicated situations daily and it is normal to feel anxious during these...

Article written by Sally Websiter

People are confronted with difficult and complicated situations daily and it is normal to feel anxious during these times. It may occur during a life-changing occasion like a wedding, in the middle of an interview for that coveted job opening or while closing an important business deal. And it could strike during more ordinary circumstances like meeting someone for the first time or simply when your name gets called to participate in class or even while waiting for a loved one to get home safely at the end of the day.


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response of the mind and body to danger like a silent alarm that goes off when you sense a potential threat to your wellbeing, whether physical or emotional. But this is not a bad thing. In fact, anxiety is an important basic survival function that helps us stay alert and focused, prepping us for critical events and serving as a warning to get out of harm’s way or spur into action to solve problems.

When there is an indication of danger, your body’s fight-flight response manifests in different physical sensations. The most common include pounding heartbeat, shallow breathing, sweaty palms, muscle tensions, tightening in the stomach, and trembling of the body. This is caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals in preparation for the body to escape danger. It takes a few seconds longer for the brain to analyze the situation and distinguish whether the threat is real or not, and how to handle it.

But if you are in a constant or disproportionate state of anxiety and the effect changes from empowering to overwhelming, it stops being functional. When you experience an excessive irrational dread, persistent unease or uncontrollable fear, it becomes disabling and interferes with your daily life. This is when you need to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as you may have crossed the line from helpful, everyday anxiety into what is considered dysfunctional anxiety.

Understanding Dysfunctional Anxiety

There are different types and different presentations of dysfunctional anxiety. These can be helped by a variety of treatments and strategies. The first step is recognizing the problem.

Questions to ask yourself
  • Do you often feel uneasy, worried, or stressed?
  • Do you avoid situations or activities because they make you nervous and apprehensive?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with everyday activities at work, school, or home?
  • Are you frequently troubled by fears that you know are unreasonable?
  • Do you suffer sudden attacks of panic without an apparent cause?
  • Do you fear that danger and disaster are always one wrong step away?
  • Do you worry about negative consequences if you don’t follow a specific way of doing certain things?

If you relate to these concerns and they just won’t go away, then you may be suffering from dysfunctional anxiety. It may be mild, moderate, or severe enough to be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. You may be anxious due to a recent major change or due to an overly demanding schedule, or even simply from drinking too much coffee.

Causes of anxiety disorder

  • Genetics – There is a history of anxiety within your family.
  • Biochemical – Low levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces activity in the central nervous system, contribute to anxiety.
  • Biological – The amygdala is central to the processing of fear and anxiety, and its function may be disrupted in anxiety disorders.
  • Stress – The most common cause of anxiety is stressful event such as a physical illness, family conflicts, financial worries, school and work problems and relationship trouble.
  • Personality style – Certain personality types are more prone to anxiety than others.
  • Lifestyle – Improper food diet, lack of an exercise regimen and the kinds of physical activities you engage in daily can create an unhealthy lifestyle that could also trigger anxiety disorder.

Dealing with Dysfunctional Anxiety

There are effective treatments for anxiety. If you have concerns about managing the issue yourself, it is best to consult a specialist who will be able to help in figuring out what’s going on. A specialist can help you evaluate your present circumstances as well as explore your history for factors that may underlie the anxiety. Once you understand your problem, you can make the necessary changes to manage your anxiety and regain control of your life.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is always a good step. Taking care of your physical body and staying healthy and strong will help make you feel better not only physically but emotionally. Taking the time to engage in fun and relaxing activities will also help manage your stress. It is always a good idea to step back, take a deep breath and slow down once in a while before plunging head first into your hectic schedule.

Resolving anxiety can take time and dedication on your part and support from the people around you. However, with an open attitude, good focus and perhaps with specialist treatment, dysfunctional anxiety is a challenge that you can overcome.

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