Anxiety, this unknown … There are those who live with an anxious state for a long time, those who do not understand why they come to feel this way, those who are unable to put a stop to it and those who suffer from all the above. A fundamental starting point is that anxiety is a normal emotional reaction of the organism to a threat.
Anxiety as an alarm system
When something important is at stake, our body warns us that we are risking losing it or not getting it. An excellent alarm system.
How we install a burglar alarm after the neighbors have been robbed to guarantee security in a context that has changed; anxiety allows us to adapt to changes, adopting the most suitable behaviors to cope with them.
Anxiety disorders: symptoms
These symptoms have a phylogenetic explanation, when the threat consisted of predators who attempted our life to feed themselves. The body needs to be prepared to take action to save itself: flee, attack and, in some cases, pretend to be dead (the so-called freezing response).
Although evolved compared to previous eras, so much so that it may have difficulty imagining the human being prey to a lion, fortunately this important reaction with an alarm function has not died out in us. The light on the screen of our mind indicates “Warning: risk of suffering damage”.
When can we talk about anxiety disorder?
When in the external reality there is not enough and clear evidence to support a threat, then our alarm system is ringing by mistake. In other words, it has become too sensitive, to the point of mistaking a sudden breath of air for a thief.
It is the case in which a non-existent threat is considered as very probable, it is believed that its occurrence will imply serious consequences, intolerable and without resolution.
Anxiety disorder therapy: treating anxiety
Often those who suffer from it ask to eliminate it from their daily experiences, but it is not a request that the therapist can accept. Being a healthy, functional and protective innate response of the human being, removing it would leave the individual deprived of a fundamental resource when needed.
Even if it were possible, and fortunately it is not, the individual would risk dying by not running away from real danger, or assuming attitudes that are counterproductive to the context.
At the same time, with the patient’s commitment, skills are exercised aimed at “knowing how to stay” with unpleasant sensations, so as to be able to “avoid avoiding” the dreaded situation and verify one’s ideas about it.
Therapy will therefore focus on the acquisition of resources for the acceptance and management of anxiety and its symptoms, techniques of exposure to the feared situation / s, cognitive techniques of critical distance from dysfunctional thoughts and their replacement with realistic thinking. as well as the frequent errors of thought that are found in such disorders.