Anxiety is innate and part of human nature. It is the normal response of our body as it prepares to face what it perceives as a danger. We have the feeling of being vulnerable, even if sometimes we don’t understand for sure why.
When our ancestors were faced with the threat of ferocious animals or hostile peoples, the changes that occurred in their bodies prepared them for fight or flight. Nowadays, the dangers are of a completely different nature, but in the face of a situation that frightens us, or that we perceive as threatening, the same changes occur in us as then. When anxiety is moderate it can be useful, because it alerts us to a difficult situation, allowing us to react promptly.
How does anxiety manifest itself?
It often happens that a circuit of increasing anxiety and tension is established, because each of these reactions influences the other, causing anxiety to grow more and more in us. When anxiety symptoms persist for a long and repeated period of time we speak of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), while if there are brief, sudden and intense panic peaks it is Panic Disorder (with panic attacks). In any case, the most common response when faced with something that scares us and makes us feel bad is to escape, but the relief we get thanks to avoidance is only temporary and then facing the situation from which we escape will be increasingly difficult.
Difference between anxiety and fear
Fear can be understood as the automatic assessment of a perceived threat or danger, while anxiety is a more complex response system that involves cognitive, emotional, behavioral and physiological factors.
For example, fear is what you experience when you may encounter a large dog barking at you without a muzzle. Anxiety, on the other hand, is what you might feel about the future.
Causes of pathological anxiety
There is no single cause for pathological anxiety. There may be a family genetic predisposition to be anxious, it can be influenced by the education received, by the stress caused by a major change in one’s life (loss of job, a transfer, a bereavement, an accident, the birth of a child) , from low self-esteem. These factors interact with each other in different ways and to a different extent from person to person.
Treatment of anxiety
anxiety disorders can be treated through:
psychological treatment (also supported by self-help books).
Drug treatment is effective, but anxiety disorders often recur when stopped. Among the psychological treatments, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proved to be the most effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
The therapist will help the patient to know and recognize pathological anxiety and its physical symptoms, to interrupt the cycle of increasing tension by identifying anxious thoughts and teaching cognitive-behavioral techniques to counter them (analysis of dysfunctional thoughts, practice gradual, referenting, distraction, problem solving).
Relaxation and correct breathing techniques will also be taught which are very effective in decreasing the impact of the physical sensations of anxiety on our body.