Anxiety is… Good for Us?
We all experience anxiety.
As a matter of fact, fear and anxiety aren’t just shared human experiences, but they are adaptive emotions that we all need.
Fear warns us of danger and mobilizes us to take protective action.
Anxiety motivates us to be prepared for important tasks and encourages us to be cautious in uncertain situations.
So are fear and anxiety good for us? Yes- in moderate amounts.
So how does anxiety go from being helpful and adaptive to stressful and immobilizing?
For this question, we can defer to the saying “too much of anything can make you sick, even the good can be a curse.”
Anxiety becomes a problem when you have too much of it.
Sometimes anxiety becomes overwhelmingly excessive, persistent and chronic. And when this happens, it can begin to interfere with your work, daily life and relationships.
When anxiety goes from being adaptive to problematic, you may begin to feel on edge or start experiencing a looming sense of fear or tension that follows you around. You may also notice changes in your body such as muscle tension, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and changes in your sleep pattern. And naturally, after dealing with physical and emotional discomfort, you may notice changes in your behaviour as well, such as restlessness, avoidance or procrastination.
Below is a more detailed list of signs and symptoms that might signal that your anxiety is getting out of control.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Heart: increased heart rate and palpitations
Breath: shortness of breath, shallow or rapid breathing
Head: feeling uneasy, dizzy or lightheaded
Muscles and Movement: Feeling tense, skating
Somatic Experiences: Getting hot flashes, feeling chills, experiencing tingling or numbness
Feeling restless or fidgety
Avoiding things you need or want to do, feeling an intense urge to get away /escape from something, freeing
Changes in speech such as stuttering, tripping over your words or simply finding it difficult to say what you mean
Feeling nervous, scared, tense, worried, jumpy, on-edge, agitated, or frustrated
Fear of: losing control or being negatively judged by others
Intrusive thoughts, memories of images
Feeling detached from yourself or your current environment,
Decreased concentration, focus or memory; feelings of confusion
When to Seek Help: The Line between Uncomfortable and Unbearable
Even adaptive anxiety is uncomfortable and may cause you to occasionally hesitate when doing something new or important. That we can work with. Anxiety becomes problematic when it begins to feel overbearing or begins to interfere with your work, relationships, daily life, or general mood.
A good sign that it's time to seek treatment is when you notice anxiety feeling increasingly more challenging to contain. When anxiety begins to impact your ability to do the things that matter to you or leads to excessive fear or worry, it’s time to reach out. Checklists aside, the greatest tell-tale sign that it’s time to reach out is when you feel drawn to do so. You are the best judge of your experience.
There are no minimum requirements that you need to meet before seeking help. If you feel like it's time to do something, listen to your instincts and reach out to a professional. ~You don't have to figure this out on your own.
Treatment: What You Can Do When Anxiety Becomes Too Much
Anxiety is very real. And with it being the most common mental health condition experienced among adults, if you have been living with it, you are not alone. Fortunately, anxiety is also highly treatable.
“Anxiety is very real. Fortunately, it is also very treatable. You are not alone and change is possible”
While therapy, and more specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), is considered the first-line treatment for anxiety, I know that this option is not accessible to everyone. Two common alternatives that people turn to are self-help books or medication prescribed after consulting with a psychiatrist or doctor.
While I acknowledge that I am biased, I would highly recommend giving therapy a try, if at all possible. Studies show that around 75% of people who complete a course of therapy experience a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
A standard course of therapy usually consists of 10-20 sessions. Sessions typically last for 50 minutes and are usually carried out on a weekly basis. However; this is flexible. We do have more brief options where you can choose how often you come in for therapy. For example, I’ve had clients come in for 6 sessions on a bi-weekly basis.
The key here is communication. Let your therapist know what you're thinking and they should be able to adjust accordingly.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this:
You are the judge of when it’s time to seek treatment. If you’re thinking it's time, then take action- you do not have to figure this out on your own and it is okay to reach out for help.