Anxiety 101 – What Causes Anxiety? The Chemical Cause and Reaction.
by Amanda Ollier | on September 18, 2012
Do you ever find yourself with knots in your tummy and that horrid feeling that something is about to go wrong, for no apparent reason? Do you suffer with nerves before important events, or dread change? If so, you are not alone. Like millions of people worldwide, you are suffering from a form of anxiety.
From panic attacks and phobias, through public speaking or exam nerves, to incessant and unjustified worrying, anxiety takes many forms and it’s effects can be devastating. Learning to manage stress and deal with your anxiety and head it off can be liberating and life changing.
This is the first post in a series on anxiety and ways to deal with it. In this post we’ll look at the origins of anxiety and what causes it.
Anxiety is a type of fear about something that may or may not happen in the future. You cannot feel anxious about something that happened in the past because anxiety is, in part at least, imagined and once something has happened, it is no longer imaginary.
There is a reason for anxiety
It does have a positive purpose in its origin but the effects are often far from positive.
Anxiety stems from our instinctual stress, or fight or flight response, which is one of the primal instincts we have evolved as humans which has allowed us to progress to the top of the food chain!
When we are faced by a threatening situation, this instinct gets us ready to either fight our way out of it or to flee. In prehistoric times, we would have literally fought or run away, but our actions are often more subtle now.
Instead of actually fighting, we might just argue or get angry. Instead of physically running away, we may simply become withdrawn or engross ourselves in something more benign like watching television or getting drunk. We are still removing ourselves from the situation but not in a physical sense.
When the stress response is triggered, which in the case of anxiety may be for no apparent reason, chemicals such as adrenaline are released into the blood stream. They shut down certain secondary functions, such as digestion; release nutrients into the blood stream and reroute blood to power the muscles for fighting or running away; inhibit saliva and tear production and increase heart and breathing rate.
The power to hear can be reduced, tunnel vision induced and the ability to think clearly is lost as parts of the brain are affected, as well as the familiar sensations of sweating, shaking, dry mouth, stomach pain, nausea and headaches.
Put all these symptoms together and you have a waking nightmare!
The problem is, that because there is no real threat, the body is in a heightened state of arousal, ready to jump at a moment’s notice, for no reason; but the effects continue regardless.
Longer term symptoms can then arise. Things like digestive problems which can lead to weight loss and even anorexia; immune system suppression which can lead to increased illness; disturbed sleep, panic attacks caused by the dizziness, shortness and confusion, which surface without warning, all of which serve to further fuel the anxiety cycle. The physical symptoms can fool the sufferer into believing that they have some kind of disease or illness when in reality they are simply feeling the effects of the stress response and chemicals coursing through their veins. Health anxiety, or disproportionate concern about minor symptoms, can easily become a reality to someone prone to anxiety issues.
The great news is that although you may never know the root cause of your anxiety, you can learn ways to deal with it and stop it in its tracks and we’ll look at some of them in future posts.
In the meantime, if you have enjoyed this post, or recognise yourself in some of the things I have described, please leave a comment below or share this post.Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net