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What is Anxiety Anyway?

What is Anxiety, really.

When asked the question of “what is anxiety?” most people will just describe some kind of “feeling.”  That is actually the point.  We feel anxiety in our body.  We feel the “butterflies in the stomach” or the tension in the neck and shoulders, or the sweaty palms.  This is because anxiety is a physiology rather than a psychology.  The best description given by various experts in the field is that anxiety is an “activated nervous system.”  The more primitive part of our brain, often referred to as our “lizard brain” is connected to some very sensitive receptors in various parts of our body and is very attentive to the possibility of threat.  When perceived threat shows up this nervous system activates, in different ways in different people, to notify you that you need to be prepared to take action or to take that action right away.  The problem of course is that the nervous system does not exactly send us direct details and descriptions of the potential threat.  Too often we have to take that journey of discovery from our conscious mind to address the situation.  Often we have a general sense.  If there is ongoing tension among people in our regular circles, meaning family members, co-workers, classmates, etc., we will pretty much know what the source of the anxiety is.  Sometimes, however, this challenge of discovery is very difficult.  For instance, mold in our home or workplace can cause some serious anxiety.  If the occupants are not aware of the presence of mold few people will even think of mold as the cause of their difficulties. 

            There are some useful tips in trying to understand your own anxiety if you are not pretty aware of what lies beneath it.  There are often clues if you really pay attention.  The path I follow with my clients is as follows:

1.      Notice where you experience anxiety the most.  At home?  At work?  Is there certain times home or work, such as when interacting with certain people or situations. 

2.      Are the physical symptoms vague or specific?  Are you experiencing digestive symptoms or respiratory symptoms?  This could point to possible infections such as bacteria or even parasites or other pathogens. 

3.     Do you eat well?  Poor diets can cause inflammation in the body which can cause anxiety

4.     Do you sleep well?  Sleep can be a chicken or egg type of problem.  Poor sleep can cause anxiety, but anxiety can cause poor sleep.  If you have poor sleep this is one issue you need to unravel. 

5.     Are you taking any medications?  Some meds can cause anxiety as a side effect.  You may need to check in with your physician to see if changes need to be made. 

6.     Are you getting adequate exercise?  Our bodies were made to move and lack of movement leaves you open to anxiety.  Too much energy that does not have a pathway to be used can actually be a problem.


This is only a general guideline.  The list of causes for anxiety can seem endless.  If you need to seek the guidance of a practitioner you may need to look beyond your regular doctor.  Many will start out trying meds for anxiety but my preference is to seek other alternatives first.  Unfortunately the way our insurance coverage’s work doctors can’t really afford the time to play detective.   There are practitioners that might be better setup to work with anxiety.  I offer free consultations to see if I might be the right one for you.  If I sense you need a different kind of practitioner than myself I will not hesitate to tell you and see if I can help you find the right one.

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