The Phantom Menace: How to Deal with Anxiety?

Often, anxiety takes away more strength from a person than the unpleasant moments themselves, the approach of which he is afraid of. Anxiety is exhausting, deprives of energy, joy, sleep.

Increased anxiety: symptoms and causes

An unexpected and incompletely understandable message on the phone, after which the subscriber becomes unavailable. A strange pain in the side that does not go away after fifteen minutes of rest and two pills, you can’t remember what. A rather relaxed conversation with a colleague, which ends with the phrase: “Maybe this will not affect you, but if that …” All this can trigger a powerful process of restless tossing, sleepless nights when disturbing thoughts do not allow you to fall asleep, additional cups of coffee and prohibited cigarettes. This is the state of anxiety. A person is threatened by something, but what exactly – he himself does not know. 

Or another example – a person was tested for a serious illness. And until the result is obtained, he is not able to think about anything else – he toils, worries, does not start any important business, relatively speaking: “the brain works only in one direction.” The maximum that you have enough strength for is the fulfillment of daily duties. In the house, for example, to clean or cook dinner. I don’t even want to do needlework, because sewing or knitting is about the future, about joy. And the state of anxiety sweeps aside all thoughts of joy. And this is not even the result of some kind of psychological trauma. This is a constant, persistent, exhausting expectation of trouble.

Stress and anxiety

Anxiety is a fear of something incomprehensible. For example, if a person is afraid of dogs, then in the absence of a provoking factor (that is, dogs) he is absolutely calm and focused, that is, his level of anxiety does not increase. And if the danger does not have a clear definition, the person is constantly on the alert – watching, guarding, preparing to defend himself. He simply cannot relax. Most of all, a person is afraid to miss the signs of an impending disaster and not have time to react and take action in time. It seems that there is an ultra-sensitive alarm inside it, which is set to maximum by default.

Doctors call such a state an anxiety disorder, sometimes adding the term “generalized”, that is, the entire mental space of a person is captured by anxiety – the experience of impending disaster. The cause of this pathology can be prolonged stress or severe psychological trauma that has not been properly experienced and healed.  

Some patients with this disorder say that they cannot sleep properly, are afraid of the dark, they constantly think that someone is standing outside the door, and so on. And this is understandable. The fact is that in a stressful situation, the body goes into a hypermobilization mode, that is, all its forces are rushed to solve urgent and serious problems. This helps the person to survive and not go to the hospital with a serious illness. But when the stress passes, there is simply no one to cancel the mobilization order. And the human psyche continues to look for non-existent dangers. And if it does not find a suitable object, then it creates a phantom – in fact, there is no one outside the door, but it seems that there is. Being in a state of anxiety, a person turns off other life programs – he may lose interest in food, pleasure, communication. All intellectual and mental strength goes to restraining anxiety – you want to either cry and crawl on the arms of someone strong and reliable, or curl up in a ball under the covers and wait until this nightmare ends.

Scientists conducted scientific research in which mothers and their two-year-old babies took part. During the experiment, mothers left their children behind a closed door with a teacher for some time. Some children rushed after them with a roar and knocked on the closed door, others cried, then calmed down in the hands of the teacher, but did not start playing. We just sat there. Still others did not show any concern and continued to do what they did before their mother left. And scientists have already gathered to announce that the latter have quickly and well adapted to an unfamiliar environment. But when they took a blood test and measured their heart rate, these children were close to fainting. And the pulse and the level of cortisol – the hormone of stress – just went off scale. While the most adaptive were those kids who protested loudly and rushed to their mother. Using this experiment as an example, we can say that  

It is extremely important to voice your feelings: “I’m furious!” or “I’m very scared!” This is especially true when you have to experience severe grief, for example, the loss of a loved one. If there is an opportunity to cry in a friendly vest, it is recommended to use it. If there is no vest, it makes sense to consult a crisis psychologist;

you need to develop good habits – eat, drink, sleep on schedule. It is not possible to reduce the level of anxiety and fall asleep – visit a neurologist, who, if necessary, will pick up sleeping pills;  

normalize breathing. The point is that anxiety is felt as “arousal minus oxygen”. A person actually stops breathing normally when they get scared. Therefore, in a stressful situation, you should catch your breath, adjust the nutrition of the brain so that it is able to think and make the right decisions. By the way, nootropic drugs will not help in this case. On the contrary, they can increase the level of anxiety and provoke aggression. Therefore, there is no need to rush to use recommendations such as: “Drink this, turn on your head.” Soothing herbs help to some extent, but it is better to consult a doctor.

If more than three months have passed since the moment of psychological stress, and the state of anxiety still has not passed, it is recommended to seek help from a psychotherapist. They say that with trouble you need to sleep the night, and in the morning the body will re-engage in full-fledged work. This is not entirely true. It takes time to restore his vitality. And the sooner you start treatment, the faster your life will get better. Take care of yourself.

event_note December 13, 2020

account_box Winona Tse MD

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