Understanding the Anxious Mind

Msc (psychology), NLP
@Islaah Center for Psychological Wellness

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

Anxiety is not fear, exactly, because fear is focused on something right in front of you, a real and objective danger. It is instead a kind of fear gone wild, a generalized sense of dread about something out there that seems menacing — but that in truth is not menacing, and may not even be out there. If you’re anxious, you find it difficult to talk yourself out of this foreboding; you become trapped in an endless loop of what-ifs.

When we feel under threat our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones: make us feel more alert, so we can act faster. It also make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most. After we feel the threat has passed, our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake. This is commonly called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response – it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it.

According to Dr. DeGroat, there are a number of psychological theories as to why anxiety exists. There’s the neurological and the psychoanalytical, which describes anxiety as battle between the id, ego and superego. In this battle, he explains, “anxiety serves as a danger signal to an individual’s ego and/or superego that an individual is at an elevated risk to act upon an unacceptable id impulse. In the face of this anxiety, an individual’s ego and/or superego respond by attempting to manage an individual’s id impulses through elevated means.”

When we feel anxious, we tend to see ourselves as weak and unable to cope. The greater one’s doubts concerning one’s level of competence the more one will worry about adverse outcome taking place. Anxious individuals experience uncertainty more stressfully, they are motivated to reduce uncertainty and eliminate the discomfort. When a confident attitude is adopted, the individual focuses on the positives in a situation, and may even assume a greater sense of personal control.

Anxiety is a disorder of choice. Similar to alcohol, fear and it impairs judgement. Thus, we should avoid making any decisions while under its influence until we are in a calm state of mind and can clearly consider on the ultimate goal.