Getting to Know Your Anxiety Monster
An Introduction to the Beast Inside You
Monsters can become real, and they can lay waste to even the most intelligent minds.
PROCESSES TO EMPLOY: Brutal Honesty, I Over E, Present/Understand/Fix, Slowing Down Life’s Pace, Internal Focus, Fact-Finding
I’ve been discussing anxiety, and how the anxiety demon behaves like an internal trickster, misleading you, and making you think that your anxiety is either more than it is, or that it is something else. As I began to discuss in Chapter 2, one reason so many people have difficulty identifying their anxiety is that it has such a profound effect on the intellect. Your brain is what you use to analyze information, and unfortunately, when anxiety takes over, the information you’re receiving is incongruent, and often conflicting. This compromises your brain’s ability to gather facts, and create an accurate representation of the problem.
I have discussed how anxiety can come from physical, intellectual, or emotional places. This can make it difficult to pinpoint what’s happening to you and where it’s coming from. Also, at any given time, your anxiety might impact you more significantly at the physical level, while at other times, it could be stronger emotionally or intellectually. This has you bouncing around, trying to figure out what’s going on, and you just can’t find something to hold on to.
The truth is that even though you’re learning that your anxiety is physical, as well as intellectual and emotional, that doesn’t mean that it always presents the same way. You may receive horrible news, something traumatic may happen to you, a toxic situation could ignite those anxious feelings, you may remember something painful, or it just may be your body misfiring on some level. Any one of these situations has the potential to make you anxious.
Keep in mind that having anxiety doesn’t cause you to be emotionally unstable. This overwhelming physical/emotional/intellectual wasteland is a temporary condition, and you are going to become more proficient regarding to what to do about it. For now, it’s important that you gain as much foundational information as possible, so that when the demon does make its harrowing appearance, you have more weapons, and more experience to draw on to defeat it.
The Symptoms of Anxiety: The Demon’s Weaponry
I’ve already noted that your anxiety can come from different sources. There are also different manifestations of anxiety. That is, there are different symptoms people may experience. You may experience them one at a time, or several may occur at the same time. One symptom may trigger your anxiety on its own, and it may also cause you to experience several more symptoms. To help you acquaint yourself just a bit better with this demon trickster, here is a short list of some different symptoms of anxiety. Don’t be concerned if you experience many or even all of them. That is not uncommon, and it is certainly fixable.
People with anxiety disorders often worry excessively or have a sense of dread. These anxious feelings can stem from a multitude of different sources—some rational and some not so rational.
Restlessness and Difficulties Sleeping
It is very often difficult for people with anxiety to sleep through the night. People report that they can’t turn off their minds, and that their bodies feel unsettled, with a rise in nervous energy. Sleep and anxiety have a very reciprocal nature. If you do not sleep well, it can trigger anxiety. Conversely, someone with anxiety can have a difficult time sleeping. One usually has a profound effect on the other.
Having difficulty concentrating is a common symptom of anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety are often experiencing an overwhelming increase in anxiety, dread, and uncontrolled excitement, all happening at the same time. If you have anxiety, your mind may become inundated with racing thoughts, and this makes focusing, staying on point, and concentration much more difficult.
Irritability and Tension
Anxiety can cause you to feel agitated, and you might become easily angered, often lashing out at others. You may lose your patience much quicker than when you are not anxious. Even the slightest stimulus or intrusion may feel as though it is amplified many times over. This is a result of overstimulation of the nervous system.
Cellular regeneration is seriously affected due to the loss of sleep that accompanies anxiety. Anxiety causes interrupted sleep patterns, and this can rob you of REM sleep, which is essential to the health of your body’s lifegiving cells. You may wake up unrefreshed and experience enhanced tiredness, emotional exhaustion, and eventually fatigue. Mood disorders may also occur and can lead to depression, a condition that frequently accompanies anxiety. If you think you may be depressed, talk to a professional counselor as soon as you can.
Increased Heart Rate and Palpitations
Anxiety can have a profound effect on the heart. As stress increases, you may notice that your heart rate goes up or begins to feel irregular. These feelings are very common during panic attacks. Panic attacks, or anxiety attacks, are characterized by a rapid and pounding heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, chills, and sometimes hot flashes. Panic attacks are typically short-lived, but people with an anxiety disorder may experience them regularly, and that short time can feel like an eternity.
Sweating and Hot Flashes
Remember that during periods of anxiety, your body and your mind are operating at a more rapid pace. An increase in body temperature often occurs when comes the heart rate increases and blood pressure goes up. As your heart rate increases, you may also experience more body heat and may perspire, perhaps excessively.
Trembling and Shaking
The stress on your body that occurs with anxiety can cause your limbs to shake uncontrollably, especially your hands. This is often caused by an increase in the production of adrenaline, which initiates the fight-or-flight response. This is a temporary feeling, but it can be quite uncomfortable and may actually cause your brain to create more fear and anxiety. There’s that body-to-mind/mind-to-body paradigm we talked about in Chapter 2.
Chest Pains and Shortness of Breath
Since anxiety has such a significant effect on your body, your breathing may also be affected. You may feel like you cannot get enough oxygen into your lungs, and you might experience some tightness, a heavy feeling, or pain in your chest. This happens as your body begins to move too fast. You may note that when you are stressed, you take shorter, shallower breaths. This increases carbon dioxide production, followed by a decrease in the intake of oxygen. That can have a profound effect on your brain and the rest of your body. The chest pain from an anxiety attack is usually sharper and more localized, while the pain from a heart attack tends to be duller and radiates more. If you are feeling pain that you think could possibly be a heart attack, either consult a doctor or go to the emergency room, just to be safe.
Feelings of Terror or Impending Doom
As I noted in Chapter 1, anxiety can move from moderate to severe, and at times, it can feel paralyzing. A feeling that something bad is about to happen, or is in the process of happening, can sometimes appear out of nowhere. These symptoms often pass within a few minutes, or they can last for several hours. They are typically the result of an extended experience with anxiety, and the feeling that this devil’s playground may never end.