AnxietyAnxiety and anxiety disorders are widespread. According to the Max Planck Institute in Munich, more than 7 million Germans suffer from pathological anxiety. This corresponds to one-sixth of people between the ages of 18 and 65. More about symptoms, causes and therapy of anxiety.
Standing on a wobbly rope bridge 100 meters above the ground and looking down on the torrent flowing below may cause you to feel anxiety. Fear of this sight can also be a good reason not to go on this suspension bridge in the first place. If the destination can only be reached via such rope bridges, the choice of a different vacation destination seems understandable. This example illustrates: fear is a normal human emotion that is meant to warn us of danger. But if the mere idea of a rope bridge is enough to no longer dare to leave your own home, the suspicion of a so-called anxiety disorder, such as phobias and panic attacks, is obvious. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, exaggerated fears can be treated well with behavioral therapy by a psychotherapist.
Fear of fear
When the natural fear response is disturbed, a cycle of fear develops in many people: this fear of fear leads to behaviors that increasingly know only one goal: To avoid the fear. In the end, many anxiety-disordered people prefer to avoid the anxiety-provoking situations. Thus behaviors develop like the shirker, who does not dare to do anything any more. Or the aggressive person or naysayer who vehemently fends off every approach. Ultimately, these and other behaviors lead to isolation and increase anxiety. For those who do not face their fears cannot have the positive experience of overcoming fears – and become prisoners of fears.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists anxiety disorders as the second most common mental illness after depression. Overall, women are affected by too much anxiety about twice as often as men. Recent studies also suggest that anxiety disorders begin earlier and earlier – in childhood, starting around age 10 (see also: Anxiety Disorders in Children).
Fear is a reaction of the human organism, which on the one hand warns of danger and on the other hand provides forces to counter the danger. Basically, anxiety is a comprehensive stress response that has three components:
– physical symptoms of anxiety – thoughts of anxiety – behavior during anxiety
Here is more about the three components of anxiety.
Physical symptoms of anxiety
Most people know the physical symptoms of anxiety from their own experience. The most noticeable symptoms – in varying degrees – are an accelerated pulse, weak knees and a sinking feeling in the stomach. In addition, there are often disturbances of balance such as dizziness, hot or cold shivers, running tears, dry mouth, shortness of breath or blackness before the eyes.
These physical symptoms of anxiety are due to immediate reactions of the organism. The accelerated heartbeat, for example, is designed to better supply the body, especially the muscles, with nutrients through the blood so that it can respond quickly and powerfully to the threat. This also diverts blood from the brain or the abdomen: This explains dizziness and the sinking feeling in the stomach.
Mental symptoms of anxiety
You can see for yourself the role of thoughts in the symptoms of anxiety with a little experiment. Simply take your pulse and then imagine a situation you are afraid of. Within seconds, the pulse rate will increase noticeably.
Psychologists believe that 90 percent of all anxiety originates exclusively in our minds. The good news is that just as fears are caused by the power of thought, they can also be stopped by thought. In the case of anxiety disorders, this usually requires the help of a psychotherapist. For mild everyday anxiety, the tips listed under "Self-help for mild anxiety" below may also help.
Behavioral component of anxiety
Every person is different. Some face the danger (attack is the best defense), others avoid it. On the one hand, this corresponds to the biologically determined startle or flight behavior, on the other hand, fear reactions – especially in early childhood – are learned. If, for example, a parent is afraid of dogs, this is more likely to apply to the child as well.
Unfortunately, anxiety-disordered people often develop avoidance behavior over time. That is, you try to get out of the way of your fears. This is how exaggerated fears drive these people further and further into retreat. Significantly curtails the quality of life. The reason for this is the fear of anxiety.
Fortunately, there are very successful methods to cope with pathological fears. The most successful means of overcoming fears is the so-called confrontation therapy. This is a method from the cognitive behavioral therapy. The procedure is simple from the outside: the anxious people are prepared psychotherapeutically. Accompanied – guided closer and closer to the triggers of their anxiety.
Anxiety often subsides quickly
The information about the fear from the psychotherapeutic preparation and the actual experiences of success in the careful confrontation with the fear-triggering situations or stimuli lead in most cases within a few weeks to the fact that exaggerated fears and anxiety disorders decrease significantly.
Self-help against mild anxiety
For mild anxiety, relaxation exercises and auto-suggestions are especially helpful. Among the simplest relaxation exercises are breathing techniques. You have probably already experienced how a deep breath could calm you down in a frightening or stressful situation and make you able to act again. A somewhat more elaborate and very effective relaxation technique is progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson. Used regularly, it lowers the anxiety threshold. The same applies to yoga. Autogenic training.
Simple autosuggestions against anxiety: autosuggestions are especially helpful when you want to prepare yourself for a fearful situation. A typical example is anxiety before an exam. For example, if you repeatedly say to yourself before the exam – in your mind or even audibly – "I am well prepared. I can do this!" does this help to overcome mild anxiety and go into the exam with less or no worries at all. Especially in rhyme form such so-called affirmations or autosuggestions are helpful, because rhymes are more easily and better absorbed by the psyche.
You can learn how to use autosuggestions in many adult education centers, health centers or sports clubs in courses for yoga, autogenic training or mediation. Many health insurance companies promote these courses. Ask there.