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May 16, 2013

Anxiety: What is it, what causes it, what to do about it? Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of this series on anxiety where we will look at causes of anxiety. Part 1 described anxiety and gave a simple description or feel of anxiety. If you missed the beginning of this series, you can find it by clicking here: PART ONE. This article will address how anxiety may be caused by environmental factors, medical factors, substance abuse, or a combination of these. Although it has been suggested there may be a genetic component in anxiety, this article will talk of environmental factors that may be more influential. Finally, the article will address that while anxiety is a response to outside forces and can be amplified with “negative self-talk” or a belief in the worry, rarely can an immediate trigger to anxiety be identified.

 

There are various environmental factors that can cause anxiety. Trauma from events such as abuse, victimization, or the death of a loved one is very common. Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, however, will be addressed in a separate series following this series on anxiety. A stressful experience can occur when going through a difficult divorce, a loss of job, or a decrease in household income. It can also occur as a result of a natural disaster or when tough problems arise at work or school. Unless one of these events triggers something traumatic from the past, however, a stressful experience in one of these areas does not alone create anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by either a combination of intense stressors or a threatening stressor that continues over time. Even then, there needs to be something that sparks a deep feeling of doom or disaster with which the person identifies in order for it to morph into anxiety.

 

Some medical factors can elicit anxiety. A serious medical illness can be stressful but can lead to, for example, feelings of helplessness or doom in lifestyle, relationships or life. Thereby lending to the possible thoughts and emotions that grow the stress to a level of anxiety. There are side effects of many medications (including benzodiazepines, a class of medications used to treat anxiety) that cause anxiety, panic and more. Anxiety can be a symptom of a medical illness. It is quite common for people to experience anxiety as a result of the difficulty in breathing and, consequential lack of oxygen from COPD, asthma, emphysema, or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung). The inability to get oxygen into the blood stream results in an increase in the carbon dioxide which physically creates anxiety symptoms and leads to anxiety and panic. Often times the anxiety that is experienced from a medical factor dissipates if the medical factor ends. What then occurs is that the person who suffered from the anxiety remembers the debilitating fear of the anxiety. Consequently, if in the future she or he experiences a feeling that resembles, or is, anxiety his or her thoughts begin to worry that another period of anxiety or panic attacks is beginning. Those very thoughts become circular and reignite the anxiety or panic attacks.

 

It is estimated that about half of patients who utilize mental health services for anxiety disorders are doing so because of alcohol or benzodiazepine dependence. More generally, anxiety is also known to result from the intoxication from drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines and the withdrawal from drugs such as opiates, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates. Substance abuse, dependence and withdrawal can chemically create anxiety. After experiencing anxiety caused by substance abuse, however, the fear of experiencing the anxiety again can actually trigger an anxiety or panic attack during sober times. Once the anxiety is presented in a sober state, a person runs a probability of suffering from repeated experiences of anxiety due to the worry and thought patterns. I have seen many clients who after getting clean and sober have to deal with anxiety and it’s flip side, depression.

 

People’s brain chemistry changes as a result of several neurotransmitters that are affected by the onset and experience of anxiety. These changes can cause the thoughts to be more worrisome and morbid and dooming. The consistent presence and the persistence of the anxious thinking in return keeps the chemistry of the nervous system out of balance and the out of balance of chemistry feeds the thinking loops of fear! All emotional experiences are created by a “chemical imbalance” it is how a person feels the ups and downs of his or her emotions. It is when the body is held in place by thoughts or by an imbalanced chemistry that a person suffers. A person who feels anxiety (chemicals changed in balance) then starts to worry about going into a full blown panic attack or period of anxiety. Those thoughts can hold the chemistry in it’s imbalance. If held there long enough that person may need medication to artificially balance the chemistry so the non-worrisome thoughts can be experienced again. The thoughts can then do some correcting of the chemical balance. There is, however, neurological memory. The nervous system can remember patterns of thought, drug use, or medication protocol (and more). Therefore, the “memory” can also have an impact on the chemical balance.

 

There are suggestions that there is a genetic component to anxiety disorders. If you have been with someone who has anxiety you know that even before confirmation of his or her anxiety, you begin to tighten inside, your breathing tightens or stops, you feel nervous. If you are conscious of these feelings/experiences you may wonder why. Then as that person begins to communicate you can see she or he is anxiety ridden! There is a type of energetic contagion of the anxiety. Anyone can feel the need to breathe when with someone suffering with anxiety. Imagine growing up with that energy in the house. Imagine growing up with that person’s constant worry, irritability, thoughts of pending doom. There is a very real probability that you will “learn” to worry or think in terms of devastation, loss or doom. If you were a child of a parent suffering with anxiety in any of it’s forms, you intuitively experienced his or her suffering and opened your self to his or her worried thoughts, protectiveness, irritability, sleeplessness, etc. That openness allowed the anxiety to become an experience for you as well. It is something you lived with and may, consequently, cause you to worry about experiencing anxiety until one day … you experience it. Then, the thinking keeps the anxiety real and active. The pattern has begun.

 

Although, all of the above descriptions would lend to a belief that there is an actual precursor to experiencing anxiety, there really isn’t. There is “something” that interrupts the person’s life but the person may not experience anxiety at that time. Consequently, to find the original trigger or creator of the anxiety, it is critical to read the symbols around the anxiety experiences: when the anxiety initiates, how long it lasts, what the surrounding events and circumstances were (up to a week prior), and more. Anxiety feeds off of the vagueness of the triggers. It takes a skilled person to read the symbols so that the person suffering can begin to illuminate the original stressor. From there the healing begins. Once the person is aware of the triggers or precursors to the anxiety she or he is suffering, the preventive techniques and the treatment can be implemented with a much greater success rate.

 

In conclusion, the onset of anxiety may feel vague and without warning or a clear basis but there is an answer to the cause that can be found. It is critical to know that there is a way to heal. It takes team work. If it is you who suffers, you are not alone and do not need to suffer this alone. With a caring and skilled healer/professional, the techniques and treatments can free you from the prison of the thoughts and feelings of anxiety. Part 3 of this series will address the techniques and treatments. In the meantime, I thank you all for your interest, comments and participation.

 

Read Part ONE

 

Read Part THREE

 

3 Comments »

  1. Hello~
    I am a 41 year old mom of 2 kids (daughter 14; son 11). I have always been an anxious person and it seems to worsen with age. I have suffered from emetophobia since I was a child. I was impacted by the paragraph about living with someone who suffers anxiety. I did as a child and my kids now do. I have always tried to hide my anxiety and especially my emetophobia from my family, most importantly my kids. I never realized that you really can’t truly hide it.

    My daughter now struggles with emetophobia and anxiety. I hate this for her and I have no idea how to help her. Heck, I hate it for me too! I feel like it is my fault that I somehow taught her this. I wonder if we would benefit from seeing a therapist. I try to talk “sense” into her, but she tells me persuasion is futile 😉 Thanks for focusing on something that many people battle and seldom talk about.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 16, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  2. Anonymous,

    I can only imagine what this is like for you as a woman and THEN as a mom!! Remember, life is with great purpose. So everything that occurs has great purpose! In other words, it may be that you are going to stop this pattern of anxiety that has been in your lineage for some time. This also means that you cannot blame your Self! You need to find support in moving beyond feeling at fault for your children’s response to your suffering. It is life. Your gift of your own healing is the greatest gift you will ever give your children. They see your anxiety as causing suffering as did you as your mother’s child. Neither you nor your mom could have stopped life from happening (or unfolding) the way it did. What you can do, is begin the healing! It is an important part of your purpose!

    That being said, there are various things you can do to begin the healing. You and your daughter could do yoga, learn to meditate together, see a therapist, or something different. She is old enough for you to consider hypnosis. It is quick and very effective! You two could also learn how to communicate about the anxiety with a healing objective. As a mom, you are your children’s greatest healer. In my own practice, I will see parent-child dyads but will not see kids alone (unless extreme circumstance). It is because I believe the parents are the ones who can do the greatest healing of the children. If you would like more specific information, please feel free to contact me at my office and I will answer some specifics for you. 954-725-7200, no charge.

    Comment by kristen bomas — May 19, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  3. Kristen~
    Thank you for your reply. I agree that parents are a child’s greatest healer. I am very open to healing myself AND my beautiful daughter. It is very hard to try to explain what her and I feel to my husband, who does have an anxious bone in his body. I am going to look into hypnosis. It is imperative to me that my daughter gets help, as there is nothing harder than seeing your child struggle. I truly appreciate your help!

    Comment by Anonymous — May 20, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

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