In his book Anxious, Joseph LeDoux states that fear and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric problems in the United States and that about 1 in 5 persons experience significant life disruption from these emotions.
Some of us are more vulnerable than others. The vulnerability comes from our genetic configurations, our life experience, and what we have been taught to think. Clients sometimes seem embarrassed to explain that they are “nervous” or are having panic attacks. It is always a relief to start by defusing any shame and turning on the understanding of how scientists are learning that chemistry plays a large part in what has been called a “disorder.”
Learning to re-think an issue that causes anxiety is a far better way to cope with symptoms of anxiety such as dry mouth, sweating, shaking, nausea, and palpitations than bracing to avoid them. Re-thinking replaces a negative image that may have been long stored in our cells with a new image. For example, the fear of speaking in public may continue to live in us as we remember a time when we forgot our lines in a play or froze up when we were expected to speak, or maybe misspoke and were blamed and ridiculed for it. Getting in touch with the negative image may take a little digging, but the result is well worth the effort. Imagine a different outcome. See the event unfolding in a positive way. See yourself there, reminding yourself to breathe and to be giving a gift rather than taking a test. Do it again.
Much of anxiety lies in our incorrect perception of something as a threat rather than a chance to learn and give. What causes you anxiety? When did it begin? Even seasoned worriers can learn to work with themselves instead of against themselves. We do not have to remain the 1 in 5 who continue to suffer disruption in our lives from anxiety.