Worry: How much is too much? – Exploring the Joy Superpower of Overcoming Anxiety

We worry…, all of us. Life goes fast and we are busy being busy. We worry before speaking in front of more people, we worry when we experience uncertainty or when we do something new or unknown, we worry about our jobs, finances, or relationships, about how we are perceived by others, and by any chance not to experience an embarrassing situation. It´s normal! It´s in our human nature to find a black cloud in the blue sky.

If people aren’t a little bit worried right now, that’s a problem,” says Jeffrey Devore, a behavioral health social worker at Henry Ford Health System (Devore, 2021).

So what is the border, when we reach the so-called “excessive worrying”? Starting with a worrying thought that eventually might emerge into further concerning thoughts. Give it a spin and you are likely to have a storm spiraling in your mind. This cognitive tension does not only affect mental health but can cause physical harm and emotional tension. Let´s explore anxiety, the most common of all psychological disorders.

What is Anxiety: Excessive worrying?

Anxiety is our natural emotional reaction to stress. Anxiety does not only help us to identify and respond to potential life threats, it also motivates us to face difficult challenges and helps us to perform better. But there is another side of anxiety (Mental Health Foundation, 2014).

When we worry, we temporarily worry in our minds about specific and realistic concerns that can be solved. However, when we are anxious, we experience persistent, intense physical feelings going through our bodies based on something that is irrational or vague. Once we worry too much without being able to control it and identify an obvious source, we might be dealing with an anxiety disorder.

If fear is fearful of something particular and determinate, then anxiety is anxious about nothing in particular and is indeterminate. If fear is directed towards some distinct thing in the world, spiders or whatever, then anxiety is anxious about being in the world as such. Anxiety is experienced in the face of something completely indefinite. It is, Heidegger insists, ‘nothing and nowhere(Critchley, 2009).

What causes Anxiety?

It is still unknown, but anxiety can develop from many uncontrollable factors and their combinations, such as genetics, medical condition, personality, and life events, such as financial stress, health issues such as heart attacks or injuries that affect mobility, or the death of a spouse or friend. Sometimes certain situations, like large social settings or noisy or unfamiliar environments, can cause anxiety (Kazdin, A. E.,2000).

Types of anxiety disorder

Except for specific phobias that are distinct with less grueling conditions, the five main grueling anxiety disorders are:

1.Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): A disorder characterized by chronic, persistent, excessive, and disruptive worrying, nervousness, and tension about everyday circumstances even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it long-termly difficult to control their anxiety, relax and stay focused on daily tasks(Kazdin, A. E.,2000).

2. Panic disorder: Discrete periods of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by specified symptoms, such as sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, or derealization, reaching the top intensity within 10 minutes (Simpson HB, Neria Y, Lewis-Fernández R, Schneier F., 2010).

3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Just like GAD, OCD is fueled by anxiety running on repeat. In contrast with several other anxiety disorders, there do not appear to be significant cohort effects. In terms of the symptoms, females are more likely to present with obsessions regarding contamination and aggression, whereas males with OCD are more likely to present with sexual obsessions, checking and repeating compulsions and needs for symmetry (Simpson HB, Neria Y, Lewis-Fernández R, Schneier F., 2010).

4. Social anxiety disorder (GAD): Fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual may be negatively judged, scrutinized, and/or rejected by others (Simpson HB, Neria Y, Lewis-Fernández R, Schneier F., 2010).

5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD remains one of only a handful of diagnostic entities that directly and casually link symptoms to a preceding event/experience. Field trials document 3 symptom clusters among individuals exposed to diverse traumatic events: (1) re-experiencing symptoms which are the most common, (2) avoidance/numbing symptoms, and (3) physiological hyperarousal.

Treatment

The first crucial step is to identify the source that is causing us to feel anxious. Anxiety disorders are typically treated using medical treatment or psychotherapy/cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or a combination of both (Ori R, Amos T, Bergman H, Soares-Weiser K, Ipser JC, Stein DJ., 2015).

However, medical treatment isn´t necessary for everyone. Certain lifestyle changes and healthy habits might be enough to deal with symptoms and make anxiety more manageable.

  • Retrain your brain and practice mindfulness. Self-care is not selfish; it is actually crucial!!!
  • Exercise is natural medicine. It boosts mood by releasing endorphins, improves sleep and reduces stress.
  • Challenge negative thoughts: is it a fact or is it a just story/assumption I’m telling myself?
  • Practice breathing exercises
  • Expand your comfort zone: Expose yourself to what makes you anxious in small doses, step by step

REMINDER: Don’t ignore the warning signs, you can save yourself a lot of stress by getting help sooner than later.

Do you feel like you worry way more than is considered reasonable? Do others think in your life that you are too anxious? Tell us your story down below or on social media using the hashtag #joysuperpowers. And don’t forget to get back next week for the Joy Superpowers podcast episode on overcoming anxiety, featuring the professional speaker and speaking coach, Nick Elston!

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