The Mind – Fear, Anguish, Panic – Anxiety Explained

Updated: Jan 11

“Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses.”

Whenever I need a break from my many passions, I turn to Netflix. Sometimes I watch comedies, sometimes I watch documentaries, and soon I will be watching Christmas movie.

This past week I watched “The Mind – Explained”. I loved every episodes. There is so much we still don’t know about our minds. And the things that we already do know are fascinating.

Here is what I have learned from “The Mind – Explained: Anxiety, episode 2. Click here to watch the episode on Netflix.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses. If you start taking deep, fast breaths, you will experience the same symptoms you would feel during a panic attack. One of the many forms of anxiety.

Symptoms like:

  1. Feeling cold

  2. Unfocused

  3. Blurry vision

  4. Tingling in the limbs

  5. Sweating

  6. Unable to catch your breath

  7. Racing mind

  8. A need to “get out”

What happens to our body during anxiety?

Deep in the temporal lobes of the brain, we have a small almond shaped mass of called the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. As danger is detected, the amygdala triggers a series of events in our body.

Fight, flight, freeze.

There is a release of adrenaline throughout the body. Your heart starts to race, your breathing speeds up, lung passages expanded and certain blood vessels dilate. All this ensures that the muscles get enough oxygen to fight or to flee the danger. The muscles tense up ready for action, the eyes dilate to take in the immediate scene, and the peripheral view shrinks to focus on the danger in front of you.

Functions that are unneeded in the face of immediate danger are shut down. Digestion and sex drive are shut down. Blood flow is diverted away from the stomach and the skin… and nerves involved in arousal are turned off.

Why do so many suffer from anxiety?

Unfortunately, the amygdala can’t tell the difference between a real danger and a “perceived” danger. Worrying about the mortgage, the bills to be paid, or the end date that needs to be met, activates the same flight or fight response in our body. Fear, distress, anxiety… argh! Experiencing this level of adrenaline on a daily basis causes anxiety to get in the way of your life. At this point diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

Examples of anxiety

  1. Separation Anxiety: Fear of being separated from loved ones.

  2. Specific Anxiety: Example, fear of spiders called arachnophobia

  3. Social Anxiety: Fear of being watched and judged.

  4. Selective Mutism: Inability to speak in certain situations.

  5. Panic Disorder: Fear of losing control to the point of Agoraphobia.

  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Fear of uncertainty, of not knowing what will happen.

  7. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A fixation on impulses and thoughts.

  8. Trauma and stressor related disorders: Experiences like car accident or stressors like a divorce.

  9. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Related to the experience like combat, violent incident, or a stressor like divorce. Also includes Acute Stress Disorder and Adjustment Disorder.

Where does anxiety disorder come from?

Could be genes.. it can be passed down from a parent that has an anxiety disorder. Past experience can also cause anxiety. For example, one evening you are walking on a not so well-lit path near the woods and a bear jumps out from behind the trees and attacks you. You will now develop a phobia of the dark, or of the woods, or both. Understandably so. People with depression also have anxiety… science hasn’t figured out exactly why yet.

Are anxiety rates up?

A clinical research done in 2015 by Borwin Bandelow, MD, PhD; and Sophie Michaelis, MD found that : “There is no evidence that the prevalence rates of anxiety disorders have changed in the past years”. In 1906, the wireless telegraph was perceived as a threat to natural human interactions. It was believed to be the cause for anxiety, just like social media is being blamed for the same thing today. It seems that every generation finds its own struggles with anxiety.

How do we fight anxiety?

Well…. There are lots of meds out there to help with the level of serotonins in our system. It can take some time to find the one that works for you. Always educate yourself on the side effects of these meds.

Physical exercise causes your body to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain killer and giving us a sense of well-being.

Treatment options.

… suggested by Yvonne Ogbonmwan, PhD

Evidence-Based Therapies.

  1. Counseling

  2. Psychotherapy

  3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  4. Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)

  5. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

  6. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

  7. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  8. Family Therapy

Complementary and Alternative Therapies.

  1. Stress Management

  2. Meditation

  3. Movement like Essentrics, Yoga, Tai Chi

  4. Emerging Therapies

  5. Neurostimulation

  6. Acupuncture

  7. Psychoactive drugs

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Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses. We all know someone with anxiety, and we all have experienced various levels of anxiety in our lives. Full disclosure, I have been on Celexa since 1998. I now take a small dose of 10mg. Since then, I have tried a couple of times to function without it and have been unsuccessful. What has worked for me is meditation and exercise.

My go-to is though is movement. I believe that exercise is medicine. On the days that I am not active, I tend to easily feel various levels of stress and anxiety. I also feel still and have less energy. In contrast, on the days that I “move”, I feel a sense of wellness, calm and able to deal with anything that comes my way.

What is your go-to to deal with everyday stress and/or anxiety. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Yours in health,

Nancy Shimmy

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