"The feeling of having in the middle of my body a ball of wool that quickly winds itself up, its innumerable threads pulling from the surface of my body to itself" (Franz Kafka).
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just a touch of nerves. As we shake and sweat, it feels like adrenaline is flooding our body, and we are left tense and irritable as our thoughts go wild. We are put in a constant state of fight or flight, and so our body is ready for action but our mind is left dazed and confused.
Anxiety tends to be organised into the following disorders –
Often anxiety and depression arise together. According to Dr Gregg Henriques, this is because “they both respond to problems in living and functioning”. Henriques explains that “anxiety orients toward future problems to be avoided” and “depression toward past losses and the futility of future investment” (Dr Gregg Henriques).
Anxiety on the increase?
The Office of National Statistics reports that 20.9% of people rate their anxiety levels at 6 or more out of 10, and Anxiety UK reports that the economic downturn has only made things worse: "What we are finding is that people who might ordinarily have managed their anxiety quite well have been tipped into new territory by being made redundant or having to adapt to new life circumstances" (Nicky Lidbetter).
Some argue that we have become more anxious because we have more choices in life. According to Professor Pieter Kruger, “from research we know that people with no choice are significantly more resilient because they can blame life or other people when they make a wrong decision. But if you make a wrong decision having had a range of choice, you have no one to blame but yourself. We become much more obsessive because we want to make the right decision every time”.
Arguably an evolution in the way we use technology has served to worsen our anxiety levels. I have previously written an article on digital addiction (please see links section below), and Claire Eastham adds that technology offers us “a window to the world that not only provides a constant stream of news (which in itself can be a cause of anxiety) but also enables me to keep up with anyone from friends to Kim Kardashian”. Is it any wonder that we are anxious?
If anxiety attacks, how can we fight back?
Here are some ideas -
Dr Gregg Henriques offers the following structure as a starting point in assessing our anxiety (and, in fact, our depression) –
Anxiety is real, and it is horrendous when it takes hold. And perhaps it is on the increase, with the onslaught of a changing economy and ever-evolving technology. But there are ways to fight back. That much is within our control.
Chris Warren-Dickins BACP Registered Counsellor
Counselling and coaching blog