Anxiety, Why Can't I Shake It?

Do you ever worry about things that you don’t think you need to be worried about?  Do you convince yourself that you have blown your latest project at work even though you have a record of success?  Do you panic because you think you might flunk a test even thought you have never had a bad grade?  Are you afraid to do things even when you want to do them?

I often hear people say that they worry even when they don’t believe there is truly something to worry about.  Sometimes people experience fear when there is nothing to be afraid of.  Often this fear and worry can be overwhelming and have significant impact on the quality of a person’s day to day life.  It’s exhausting and comes with some very uncomfortable physical symptoms. These physical symptoms may include: shortness of breath, a rapid heart beat, sweating, stomach aches, tension, and tightening in the chest.  It is not uncommon for individuals to think they have serious health problems or avoid situations to try and keep these uncomfortable symptoms away.  So, why do people have anxiety and fear when it doesn’t make sense?  

We all have an array of experiences, interactions as well as exposure to the world we live in.  Some experiences are easy and build our sense of confidence.  Other times, we experience frightening or upsetting events.  Some people simply have an internal system that tends to be more anxious than others.  What we do know is that when you experience an event that is upsetting or traumatic, it can be difficult for your brain to process especially with prolonged exposure.  

Living in the world we are faced with disturbing events or interactions.  These negative experiences often leave us feeling sad, anxious, and upset.  However, after a good nights rest and perhaps some reflections with a friend or family member, the bad feelings subside.  Other times the feelings of anxiety and panic stick with us even when the disturbing event is over and no longer a relevant problem.  This is when the upsetting or traumatic event was too much for the brain to process. It’s kind of like how your stomach feels when you eat too much birthday cake.  The system is overwhelmed.

One can feel stuck with the feelings and body reactions associated with the upsetting event.  Although the upsetting situation is no longer a real threat or it is over, you can still feel the emotions and bodily reactions as if the disturbance is currently happening.  This type of reaction can be the result of something experienced long ago.  Perhaps you were in an accident, were abused, or had a traumatic ending to a relationship and still feel triggered by that experience.  You could have experienced something more recent and can’t seem to shake the fears and difficult emotions associated with the experience.  What is happening is that the emotional part of your brain is overriding the rational part of your brain.  You might be saying to yourself that everything is okay and that all is well but your emotions and body keep reacting as if there is a serious problem.

This is a good time to seek professional help.  A trained psychotherapist, especially one who has been trained in EMDR, can help you recover from your difficult experience and help alleviate the on going anxiety.  Your brain and nervous system need some help to recover from the emotions associated with the upsetting and difficult experience.  EMDR is an evidence based therapy that allows your brain to reprocess the disturbing memories so that you can apply your rational and accurate belief system and therefore reduce or eliminate your anxiety.