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Anxiety – What If It’s Lying to You?
It’s no secret that anxiety is on the rise. It seems every other person has it in some way, shape or form – and given recent statistics by Mind charity, it’s obvious why that might be.
In the UK it’s estimated that approximately 25% of the population struggle with anxiety. That’s just over 16 million people! Given these numbers, it’s safe to say that anxiety IS a problem… and a big one at that.
What if though, that what we’re told about anxiety and the way we manage it, is all wrong? That we’re just increasing the problem rather than actually dealing with it?
Many celebrities have spoken about their mental health struggles and it’s great that mental awareness is increasing and the associated stigma decreasing. The problem is, that along with the increasing awareness and the number of people famous or not speaking out about it, the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are also massively increasing, which is not good news.
Before we go any further, let’s start by defining ‘what is anxiety?’ Anxiety, simply put, is fear of the future. That’s it. It’s something healthy and normal that we all experience.
We all experience anxiety at different times within our life: before you sit an exam or give an important presentation, or before a big meeting or a talk. The palpitations, the sweaty palms, the racing thoughts, the dry mouth. Welcome to anxiety!
I’m willing to bet good money that if you’re reading this, you have experienced those symptoms at least once in your life, right?
It’s fear of the future. Some would say it’s fear of the unknown, but if we look into what we label as the unknown, we’ll find that it’s a specific outcome we’ve created in our mind that gives us that feeling of … guess what… fear.
It’s funny how that thought is always an undesirable one like, what if they laugh at me? Or what if they reject me? Or what if I get up to present and my mind goes blank? Or what if I leave the house and die? These are a sample of thoughts that go on in our mind and we either leave them lingering there without a response or we assume that the absolute worst will happen.
People who have these racing, overthinking – ‘what if?’ – episodes constantly are then labelled with anxiety disorder.
Generalized, health, social – whatever the label you want to place on the anxiety – in their essence and at their core all stem from fear. It’s important that we clarify this point because the myth of it being due to a chemical imbalance is still floating around. This myth was never even proven and has no evidence supporting it whatsoever, so debunking it, although possible, is pointless.
Another myth and misconception which is detrimental to those experiencing anxiety is that once you have it, congratulations you’re done and it’s a lifelong sentence you must learn to live with. That the best you can do, is learn to manage it or adopt a few breathing techniques to cope with it. This is a very arrogant approach due to a widespread misunderstanding of the issue and occasionally stems from ignorance.
It would seem that people everywhere are being labelled with and diagnosed with anxiety by a wide array of people from their doctors, to friends, to family and most importantly by Google.
As we said in the beginning, anxiety is on the rise and as it’s 1 in 4 people, it is a problem. However, that being said, the generally accepted way of dealing with this problem is by treating it with anti-depressants and tranquillizers. Although for some this may seem like a good solution, it really isn’t and here’s why:
Anxiety is a symptom of fear. Medication only provides symptomatic relief. This means that for the majority, they will become dependent on lifelong medication to “cope” with their anxiety. Many people become zombified or numb due to the side effects of the medication and therefore nothing is really fixed.
If we truly and genuinely want to begin resolving anxiety “disorder” and issues, then we need to look at it from the root cause and eliminate it from there. If we do that, then we will be doing many people a great service as they will then overcome their issue rather than live a life where they have to live with/ cope/ manage it.
The manner in which we deal with the underlying fear is down to the preference of the individual and although I have my bias on specific methods and techniques, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat.
My suggestion would be to explore down the following routes though:
- Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Talk therapies (although these can take years for resolution)
It’s a case of us asking ourselves, do we really want to breed an ever-growing population of people dependant on medication and experiencing the world numb? Or help them to overcome their fear so that they can go back to being themselves and enjoying life?
Article written by Omar Raafat