Should we be surprised when anxiety strikes? If so is it valid to question; ‘Why me’?
It may also be useful to consider the type of person you are – your context – family origins, how you have progressed through life and the environment in which you find yourself. And therefore: ‘Am I the type of person to be living the type of life I’m living’?Let’s look closer at the circumstances and the person that ‘you’ are.
We are a complex mix of factors. These have commonly been termed: ‘Inherited’, ‘Conditioning’ and ‘Maintaining’ factors.
There are facts in life which we cannot ignore. The greatest of these is the fact that you have biological parents from which you inherit traits; good and bad. While the overall evidence of anxiety being inherited is inconclusive it is undeniable that we inherit a great deal of our makeup from our parents.
Parental influence passes to children through the genes. Personality is shaped by the two complementary components of heredity and the environment. The genetic endowment via chromosomes from each parent will define a child’s mental and physical characteristics. These are modified, matured and influenced by exposure to environmental effects. In the growing child, the influence of home and family are of supreme importance.
Parents influence children in developing their beliefs and conduct which can shape their future behaviour – through ‘upbringing’. When a child sees a parent responding with alarm or fear at a particular event or accident it can be expected the child will copy that response too, seeing it as the appropriate way to respond. This biological behaviour is seen widely in nature where the offspring copy parents closely in learning how to survive in their world.
Interestingly identical twins who carry a familial tendency to anxiety, even when brought up separately with dissimilar parents and under those parental controls, can still exhibit an inherited tendency to anxiety as depicted by their (affected) biological parents. There is also a similarly strong inherited link to agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces).
Anxiety disorders are said to be ‘taught conditions’. In this respect we are often conditioned to become fearful of certain objects or environments through false belief. Our parents can play a flawed but important role in the development of this.
For example, in terms of upbringing, parents may have been excessively cautious and overprotective in their view of the world being a dangerous place, or set standards too high for children to achieve. However well meaning, they may also belittle interests or suppress self assertiveness in the quest to provide good guidance.
This can lead people to lose self-confidence, fear the world – often without reason – or to believe that offspring cannot achieve a specific goal, or they may even resent trying due to fear of failure.
‘Maintaining causes’ are the influences in life which tend to perpetuate anxiety; the way an individual thinks, how they feel and how they cope with life’s events. These are best dealt with by avoiding anxious self talk, mistaken beliefs, withheld feelings and lack of self belief and the trigger factors which set anxiety in motion and which is referred to in the programme.
Becoming more established as an adult we ‘maintain’ our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour. The ‘conditioning process’ develops negative or positive patterns of thought, feelings and behaviour and can sustain our anxious feelings and contribute to the development of an anxious disorder.
ENVIRONMENT AND WELLBEING
A child’s progress is also geared to environmental factors that play a significant part in their conditioning; school and teacher relationships, parental pressure, love and security, success or the acceptance of failure are all contributors to development of the individual’s personality.
The experience of education and the friendships (and enemies) they make, the interaction with teachers, the nature of the locality where they live and the relationships they form in that locality all have an influence on wellbeing in positive and negative ways. It is through these and similar sources, such as being fearful of the school bully or certain teachers, that can generate anxiety from the immediate environment. So it can be seen that the accumulation of all these widely varying experiences contribute to how an individual interacts and responds with others and whether anxiety is generated through unpleasant historical causes.
Experiencing a number of negative experiences can lead to accumulation of anxiety and result in the beginning of a ‘disorder’.
Examples of Maintaining Factors are:
These are the inner catalogue of what we think of the issues around us. They can be sufficiently strong to make us feel uneasy and, if those feelings are constantly suppressed, can add to the inner conflict and so shape anxiety. In childhood we may have been encouraged to suppress our feelings such as anger, irritation and annoyance. It’s best to aim to shake off this aspect of the past and rid your mind of the likely turmoil associated with it. That will ease the anxious pressures that can be built from it.
Anxious self talk
’Self talk’ is the convenient label put on the inner voice that is a constant presence in your mind, helping prepare you for future actions and reviewing and interpreting the events of the day. In doing so that ‘self talk’ voice helps in your decision making and action plans.
This remarkably helpful engine however – more often than not – operates with a negative influence; constructing views that make you feel less able than you should be. It’s more like a brake to your progress than a fresh gear to progress. So It’s very important to be aware of it and to influence its actions by ensuring that it engages in positive thoughts, not negative ones. By practice you can change the balance of your inner self talk and so avoid a possible slide into anxiety.
As someone suffering from anxiety or panic disorder you may still be surrounded by a life full of stressful circumstances and which contribute to and maintain your current state. From this you are very likely to feel confused and puzzled by what to do and which way to turn to limit its effects. One of the important items that you can and should do to reduce the stress around you is to re-visit the choices that you make within your lifestyle. As we have mentioned in a previous blog there is an established link between lifestyle and anxiety and making better choices can alter your situation for the better.
Mistaken beliefs and a lack of purpose in life
How we feel about our own place in society and the value of what we consider we ‘contribute’ to fellow humans can be a source of real stress and which, if left un-resolved can be anxiety promoting. Self-defeating thoughts are any negative views you hold about yourself. A lack of purpose reflects one’s self esteem – whether we value or feel negatively influenced by what we do in life includes personal achievement, ‘status’, the job that we do, it’s value to others etc. Nobel prize winners have made major contributions to the welfare of mankind; but we cannot all be Nobel winners. Even some of those who do so are pleasantly modest about their achievements.
This state however can be a reservoir of sustained anxiety and self-training to overcome some of the basic fears associated with it becomes necessary. Such states often arise from childhood shyness and by slowly reducing its effects through experience – often found in the workplace – is sometimes sufficient to reduce or eradicate it. This state is not a result of any lack of IQ, or of inherited factors for they are simply a state of mind and can be altered by achieving refreshed mental skills largely as a result of thinking in a positive way rather than in a negative way. To correct this thinking process look for and find the things that you are good at and make them a more dominant feature in your life.
There are identified sources of maintained anxiety from this state; about behaving in a way that makes others confirm one’s inadequacy. Concern that any success achieved may not be sustained with the resulting rejection through incompetence producing the endless fear that it brings.
Such fears can be dissolved by developing a more positive mental outlook and each incremental gain will contribute to a fresh awareness of one’s value thereby relieving the associated anxiety.
High alcohol intake
Longstanding stressful situations almost invite the use of alcohol as a relieving process but with the real possibility of longer term over-usage and dependence. Many a reputation has been lost through this process. Far from helping to eliminate it, alcohol maintains a contribution to anxiety. For good reasons it should be, it must be, avoided.
This concerns the choices that are made on: friends, food, drink, work, alcohol, exercise, sleep, tobacco and any drug use. Cumulatively the choices that we make throughout each day construct our Wellbeing Framework and that is a very important health characteristic. What we do each day, the outside influences upon us, the people we associate with, what we watch on TV, what we read, who we may identify as a ‘role model’, the films we watch, what we eat all form a part of who we are and have a real impact on our lives, health and wellbeing.
This is part of our ‘conditioning’ and ‘maintaining’, and it affects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviour, self image, the perception others have of us and of our own ability to feel in control. These factors can shape our future and contribute to maintaining anxiety or can be the corrective route out of it.
While many people know exactly why they are anxious and suffer panic attacks, others do not. And while it often doesn’t help to over-analyse yourself and your life, it can, and does, help to understand and accept yourself and to break down and identify the possible causes. You can then take corrective action.