Anxiety is sneaky, it creeps up slowly, without you being aware. With a generalised anxiety disorder can come panic attacks and that feeling like you’re going crazy.
This mixed-up tangle of thoughts, feelings and behaviors gets so wrapped up in your day to day life that after a while it can come to seem normal. It can certainly becomes a habitual state of living with little hope of peace.
Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks begin in the mind. This may seem an odd thing to say when it seems to be all about feelings and actions but it’s true, anxiety begins with your thinking or more exactly, with your negative, automatic and habitual thought patterns.
So how does it start?
As young children we absorb the world like a sponge does water. Our first influences are likely to be our parents, extended family and teachers. How they communicate with us and to us in these early years is essential to how we think about ourselves and our place in the world as we grow. If our parents are critical, undermining or abusive then this way of being and behaving will be normal for us and will have an effect on how we see ourselves. If our teachers are critical, sarcastic or otherwise belittling of us, then this will also have an impact on how we feel about ourselves.
Here’s a “for instance” of how an anxiety disorder can develop through early negative influences. Nothing heavy, just an everyday story…
Imagine being a child of, say, high-achieving parents who at all times expect you to be the best – not your best but the best. And imagine that all through school you achieve good grades, not the best, but good and that you’ve worked hard to get them. Now imagine that at every school report with your grades of A’s, B’s and the occasional C that your parents, perhaps without even being aware that they’re doing it – just let you know that they’re a bit disappointed. They don’t really say much but as a child you are very sensitive to all the signs – verbal and nonverbal (tone of voice, expressions, eye contact etc.) signs of their disapproval and them just feeling a bit let down. This child has heard this dialogue in it’s infancy, through school (never quite matching up to expectation) and into your teenage years.
So what have you, as a child – now teenager – learned about yourself? You have learned that you are a disappointment, have let your parents down and you will probably never amount to much. Your teachers have reinforced this internal story with sarcasm, intolerance and bullying. This is a really common story, happening everyday. It may be your story.
So what has this done to you, what negative thought processes have developed in your mind?
Does any of this sound familiar…
– “I can’t do it”
– “I’m not good enough”
– “There’s no point trying, I won’t be able to do it”
– “I’m a failure”
– “Nobody will love/like/want me”
– “I’m ugly/stupid/short/fat/weak”
– “I’m… insert your own words… ”
And this is where it starts. First these words (from other people, remember) dig deep into our minds where we begin to believe they are our own. These words then eat away at our confidence, our self esteem and our sense of self. Over time these words become our own thoughts which slowly deepen into unconscious and unquestioned beliefs. We come to believe the words that say we are worthless, not good enough and as these beliefs come to affect every aspect of our lives so our feelings of anxiety and panic deepen and become fixed.
I hope this goes some way to explaining some of the deeply unpleasant things that you may be happening for you. Each person’s experience of anxiety and panic will be different and unique but the underlying forces that shape these experiences are universal and based on mistaken beliefs and the lies of others.