What Creates Anxiety ?

What Creates Anxiety ?

Anxiety is an uncontrollable focus on a possible future threat, danger or other event that you believe will have a negative outcome.  You are thrown into a state of helplessness because you come to believe that you cannot predict, control or obtain your desired results. This is the feeling part of anxiety. There is also a physiological aspect of anxiety.

The physical part is activation of the brain circuits associated with engagement of the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF). It physically feels like a state of readiness, vigilance, or hyper-awareness – perhaps to counteract the emotional feelings of helplessness.

Cues or triggers can be narrow (test anxiety, sexual performance) that signal imminent performance. This results in an increase in self evaluation, self focus, and/or uncertainty of ability. Your attention narrows and you search for cues about this particular thing; your judgments are usually then biased. This leads to avoidance of the situation.

Worry, or concern over events is probably an attempt to control threatening or challenging events

The illusion of control

Your perception of your lack of control over potentially challenging or threatening events causes anxiety. Many people ignore hints of their lack of control and therefore, do not feel anxiety – not a bad strategy. In experiments, the researchers find little difference in the people’s abilities to perform (shown clearly in sex experiments). The vulnerability is not to sexual performance but to anxiety about sexual performance. Some situations get filled with threat, dread or apprehension  – think stage fright, tests, sexual performance.

Other factors influence anxiety

            Here are 2 other important factors:

1. Early learning experiences seem to focus anxiety on specific types of threat, for example, whether anxiety will show up as social anxiety (people related), somatic anxiety (body and illness related) or phobias (things like snakes, bugs). So, childhood experiences may become associated with certain worries that focus anxiety reactions on those particular concerns.

2. Genetics also play a role. It is estimated that genetics may account for between 30-50% of the variance of expressions of anxiety. Also, people who are temperamentally neurotic and negative are more likely to display anxiety.

Source: David Barlow. The nature and development of anxiety and its disorders. Winter, 2003 Eye on Psi Chi



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