Why am I so anxious? It’s the first question that anyone who suffers with anxiety wants answering, and with good reason. If a problem is perceived it’s the first step in looking for a solution. Understanding what goes on and why is a good first step in the process to recovery.
Any psychological problem can be broken down into three general categories. First there are the vulnerability issues. These are the predisposing factors that make you who you are. Next come the triggers that set off your anxiety. Thirdly are all the factors that conspire to_ maintain_ your anxiety. I’ll unpack each of these a little more.
Vulnerability to anxiety can run in families. Think about your parents or grandparents. Do you see in some of them what you see in yourself? There is some evidence that supports the idea of anxiety being passed on but it’s a bit difficult to unpick from the effect of being brought up by an anxious parent. Which leads us to the second major vulnerability issue and this environmental in nature. Anyone who has been brought up in an insecure, unstable, emotionally starved or possibly hostile environment is likely to be more vulnerable to developing anxiety problems. A young developing mind makes sense of the world by what it is exposed to. It follows that a mind set of beliefs that the world and the people in it are unreliable or threatening. Once laid down such beliefs become entrenched and are regarded as ‘the truth’.
Triggers for anxiety can be the same for most people but for those who are vulnerable to anxiety the effects can be more far reaching. Psychologists sometimes refer to certain triggers as critical incidents when it becomes clear the influence they have had on anxiety. These critical incidents can range from relationship issues, to bullying, to physical illnesses or disabilities, to financial problems.
Anxiety has a way of hanging around, sometimes for a lifetime. The sheer persistence of anxiety is fueled byavoidance of uncomfortable situations and the tendency to interpret things in particular ways. This invariably leads to the estimation that things will be much worse, more threatening or more dangerous than is actually the case.
In summary it is the vulnerability, the triggers and the maintenance factors that combine to make the anxious mind. In other words, this is why you are so anxious.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.