SF Counseling Center

Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Anxiety is a problem which has many faces.  Many times we do not even know we are experiencing anxiety.  To make matters even worse, when we don’t know we are anxious, we cannot deal with the problem, respond appropriately, or deal with our mate properly.

What does anxiety look like?  Many of the signs and symptoms are what you would expect.

  • nervous
  • insecure
  • difficulty sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep, or with sleep that does not rejuvenate)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling restless, edgy, keyed up
  • tiring easily
  • irritability
  • increased muscle tension
  • feelings of apprehension or dread
  • anticipating the worst
  • watching for signs of danger
  • headaches
  • pounding heart
  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue

Here are some signs or symptoms you may not expect feeling:

  • grouchy
  • gloomy
  • aggressive – sometimes we use aggression to quiet others when we are anxious, and something about our interaction with them is increasing our anxiety (think of the parent who threatens the child in the back seat for being too disruptive)
  • lazy (afraid to move forward, also, all one’s energy being sapped by anxiety.
  • self-involved (this is not always the only reason, but when one is busy managing a problem – including anxiety – they can look self-involved)
  • talking:
    • incomplete thoughts
    • dominating conversations, including interrupting
  • procrastination (OK, doesn’t seem to make sense, right?  However, for some people, the anxiety about doing a task, being able to do it, being good enough, etc., can make the task daunting.  They end up putting it off until they have no choice.  If it does not turn out as great/good as it ‘should,’ they have the built in excuse that they did not have time to do their best.

How anxiety impacts our lives:

Anxiety often limits us.  It prevents us from living up to our potentials.  One way this happens is that we do not attempt things because of our anxiety.  Fearing feeling anxious, we may limit ourselves and our lives.

Anxiety can affect our relationships in many different ways.  Here are a few of the possible ways:

  • We can look to our partner to help us manage our anxiety.  At times this can be fine, but at times we can expect too much.  Moreover, we often do not even realize we are doing this.  This can have roots in early childhood, for example when a parent (for example, mother) looked at the bruise, kissed and reassured us, and we could forget the problem and return to play.  However, now, sometimes we risk overwhelming our partner by dumping our anxiety onto them.  Now we (a) are both overwhelmed, (b) are seen as the source of THEIR anxiety and possibly (c) end up in a fight (which is probably more about the anxiety rather than whatever SEEMS to be the focus of the fight).
  • We can experience our partner as the cause of our anxiety.  Besides whatever demands our partner really does put on us, we can also experience our partner as putting undue demands on us. These might be ways in which we THINK they expect things from us, and then we react negatively.  One example may be that at some deeper level (perhaps unconsciously) we worry about being abandoned.  We come to think that if we are not perfect, our partner will leave.  Then we can find any number of ways to feel that our partner is putting excessive pressures on us.  We can get angry at our partner; perhaps even feel tyrannized by our partner (without consciously realizing our part).
  • We can try to get our partner to take the anxiety for us.  For some people, or in some situations, we can try to make our partner take our anxiety for us.  In these cases, we induce our partner to feel anxious and we no longer experience the anxiety.  One example may be the backseat driver.  This person keeps “giving helpful feedback” to the driver, until the driver is a nervous wreck.  Peculiarly, the backseat driver is no longer anxious.

What can we do about anxiety?

Some things that may be useful for managing anxiety include:

  • meditation
  • listen to guided meditation recordings
  • increased exercise
  • discontinue caffeine
  • regulate sugar intake
  • consider other possible lifestyle changes
  • and of course, therapy.

Therapy can be extremely useful for managing anxiety.  Not only for learning skills to manage the symptoms of anxiety, but for getting to the reasons for our anxiety.  What drives YOUR anxiety, not just anxiety in general?  Are there fears that your success will cause problems in your relationship with a parent?  Fear of abandonment?  Getting to understand the underlying causes of your anxiety, and dealing with those causes can be extremely important.   Medication can be an important adjunctive treatment on the way.


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