As with most emotional disorders, the symptom is not the problem.
It is good for our brains to constantly watch for danger in seemingly trivial circumstances. Danger does not always announce itself loudly!
However, usually, most of us analyze the danger and, if it is nothing, turn it off even before our frontal lobes are aware of the concern. The problem in anxiety disorders is that the switches that turn off these unreasonable concerns are not functioning. The switches have all the connections that they need but not enough serotonin to do their job. Why?
We spend our serotonin faster than we can replace it in three ways.
- Circling on things that we can do nothing about,
- Making things bigger than they are in order to motivate (awfullize) and
- Stuffing or procrastinating and suppressing.
This non-functioning switch then allows useless worries to linger, which hypertrophies the part of the brain given to that worry and starts to recruit neighboring areas of the brain to join in. (Basic Rule: what you focus on-you focus on. As a man thinketh so is he!)
To escape anxiety requires:
Enhancing serotonin by decreasing the above three errors and possibly taking medications. Medications serve as a “walking cast” for the broken switches, but the goal is to change our spending habits.
Second, one must start to shrink the worry wort part of the cortex by:
- noticing myself doing it,
- assure my “habit brain” that it is OK to drop the worry,
- figure out what ordinary part of life the worry was going to keep me from grabbing.
- Then focus on seeing the importance of it and grabbing that with gusto, with all your might.
If you “yes, but” and justify the worry you are doomed!
You may say, “I know that worry is foolish, but…” and this tells the brain’s reaction governor, “Pretend we want to quit but don’t actually quit!” Worry dies slowly, so get support and accountability or you will give up. Refocus because it is healthy and life affirming, not because you get instant relief.
I call anxiety an arthritis of the mind. If one gives in to arthritis it gets worse, if one takes meds and fights it one continues to function.