Eight Interesting Facts about Anxiety

February 10, 2020
How many types of anxiety are there? To what extent are all our concerns plausible? Are we rational when we experience anxiety? Discover the answers to these and other questions about anxiety.

Undoubtedly, the era that we live in is an era of anxiety. The latter refers to that emotional state characterized by a cold feeling in our stomach, a tight knot in our throat, and worries at the mental level. There’s been a lot of research about it. However, in this article, we’ll bring you some facts about anxiety you may not know.

Moreover, it’s true that sometimes we don’t pay much attention to it. It comes out of the blue but goes away quickly. This isn’t the case for everyone, though. For some, it stays longer than they’d like. In fact, when an individual gets carried away by anxiety, they can end up trapped in terrifying scenarios. This explains why some people say that having anxiety is a future-related illness.

As we mentioned above, certain aspects and data regarding anxiety still remain unknown. Are you ready to find out what they are? Let’s begin!

Anxiety and the rational brain

One of the most known facts about anxiety is related to its relationship with fearing the future. The human brain despises uncertainty. Not knowing what will happen and not feeling in control can truly take a toll. Thus, when you’re facing an unknown situation, thousands and thousands of worries begin to run through your mind. Meanwhile, the amygdala, an almond-shaped brain structure characterized by being the bank of emotional memory, monitors everything that’s happening.

When the amygdala detects a dangerous situation, it immediately activates the alarm signal. As this happens, it releases hormones such as cortisol and dopamine into the bloodstream. These will help fight for your survival and anticipate what’s coming next. However, when this happens, there’s no going back. At that moment, the rational brain is shut off.

As you can see, although the amygdala has good intentions, its operating system has somewhat primitive characteristics. As a consequence, we’ve become more instinctive and end up responding inaccurately to stimuli.

Most concerns aren’t worth paying attention to

Worrying is part of being human. In fact, we’re programmed to do so, to anticipate what may happen to then think of alternative plans in order to survive.

Now, it’s not the same to do it from time to time than in a continuous way. In fact, a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University arrived at the conclusion that 91% of the worries we have on average end up being a waste of energy. We’re so afraid of the consequences of certain events that may not even happen in the first place.

American author Earl Nightingale said that 40% of our worries will never happen. He divided the percentages this way; 30% are related to the past. Therefore, worrying about it wouldn’t change anything. 12% are unnecessary concerns about our health and 10% are small and almost meaningless or unconnected concerns. With that being said, only 8% of our worries are worth paying attention to.

This helps us to reflect on the future and everything we think, imagine, and fear. In reality, the main protagonist of all these elements is fear. Let’s do the test right now.

For example, take a minute and ask yourself what worries you the most and what events you think are the scariest. Think about them and, a year later, check if they actually happened. You’ll be surprised.

A man suffering from anxiety.

Types of anxiety

There are two types of anxiety.

  • The first type of anxiety is more adaptive. It aims to protect us from potential dangers; things that can harm us or cause suffering. This is called rational anxiety. It’s normal to experience it in situations such as before a job interview or while waiting for an important response.
  • The other is a more irrational type of anxiety. It makes us perceive anything and everything in a catastrophic way, leading us to believe we’re unable to cope with it. For example, a person may think they’re not going to do well at a job interview and that they’re going to end up homeless and unsuccessful. Another example would be to think someone’s never going to talk to us again after a fight.

Regarding irrational anxiety, it’s typical to experience anguish and great discomfort that’s almost impossible to control. It spreads throughout the entire human body and hinders day-to-day development.

Thinking that everything’s important, one of the main facts about anxiety

Anxiety makes us believe that everything is important, so it becomes very difficult to establish priorities when we experience it.

Any detail can trigger it. Anything, no matter how little or insignificant, can affect what we do. This is why human beings feel the need to be in control. On top of that, this scenario can become much darker if the individual experiencing this is already a perfectionist.

At this point, the person doesn’t worry only about the words coming out of their mouth. Instead, they’ll be paying attention to the clothes they wear, how they behave, or how a particular person influences them in a particular event. Everything is decisive, everything exerts influence in them, leading them to become obsessed with control. Evidently, it’s pretty impossible to be in control of everything. Consequently, feeling overwhelmed and stressed will be part of their day-to-day.

Avoidance increases anxiety

It seems natural to avoid any stimulus or situation that produces anxiety. Avoiding anything that may cause anxiety gives rise to a sense of relief. The catch in this is that, in the long term, if this strategy becomes the usual way of dealing with fear, it may end up making things worse.

Constantly avoiding or running away from certain situations hinders us from verifying just how harmless they might be. Instead of facing the problem, we look the other way and let the fear stay inside. No matter how scary we believe an event might be, the best thing to do is to let it happen in order to see if it speaks of real danger. Running away will only maintain our irrational ideas, making our anxiety increase significantly.

In addition, avoidance limits our life in such a way that it can have consequences on our mood and cause even more problems.

Facts about anxiety: the masks underneath

This is one of the most curious facts about anxiety. In certain cases, anxiety may be the reason behind some emotions such as sadness, anger, and even pain. It may also lie underneath procrastination, lack of sleep or excessive sleep, and the incessant need to eat or lack of hunger.

However, there’s also a silent and inexpressive type of anxiety. People who suffer from it usually look cool, calm, and collected, although they’re full of fear on the inside. Many of them may not even know they have anxiety.

A woman looking through a window.

Cultivating a sense of hope may help reduce anxiety

The anxious mind has the almost absolute conviction that what’s to come is dangerous and threatening, especially if it’s unknown. The fear of uncertainty is more common than you think. Believe it or not, most people in the world feel insecure about their future. Now, although there are different approaches and therapies when it comes to treating anxiety, there are also strategies that can be useful, such as cultivating hope.

Psychologist and University of Houston professor Matthew Gallagher and his research team conducted a study that showed that working on sense of hope in therapy can be of great help because it helps the person change their way of thinking, feeling, and perceiving reality.

Think about it: hope actually is the opposite of fear. Hope implies trusting that things aren’t going to go south or that they can at least improve. It’s a philosophical, spiritual, and emotional aspect that also enhances resilience and growth.

One of the most crucial facts of anxiety: the weight of self-demand

Being self-demanding isn’t a problem. In fact, it can help us grow as individuals since it pushes us to be better. What’s the issue, then? Well, becoming too demanding with ourselves can change our internal dialogue and turn it from regular into catastrophic.

Sometimes, it’s not about what we demand but how we demand it. It’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves during our growth process. Self-demanding in a destructive way ends up harming.

Moreover, self-demand in itself is something to be careful with. On one hand, it may help a person’s development and, on the other, it may fill them with more anxiety. The issue lies in the phrases “I have to” and “I should”. Don’t let those ideas define how you should be and behave. Self-awareness is important in order to choose the right path.

Also, believing that you’re never enough is a bottomless pit of anguish. Once you’re in, it becomes extremely hard to get out. The worst part of this train of thought is that anxiety is the main protagonist.

These are only some facts about anxiety. In reality, the world of this illness is as mysterious as it is complex. As time goes by, more and more pieces of research are developed, giving us all the more surprising information regarding it. Anxiety is that emotional state we all must respect and study in order to better understand ourselves and others.

  • Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology78(2), 169–183. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018555