Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
We all have anxiety. At its most basic level, anxiety is an evolutionary trait tied to our survival (“fight or flight”). It’s primitive and automatic.
Anxiety is an evolutionary trait
An illiterate (and unbathed) primal being lives within all of us. He wears a loin cloth around his nether region and leather thonged huaraches on his callused feet. At times, he mistakenly believes a saber tooth tiger is lurking in your office building, sniffing you out cubicle to cubicle; and sometimes this ancient being inside you will request you mark your territory prior to standing your ground and/or make yourself lighter by emptying your bladder so that you can run as fast as humanly possible from the saber tooth tiger hunting you that, to reiterate, does not actually exist in your office workspace.
It’s really just your boss who sent you a cryptic email that said: Please come see me in my office at 3 PM today. With absolutely zero other context. Oh, no. I’m going to lose my job! Then I won’t be able to pay my mortgage and I’ll lose my house. Oh, what’s that? You just need help embedding a PDF into a Word document.
Occasional anxiety is normal
Occasional anxiety is perfectly normal. (1) You feel a bit nervous standing before your co-workers when giving an important presentation. Your heart races. Your throat dries. (2) A touch of panic comes over you the morning of final exams when you sit at your desk and the paper exam is placed down in front of you, your #2 pencil just to the right. (3) A cop hits his blue lights while you are driving down the interstate and the hair on your arms stands up or a shiver sprints up your spine.
Anxiety is normal — except when it’s not
It’s when the frequency and severity of your anxiety begins to leak into your everyday life, or worse, floods your everyday life, and paints detailed imaginings of terrible causes and effects that it is no longer normal, but a disorder.
And while we all have anxiety, only some of us suffer from an anxiety disorder.
The hair standing up on your arm when seeing a cop is one thing, even if you were only going 61 in a 55 and think those blue lights are intended for you. Vividly imagining the blue lights that race by you are headed to a horrible car accident involving a tractor trailer and someone in your immediate family four miles down the road, and picturing the scene as if it were produced by Emmanuel Lubezki on a Hollywood set frame by frame before, during, and after a fatal crash that may or may not—the answer is: likely not—have even taken place is a whole different ballgame.
That, my friend, is when you suffer from an anxiety disorder—whether you realize it or not. And every day that passes when you let anxiety run uncaged, wild and free, in your mind, feeding it a steady diet of panic and low- and high-level stresses, it grows stronger and stronger, affirmed in itself and its beliefs in the neurosis it brings to your mind and daily life.
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