Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4 - Why?

What causes anxiety? Why are some of us more anxious than others? Is it nature? Or nurture?

I am gonna attempt to answer some of these questions today. There are a number of different possible causes and it varies for everyone. See what resonates for you...

On the first day of this blog series I mentioned one of the possible causes for my sudden outburst of anxiety a few years back. Stress. When we experience a handful of stressful situations that persist for an extended period of time, we often grow tired and sometimes even physically ill. Our bodies aren't made to continually be adding more heaviness, burden and transition without any breaks to actually deal with everything that is going on. Some of what might be considered stressful are actually wonderful life events (i.e. getting married, having a baby, being promoted, graduating etc.). Other situations might be more difficult to cope with such as financial pressures, moving, death of a loved one etc. In either case though, if we keep moving through life and adding stress upon stress it will eventually catch up to us and affect our bodies in one way or another.

Another possible cause of anxiety is heredity. Does that mean you inherit panic attacks somehow from your parents? Not exactly. What we do tend to inherit though is a particular personality type, some of which are more likely to be "set off" in an anxiety-provoking situation. This is actually a case of nature and nurture really though... While we inherit certain personality traits that may lead to greater reactivity in a tense situation, we may also observe such reactions in our parents and begin to pick up on them ourselves. It can be a combo of both.

Nurture continued... Some parenting styles have been shown to produce more anxiety in their children. For example, parents who are highly critical may raise children who have lower self-esteem, lack assertiveness or end up becoming overly perfectionistic. Parents who are highly anxious themselves may raise children who are extremely cautious and fearful of the outside world. Children who are not allowed to express themselves will likely grow up to be adults who have difficulty expressing their emotions as well. This suppression can lead to physical tension, panic and depression.

Biology... Studies have shown that people suffering from anxiety may have an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Serotonin and neuroepinephrine are two neurotransmitters that help regulate our moods and when our brains produce too much or too little of these chemicals we may experience depression or anxiety.

Finally, we may experience anxiety as a result of certain medical conditions. Menopause has a huge affect on a woman's hormones as does PMS. These hormonal fluctuations may lead to heightened sensitivity and extreme reactions to stressful situations. Thyroid irregularities can also lead to such physical reactions as insomnia, rapid heartbeat and sweating, symptoms which resemble panic and anxiety. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) has also been shown to cause panic attacks.
A quick tip - One of the first things I suggest for anyone experiencing anxiety is to get a medical eval. just to rule out any of the possible medical causes for your symptoms.

Okay, enough research. Do any of these possible causes seem like they fit you?

Let's move on to the fun stuff tomorrow. What do we do about our symptoms? How can we actually lessen anxiety?? We'll start on these tomorrow!

See you Day 5!

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