Having grown up in a family, where each and every behavior was cloaked in a thick blanket of anxiety, I am all too aware of its effects. Imagine, if you will, telling your mother about the great time you had playing sandlot baseball and she replies: “So, you had a great time. Were you wearing a helmet for God’s sakes?! You know those hardballs could cause a brain stroke or worse even make you into a vegetable! Speaking of your brain, have you used it lately to do your homework, instead of just lollydollying around? God forbid, you should get an A on your homework!”
Sometimes anxiety has positive effects. Consider Woody Allen, who, had he grown up in a different, less anxious environment, would have never honed the incredible comic genius which he possesses. Your average astrophysicist probably didn’t get there by not doing his homework nor being a triple type A personality. And those downhill skiers hitting 80 plus miles per hour may not have made it with an intact brain and body, had not their mothers constantly been on them to wear that helmet.
Still, for many anxiety sufferers their lives are ruled by a constant sense of something awry. This in turn can cause insomnia, poor work and social skills and even depression.
Often, specific situations elicit anxiety-termed phobias. Botaphobia denotes fear of heights. Cyberphobia, which many technology impaired folks like myself have, refers to fear of working on computers. Ephebiphobia recalls the fear of teenagers. In fact, on the website: www.phobialist.com over 550 phobias are listed. I have asked that Palinphobia be added to the list. Palinphobia is a fear of listening to Sarah Palin make mincemeat of the English language.
Certain triggers such as alcohol, stimulant drugs (ie crank, cocaine) and caffeine can ratchet up the anxiety to a point where it becomes incapacitating. A panic attack results when your brain can no longer still the quivers. You start breathing fast, your chest may hurt, your hands and feet feel numb and you are convinced that you will die.
You won’t die and next week I will discuss how to prevent and treat those feelings which make you feel that way.