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Self Help Articles

Think Before You Re-act

(Author Unknown)

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People who suffer from anxiety often look for problems and complications to add to their existing difficulties. They perceive danger in perfectly ordinary situations.

So what happens when you perceive a threat? Can your mind tell the difference between a real threat and a thought that scares you? The answer of course is no.

Whether the threat is real of imagined, your mind reacts to the messages you are giving it. When you feel you are under threat or in danger, the body responds by bringing into play a number of physical changes so that you are primed to either tackle or escape from the supposedly dangerous situation as quickly as possible (The fight or flight response).

However, if the threat is not a immediate physical one, and your body has reacted only to a frightening thought that crossed your mind, your system will still be awash with the adrenalin your body has automatically produced. It is this excess of adrenalin which gives rise to all the distressing physical symptoms you may experience. These symptoms may also take some time to diminish while the adrenalin levels return to normal in your body.

This perception of danger in the mind is a misinterpretation of the situation and exacerbates the symptoms you may already be feeling. You may think to yourself: "This is it, I can feel my heart about to burst, I'm going to lose control, I'll never recover from this". And as you confirm these thoughts to yourself, the feelings worsen. This is the spiral of negative thinking which reinforces your automatic reaction. You're telling your mind the threat's still there, so it reacts with more adrenalin to face it... not much use in a supermarket checkout queue, or at a meal with friends.

But the feelings you experience are not dangerous, only unpleasant. They are normal, automatic bodily responses designed to enable humans to cope with danger - ideal for running from a tiger, but not so appropriate if you're sitting in an arm chair watching TV.

The good news is that these anxiety levels can only rise to a certain level and no further before they begin to come down. It's physically impossible for it to go beyond that upper level. If you could stick it out in the situation that is scaring you, after a while the anxiety levels you feel will come down. But since the physical symptoms can be so unpleasant, that's not really practical for most of us. Instead, a more realistic approach is to try to look anew at the situations that scare us and try not to perceive danger in the every-day events which other's take for granted. This will reduce the intensity and frequency of these attacks. It is within your own control.

You may have become so conditioned by your negative thinking, or your fear of certain situations, that just by anticipating things you bring on the physical response without even realising what you've done. However, you can interupt the physical symptoms at any time if you stop and try to think more realistically. Be positive and stop misinterpreting the situation. Don't anticipate and don't look for more problems.

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Wallsend Self Help Group 2015 Rob Rolls

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