Other posts in this category have already dealt with how early life experience of trauma can contribute to us becoming anxious adults, and, also, that the type of negative thinking (cognitive) style we may have developed as a result of the early trauma can perpetuate symptoms of depression and anxiety. But what are the other causes of excessive worrying and what are the other ways of dealing with the problem? It is to this question I now turn:
CAUSES OF ANXIETY / EXCESSIVE WORRY:
1) OUR GENETIC INHERITANCE: It seems we can inherit a predisposition towards anxiety genetically. This means, for example, if we have a parent who is very anxious, all else being equal, we are more likely to become anxious ourselves due to our genetic inheritance. (Also, of course, if we have a very anxious parent, we are more likely to develop anxious responses due to ‘learned behavior’ – ie modeling our behavioral responses on those of the anxious parent). However, the keyword here is ‘predisposition’; in other words, having an anxious parent will not guarantee that we, ourselves, will become anxious adults, but, rather, we will be more vulnerable to this happening if other factors also affect us in life (such as those detailed below):
2) LIFE EXPERIENCES: If we have suffered the experience of early life trauma, the damage done by this can be compounded (made worse) by going on to experience yet further trauma in later life. It is particularly unfortunate, then, that early life trauma can in itself create problems for us in later life, thus increasing the probability that further trauma will strike (which is one reason, amongst many others, why early therapeutic intervention is crucial for those affected by childhood trauma).
3) DRUGS: It is not just a side-effect of many illicit drugs which can create anxiety conditions; some prescribed drugs, too, can cause anxiety as a side effect. It is, of course, always important to ask doctors about possible unwanted effects of the medications they may prescribe.
4) INTERNAL CONFLICTS: Sometimes we behave in ways that CONFLICT with our own ideas and values, or the ideals and values we have INTERNALISED from our upbringing and culture (even if we have only internalized them on an unconscious level). Freud believed we all have such internal conflicts, a price he thought was paid for living in a ‘civilized society, in which we are compelled to repress many natural human instincts (for those who are interested, you may wish to investigate further Freud’s view of how the ‘Id’ (the name he gave to our instinctual self/basic impulses) and the ‘Superego’ (the name he gave to our conscience/moral selves, which develops due to learning from parents, teachers, society, culture etc) may be constantly ‘at war’ with each other.
Therapists who place emphasis on the link between INTERNAL CONFLICTS and ANXIETY tend to recommend what is known as PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.
5) NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS: This refers to how the brain we possess is physically set up or ‘wired’ Some of us are, it seems, ‘wired’ in such a way that our ‘internal alarm systems’ are highly sensitive. I have discussed in other posts how the brain’s physical ‘wiring’ can be affected by the experience of early trauma.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF WORRY :
The harmful effects of worry, quite apart from it being a painful state of mind in per se which stops us enjoying the present (many also worry about the fact that their worrying is spoiling their lives, thus adding an extra, even more superfluous, layer of suffering – this phenomenon is sometimes referred to as METAWORRY), include :
insomnia (e.g. trouble falling asleep. waking too early and being unable to get back to sleep, shallow, unrefreshing, broken sleep and nightmares) ; increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) / complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD); impairment of the immune system (and, therefore, of disease and premature death).
METHODS THAT RESEARCH SUGGESTS CAN BE USEFUL FOR REDUCING WORRY :
2. Accept worry, rather than fight it.
3. Distracting activities
4. Setting aside a 30 minute ‘worry period’ each day. This suggestion comes from Penn University, based upon their research. According to the researchers, it can help if, when a worry enters our head we :
a) identify and acknowledge it.
b) decide upon a time and place to think about the worry,
c) if the worry returns outside of the planned 30 minutes ‘worry period’, remind self you will think about it later
d) use the ‘worry period’ proactively and efficiently, focusing on solutions.
5. Physical exercise.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).