What is anxiety? What are panic attacks?

Welcome – This is the top level page of a section of the website where we focus on all forms of anxiety, anxious behaviour, emotions, feelings and explore in detail the many types of anxiety disorders that are very prevalent in our world today. This particular page will give you the headlines and you can drill down into more detail via the internal links and the topics listed in the sidebar to the left of this page. You can read our disclaimer here.

We have written this whole website from the following perspectives:

  • We know how to lessen anxiety, you know how to make it (keep an open mind)
  • Sympathy just prolongs anxiety – do whatever you need to do to take back control
  • Humans are not victims of anxiety, we unknowingly create it within ourselves
  • To release the grip of anxious feelings you will also have to change other aspects of your life
  • Flight or fight is only a fraction of the story (and it bores us, adrenaline can be your friend)
  • Quietening the mind (which is hard) is fundamental to moving on
  • Your self-beliefs will need to be updated
  • It takes time, effort and determination to mend yourself (there is no quick fix) however , it is possible

In basic terms what is anxiety?

Simply put, anxiety is the unconscious body / mind’s way of keeping you safe from danger by hijacking your body with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that result in you moving towards one thing or away from another. This process has worked brilliantly for thousands and thousands of years and was working inside us long before we had language and long before we worked in an office with a horrible boss etc. In error, we consciously project our anxiety onto people, places and situations blaming them for generating our responses.

When, in fact, all that is happening is; we are unconsciously having an emotional reaction to a stimulus that our unconscious thinks is dangerous to our well-being (as an unconscious animal) and then we look for the logic and reason why (and how to stop it) with our conscious mind (which is rational and human in nature).

So the conscious mind and the unconscious body send you on a merry dance of racing thoughts and overwhelming emotions, however, they are on two very different wiring circuits and don’t really communicate very well. As you discover on the program this is key to treating all anxiety disorders. That is why you can’t think or analyse your way out of anxiety, although most people try to, therefore, understanding what is anxiety and what is a learned behaviour is really important. So, when we contemplate ‘what is anxiety?’ we need to do it from a quite primitive point of view.

How many types of anxiety are there?

As far as we are concerned here, all anxiety is just anxiety, however, it comes in many flavours and how much we let it rule us varies from person to person. The anxiety conditions that we are interested in are:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder GAD
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD
  • Situational Anxious Responses – Phobias
  • Excessive worry and expecting the worst to happen
  • Paranoia and Scary Thoughts
  • Out of control based phobias like the fear of dying (Thanatophobia)
  • Agoraphobia and unconscious strategies that keep you stuck at home

* This program is not aimed at those with bi-polar depression, schizophrenia or conditions like autism 

Why do I have an anxiety disorder?

The question is irrelevant, however, when a person is having anxious episodes they often say “why is this happening to me?” You might find out or you might not, it doesn’t really matter – the right question to ask yourself is “What do I need to do to get out of it?”

We feel that there are 3 main sources of anxiety, firstly being trained to be anxious by a parent, for example; if a child sees their father being nervous on a plane, then the child may assume that planes are really scary because if their dad is scared, well, it must be really bad. Or if a child’s mother was always saying “be careful, stay away from men” this may setup fearful behaviours that start the cycles of anxiety.

The second way that anxious behaviours are formed is following on from trauma, we have noticed a pattern that we see repeated daily with the clients we treat face to face for anxiety,  it seems that about 6 months after a traumatic event, such as, bereavement, relationship breakdowns, losing a job or excessive stress at work, anxiety can often manifest itself as a sign that all is not well and that we should listen to our bodies. In this instance we can’t really tell the difference between what is anxiety and what is exhaustion or adrenal fatigue.

Thirdly, events that are distressing can initiate anxious feeling that change our behaviours to try and keep us safe (although safe might not be good for living life) for example; if a person was mugged, the anxiety may try to keep them at home (agoraphobia) by making them anxious when they go out, therefore is trying to keep them safe. Remember, most of the strategies used to control anxiety are unconscious and may well cut off our noses to spite or face!

So, forget the why or the what is anxiety, and ask yourself how? The program teaches you all you need to know about your thoughts and emotions so you can let go of asking why.

Taking fear out of the symptoms of anxiety

 There is so much talk about the fight or flight response when people discuss anxiety disorders, however, that is just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to understand. For now, all that you need to comprehend is “an emotion is only an emotion” if I had butterflies in my stomach (fear) because I was afraid to fly I might say that was bad, if I had butterflies in my stomach before kissing someone I might say that was good (excitement) and if I had butterflies in my stomach because I was about to give a speech I might say that was appropriate (to some degree).

And it’s the same for shaking – if I was shaking I might associate it with fear and that would be bad, or. if I was cold, I would shiver and that is OK and I might ski down a mountain and have an adrenaline rush and be shaking and comment “wow, let’s do that again!” So, as you explore just what is anxiety a whole new vista emerges.

For now, just hold in mind that all emotions are the same, the body can only do 10 or 12 things that manifest in a physical response – how we interpret that feeling is often where we go wrong, often we use that feeling as proof of something, this is flawed and on the program we teach you how to work effectively with your emotions so they don’t overwhelm you.

How do I get rid of anxiety?

When engineers look at a complex piping process they are trained to recognise that in some areas, just a small change to a pump or a valve will make a huge difference to the running of the whole system, yet in other areas removing the pump or the valve will only make a tiny difference. Therefore, good engineers know where they need to focus their attention to get the best out of the whole process. Where to look and what to do so the minimum effort is rewarded by the maximum change it is called efficiency.

Well, anxiety is a bit like that. Most people don’t know how to let go of anxiety (if they did they wouldn’t have it) and typically, they focus on the areas that they think will bring the biggest change, sadly, and commonly, they look in the wrong places and spend lots of time and effort in areas that either worsen on only slightly improve the whole process.

One example of this is the most common of them all – people think they can think and analyse themselves out of anxiety, this just does not work and is key to keeping them stuck. By learning to separate what is anxiety and what is a natural response to life you will have more control over your emotions.

The key steps to overcoming anxious emotions is:

  • At a deep level understanding anxiety
  • Recognising role of thinking and learning how to quieten your mind
  • Interrupting emotions and understanding what they really mean
  • Realising what is anxiety and what is stress
  • Realising who you are and what beliefs you have
  • Letting go of limiting self-beliefs (gain more confidence)
  • Taking back control of life and changing what needs to be changed
  • Generating more intent for the things that you want from life

So, can you now answer the question “What is Anxiety?”

what is anxiety

Take Action

The Calmness in Mind Anxiety Program teaches you what is happening, then why it is happening, then finally what you have to do to regain control of your emotions. It is sensible advice for sensible people who are just stuck and want to finally understand what is anxiety and how to stop it.