Two types of Anxiety

Worrying does NOT cause all anxiety.

In fact, there are two types of anxiety and they have different solutions.

One type of anxiety is caused by worrying (i.e., thinking negatively about the future). When our ‘thinking brain’ (especially, the prefrontal cortex) starts imagining an upcoming catastrophe, it sends an alarm signal to our amygdala, the ‘threat response center’ of the brain.

The amygdala, in turn, triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response – heart pounding, blood pressure rising, sweating, etc.

But there is another type of anxiety, which is a response to your environment. E.g., if you had a traumatic relationship (work or personal), the mere presence of that person can trigger massive anxiety. Phobias also work the same way.

When worrying causes anxiety, changing your defective thoughts using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps. But it is of little use if your anxiety is triggered in response to the environment.

In such cases, what works is ‘exposure therapy.’ You have to expose yourself to the very thing that causes fear and if nothing bad happens, your brain starts building new circuitry bypassing the old fear circuitry.

Here is a simple version – if you have a fear of public speaking, try giving a talk before friends and family. If it goes well, your brain now creates new circuitry linking public speaking to a pleasurable experience.

A therapist can help but exposure therapy can also be done on your own if it is not severe.

To overcome our fears, we have to face our fears. Turns out, science also says the same thing.

– Rajan

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