Anxiety As Communication

Anxiety can be unpleasant and even debilitating. Anxiety disorders are serious and may require treatment with a mental health professional and/or medication.

However, anxiety is not always clinically significant. One of the challenges of diagnosing anxiety disorders is that everyone experiences emotions like nervousness, fear, and tension. In fact, if someone is incapable of experiencing adaptive levels of anxiety, this is a problem.

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I have seen variations on this quote in several places but have not found proper attribution: “Your brain exists to keep you safe, not to make you happy.” Anxiety is your brain letting you know that you may be in danger. In unsafe situations, it’s good to be aware of potential danger so that you can take steps to keep yourself safe.

In prehistoric times, early humans had to worry about predators. When a saber-toothed tiger came into the clearing, the humans who had an anxiety response ran and hid. Those who didn’t, well…

Unfortunately, because anxiety is so effective at helping us stay safe, sometimes our brain forgets how to turn off that response even when the danger has passed. This can be a trauma response, genetic predisposition, or can happen for reasons we do not fully understand.

Treatment is available, and education can help us understand why our brain reacts the way it does. If you find it beneficial, you can thank your anxious brain for working so hard to keep you alive – it has been successful for 100% of the days of your life!

If that is not helpful, that is okay too! While some benefit from gratitude exercises, others worry about falling into a trap of toxic positivity, or refusing to acknowledge negative or unpleasant emotions.

Take what serves you, and leave the rest.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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