Most people don’t realize that some anxiety actually aids learning. For example, if you are taking a class, and you are sitting on the edge of your seat with intense attention, truly wanting to absorb everything the professor is saying, then you are experiencing optimal stress. However, if you go above that, such as a level you experience when facing danger, then the learning experience is thwarted and your brain will take in very little (if any) information.
Additionally, I want to emphasize that most of us feel less stressed and safer in the world when we have one or two attachment figures such as a partner, a caring friend, or even a dependable adult child that knows where we are and how were are doing most of the time. In other words, people need people. Some of us think that because we are introverts, we don’t need people. However, this is a popular misconception.
We are all designed to be in relationship and we are healthier when we have one or two people with whom we feel safe, connected, liked and even loved. As a matter of fact, when it comes to a deeply connected relationship, an introvert needs this every bit as much as an extrovert.
Some people have an “anxiety disorder” which is a more prolonged, intense feeling of anxiousness. This interferes with the ability to function in everyday life. Some of these are:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – most people have become familiar with this term because of the soldiers coming back from Afganistan and other parts of the world. PTSD can also occur because of other situations, such as rape, a car crash, a violent crime, etc.
- Phobias – these can be specific-such as a fear of spiders or flying. Or, they can be more generalized, such as social phobia, or a fear of leaving home (agoraphobia). Once again, these can be costly because they limit your activities and can lead to isolation, etc.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – sometimes known as “OCD”. Obsessions are thoughts which repeat themselves and get in the way of focusing on tasks at hand. Compulsions are behaviors which are repeated over and again. Have you ever had to go home many times to check and see that the coffee pot is turned off? Usually, the person knows that he/she actually did turn it off, but is compelled to double check several times. Whether we are talking about thoughts or behaviors, these are obviously time consuming and intrusive-keeping the person (possibly, you) from activies which are far more productive.
Sometimes prolonged anxiety can lead to depression. When it does, it’s because you feel you are helpless and hopeless. The anxiety and fear are keeping you in fight, flight, or “frozen”. Of course this makes you far less available to your loved one, robs you both of joy, and actually keeps you from connecting with each other in the way that you long for. However, with professional guidance and treatment, you can be empowered to overcome these states of suffering and have a more fulfilling and joyful life with your partner or spouse. Once you do the work and “get a handle” on your stress, you and your spouse (partner) can make choices more freely. Sometimes, medication can assist in this process, but that choice is up to you. Medication is not always required, however, and usually cognitive therapy can make a huge difference.
I truly believe we are meant to experience joy in our lives. Some suffering is necessary, because of past choices, losses or heartache. However, borrowing worry from the future or the past is not productive and can rob you of your energy and your life. Sometimes it takes courage to come in to see me or another professional, but it can be rewarding and life changing.