Anna Schäfer Edwards, M.S., M.B.A.

Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern

11011 Sheridan Street, # 211
Cooper City FL 33026

Anna Schäfer Edwards, M.S., M.B.A.

Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern

11011 Sheridan Street, # 211
Cooper City FL 33026

Anxiety for beginners: 28 facts about how your brain handles it

Anxiety for beginners

This is a list of 28 facts about anxiety for beginners.

These facts are rooted in biology and will help you get an appreciation for how your brain creates a response in order to protect you.

So if you are a beginner in learning about the biology of anxiety, you will love this list.

Let’s get started:

  1. We were not born with anxiety. It’s a product of our life experiences
  2. People who suffer from anxiety worry primarily about 5 things: work, school, money, family or health. Think about your situation and see if it falls under one of these categories
  3. Before you were 8 years old, you built some pathways in your brain. Whatever felt bad during those years wired the alarm system of your brain.
  4. 90% of the time, people worry about minor things. They are “worry making machines”
  5. Panic disorder for a lot of people comes first after 6 to 8 months of stress. The stress theme is often the loss of something
  6. People who suffer from anxiety typically don’t like to change things, they don’t like to try new things. They are risk-averse.
  7. If you have anxiety without worry, you should seek your primary care doctor before therapy.
  8. Trying to treat anxiety with rationality is too difficult. Rationality does not give you pleasure in the brain. You have to treat it with different strategies.
  9. Anxiety mostly happens around day-to-day life, such as: how to pay the bills, how an illness will impact finances, how to do well at a job interview, etc. It is not as much about existential issues such as happiness or the meaning of life.
  10. You may feel that you have anxiety for no reason. If you troubleshoot it, I am sure that you will find a pathway that was created in your brain which is triggering your sensation.
  11. Your brain understands two types of threats: physical and social. First, your brain will prioritize physical threats and once you are safe, your brain will scan for social threats. Do not expect this to change, it has been like this for millions of years.
  12. With time, your brain created more alarm than needed because you felt threatened by tiny cues that were relevant a long time ago.
  13. Why don’t animals have anxiety? Because they have small brains. We have large brains, which enables our capacity to anticipate threats. If we don’t have a threat, we find one somehow.
  14. People who suffer from anxiety have a constant talk in their brain. Since they talk too much, they suppress visual problem-solving. Talking relieves them from somatic arousal but prevents action.
  15. Animals who are faced with threats focus on their next step to survive. We already have our next steps pre-defined for us.
  16. Once cortisol levels surge, you can learn how to ask: “Is this a signal or is this noise?” If it’s a signal, you problem-solve, if it’s noise, you must learn how to ignore it.
  17. Anxiety is a chemical (cortisol). Your brain is designed to release cortisol when there’s a threat (or perceived threat). You can reverse the process by focusing on steps that build dopamine, which is what relieves cortisol.
  18. A brain full of cortisol generates a steady stream of disaster scenarios (catastrophizing).
  19. Your survival is threatened as long as you’re alive. Anxiety exists to help you escape a threat. Cortisol communicates pain and the expectation of pain. It motivates you to do whatever it takes to make the bad feeling stop.
  20. We take too long to make a decision: we look for information, we spend a lot of time on it. We constantly look for threats, and this builds anxiety.
  21. If people in our social circle or family feel threatened, we feel threatened too. If you are isolated and lack social support, you have a less social bond, which helps you release happy chemicals in your brain.
  22. It’s not possible to have a permanent solution to every problem. Disappointments make cortisol go up.
  23. Our brain prioritizes bad feelings because it evolved in a dangerous world. Our brain evolved to promote survival, not to make you feel good. Bad feelings exist for a reason.
  24. When thinking about anxiety, it is not the fact that you worry a lot, we need to question if you worry about the right things.
  25. Your mammal brain makes all the choices for you. Your rational brain is there to help you define your alternatives. Your intelligence has nothing to do with this process.
  26. Relaxation and breathing techniques are crutches to addressing anxiety. Relaxation works well with a panic attack but with anxiety, it is insufficient.
  27. You can rewire your brain to reduce your anxiety in therapy. You can build a new response to anxiety in as little as 45 days. This time frame is possible based on research that supports how long it takes for your brain to create new habits.
  28. The most sought after treatment for anxiety is medication. This is a medical model best used to address panic attacks. It is possible to treat anxiety without medication. There’s no magic pill, you build your own unique trail

If you got curious about any of these facts, and wonder if therapy can help you curb your anxiety, contact me and I will be happy to discuss them with you.