Anxiety About Anxiety Is a Very Real Nightmare
As if regular old anxiety wasn’t bad enough in today’s hectic world, now there’s a new issue psychologists are finding more and more frequently: anxiety about getting anxiety.
According to psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, “anxiety about anxiety” — known in the medical profession as anxiety sensitivity — is essentially a “fear of fear.” Hendriksen wrote in a recent Savvy Psychologist column on QuickandDirtyTips.com that “It’s a belief that the physiological experience of anxiety itself, like a racing heart, sweating or shaking, is dangerous and could lead to devastating outcomes.”
Hendriksen explains in the post how those with anxiety sensitivity interpret all of the symptoms of anxiety as symptoms of something much larger. They fear things like shortness of breath or dizziness, interpreting these natural responses to anxiety as a sign they are going to have a mental breakdown or an impending heart attack.
All of this in turn creates even more anxiety for the individual. Of course, as Hendriksen points out, most people don’t enjoy feeling the symptoms of anxiety, but the key difference is the person’s ability to understand at a base level that these sensations will pass and are ultimately harmless. Hendriksen also provides a list of ways to combat anxiety, including physical exercise and memory games.
Not only is anxiety sensitivity a tough struggle to be caught in, but it can also point to a predisposition toward more serious, longer-term anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is an alarming condition that affects 7.7 million Americans at some point in their lives, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
What is important to remember about any form of anxiety — and especially important for those who feel like their anxiety levels may be approaching anxiety sensitivity — is that these disorders can be managed with the proper tools. From seeking treatment to changing your diet and exercise routines and even alternative medicines, there is an endless wealth of support available for anyone suffering.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you suffer from anxiety? Do you suffer from anxiety sensitivity? How do you cope when you have anxiety?
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- National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Updated July 2018.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Fifth edition). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
- Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580
- Kaplan MD, Harold I, Sadock MD, Benjamin J. Synopsis of Psychiatry, Eleventh Edition. 2014;Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Hillary Eaton is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles whose work has appeared in VICE, Refinery29, LA Weekly and Complex. She loves writing about food, entertainment, travel and style.