The Good and Bad of Anxiety

In response to yesterday’s blog, a reader wrote,

I often feel my flight and fight response triggered even in situations (mostly social) that should not (theoretically) even be frightening. What do you think about that?

This is like the degrees of water temperature in our shower.  Pretty much every one falls somewhere on the spectrum of this type of anxiety.  When is it ok, and when does it become not ok?  My brother, friend, mentor, Cameron Johnson MD said in so many words

Anxiety is what makes us work hard.  If we didn’t have anxiety, we’d all be slobs.  We’d stink.  We wouldn’t get our homework done.  We wouldn’t say as many nice things.

My children still see most things in all-or-none fashion.  They would say at this point of the discussion, “Anxiety is good.”

A teenager I treat began responding to her medication.  Her mom began to complain.  “She never let this happen before!”  Her room was a mess.  She was less prompt to obey and she started voicing her opposing opinions more.  In some ways, without the anxiety, it was like her mom was getting to know her for the first time.  

This was however, better than anything this girl and her mom had hoped for.  Now the girl wasn’t throwing up, having panic attacks, avoiding just about any social experience.  She was making eye contact with me and she was able to present in class.  She told me that she can’t even think about how she felt before.  It was so bad.

It is really hard for any one who has never suffered from debilitating anxiety to realize the level of suffering and terror it causes.  Someone who may look stuck up, aloof, disinterested, quiet, bored, may in fact be at hells door.

My children might now say, “Anxiety is bad.”

And so to my reader quoted above, I’d say with my children, anxiety is good and anxiety is bad.  Come and paint the stars with me for a time.  Talk and tell me your story.  We shall in degrees of mind and manners, unwind the mysteries together.

Self Care Tip #49 – If anxiety is affecting you in a negative way, consider a medical reason.  Be a friend to yourself.

2 thoughts on “The Good and Bad of Anxiety

  1. Anxiety about having anxiety. Sad about being sad. Embarrased and intimitated by it’s impact on my TM speech and self image. Appears to work exponentially. That familiar beyond my control mental freeze. Whew, makes me tired.I frequently wonder how effective Prozac is? Seems like it use to work better.

    I avoid anxiety as much as possible because it feels very unhealthy and I fear it.

    Re yesterday’s writing.

    Was thinking about the effect of music on people. Does it operate by a similar chemical system as that of being scared? What about the difference between genders (I don’t dance). Fast tempo vs slow, stimulating vs comforting. The influence on emotions and music can elicit memories. What is the genetic significance to survival?

    Are anxiety, fear, and music related somehow?

    I really enjoy and look forward to your blog.

  2. Thank you Richard for reading and commenting! You give feedback fun to “play” with in my thinker-machine.
    1. yes, fluoxetine (Prozac) can loose some effect over time. It can be titrated higher though and regain it’s effectiveness.
    2. pleasure always come to us through Dopamine pathways no matter the stimulus – where we get the pleasure experience from.
    3. absolutely anything can be linked to anxiety.

    Keep on keeping on!

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