– by Lynne Wu Psychologist, M.A.P.S. Breathe Holistic Health
What are the indicators of Anxiety?
Anxiety is on the rise in our society. Clinical researchers show that there is a high correlation between the following tendencies with anxiety: Perfectionistic traits , rigidity of Black and-White thinking, All –or –nothing approach to life , Over-ambition ( with unrealistic goal –setting and expectations), tendency to Over-generalize and Over-exaggerate with negative thinking, comparison of oneself with others and the tendency to underestimate self and over idealize others – to name just a few.
In most cases, unresolved past significant traumas, loss, and grief in a condensed time frame can also cause generalized anxiety or panic attacks. The overall theme underlying anxiety is a sense of “ being out of control”, “tendency to overreact due to hugely distorted negative views about a situation” combined with “ fears of the unknown”. As the result of being out of control, the anxious person often would try to balance such by taking “excessive control”, which at times can result in having obsessive-compulsive traits or disorder.
Can a Psychologist help?
Clinically, exploring the original wounds using the evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy combined with Acceptance Commitment Therapy and needed psycho-educations, often can lead to good results with much improved coping. After all, in most of the clinical cases I have seen, anxiety is a learnt response over time as our society demands more and more “ image-oriented” ,” speed-orientated” , “ goal-orientated”, “ materialism-orientated”, “ ego-orientated” and “ perfection-orientated” ways of thinking and living. If anxiety is a learnt maladaptive response in life, it can be unlearnt too. The good news is, it does not have to take years to relearn positive ways of thinking and responding to replace the above tendencies to overcome anxiety.
What does an anxious person focus on?
Take Perfectionistic traits for example, whilst being reinforced and cherished by our society as a “good virtue”; when overused, they dampen our self-confidence and psychological wellbeing. Perfectionism often produce the best–looking or most-impressive results, but in the process of doing so, the focus is often on “ what is not right yet” and “ fault-picking” with the intent that by so doing , it will push us to “strive for the best” each time.
Whilst the intent is decent, “ fault-picking” with the “focus on the lacks and weakness“ and over-emphasis on what is “still not good enough yet “ repeatedly often make us feel inadequate over a period of time. Without sufficient praises and rewards to acknowledge our “good intent” and “decent efforts” (even though we have not produced excellent or perfect results immediately yet), if all we hear from others are “not good enough”, “ not good enough yet”, “ far from perfect yet”, it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, out of control and internalize the repeated comments of “not good enough” as “ never good enough” after a while. Thus, resulting in lower self-esteem with self-inadequacy despite high achievements.
Over time, it becomes a highly self–critical tendency that extends to criticism of and being demanding of others to match the same. The harder we strive for an “unrealistic goal” by being too perfectionistic, the more we feel like a failure. The process is a self-sabotage by itself. The more we feel like a failure, the higher the goal we set to strive to with the mindset of “if only I try even harder”! It’s a never ending loop.
Are there physical symptoms involved?
This emotional loop makes everyone “ tip-toe on thin ice” and with highly strung exhaustion. Typical physical symptoms of generalized anxiety include: psychologically ( often stress and worry) –induced : headache, blur vision, dizziness, dry throat, dry mouth, chest pain, pounding heart, chest tightness, stomach ache & discomfort, diarrhea, shaking, sweating, physical numbness, tingling, cold chills , hot flushes, fears of dying, fears of going crazy, fears of being out of control etc.