When I first started seeing someone for anxiety and panic attacks my girlfriend asked me a number of times what have you got to be anxious about?
I don’t think she understood what general anxiety disorder is exactly. I myself would also have a hard time understanding it without living it.
We know that everyone can be anxious sometimes, everyone can be stressed. The problem is when you become stuck in a loop.
It’s not about being anxious itself but rather fearing the way anxiety makes you feel. The fear then spirals out of control to worry.. will it ever go away? what if I have to live like this forever? I have an appointment tomorrow – what if I panic?
Every thought you have turns in to a what if? a negative intrusive thought that creates fear.. this fear feeds anxiety and creates more fear.
This is why anxiety disorders often create more related anxiety disorders and even depression. It’s all in the same basket – mental health. But how did this all come about? what did I have to be anxious about?
I had just built a house – my life long dream. I have a great job with great employers and co-workers who are also great friends. But did any of this have anything to do with anxiety?
I don’t think any of it did directly – instead what has happened is I was tricked.. I fell for the oldest story in the book – literally, as anxiety is a primal instinct dating back to the evolution of man.
- A man walked in to a bar and anxiety said “shit, run!” – he believed it.
- A man stopped at a red light and anxiety said “shit, you’re trapped!” – he believed it.
- A man went to the mall and anxiety said “shit, you’re going to panic!” – he believed it.
I don’t think I can explain it any simpler than that. I fell for a trick – the panic trick. I was tricked by my own mind.. and I fell for it.
We are all told negative thoughts by our mind on a daily basis. Some more than others but it’s inevitable.. and our instinct is to generally ignore them because we know the difference between danger and safe.
But at some point we all have the same primitive brain that is able to learn false positives. If you have ever used email and had a legitimate email classified as spam you will know exactly what I’m talking about.
The anti-spam engine analysed the content of the email and incorrectly determined it was spam.. it happens.
The only way to correct a false positive is by training the neural network – our brain as such on correct behaviour. This is where exposure therapy techniques come in to play.
Only by consistent and repetitive training can any neural network be it organic or artificial can it become a smarter and more accurate classifier of what is good and what is bad.