Consequences of Anxiety: Loss and Limitations

consequences of anxiety

I think the best summary for the consequences of anxiety is the L&L factor: Loss and Limitations. Anxiety tends to bite off chunks of your life and then circle back for more like an ever-hungry Great White until you can barely stay afloat. So how do you kill the beast? Well, you starve it of course. (More about that in the next TIDAL: Overcoming Anxiety.)

So what might be some of the limitations? Before answering that question, here’s a quick reminder: anxiety is about responding to perceived threat and a resulting call for action, such as: “run NOW,” “fight for your life,” “back away very slowly,” “shrink in fear until you disappear,” “get away from that person,” “be very quiet,” “don’t draw attention,” etc. The whole point is that your brain is trying to limit your risk of harm by moving you away from danger (safety first, happiness last).

The real problem with anxiety, though, is that it tends to creep and this is one of the consequences of anxiety. For example, if following a car crash, you tend to avoid riding in cars, then pretty soon you may start avoid buses, trains, airplanes, etc., until  your options are truly limited. This is because, for the sake of safety, brain mistakes similar for same and anything you go out of your way to avoid, the brain will tag as dangerous. This beast also craves routines (known is safer), which means anything new is also potentially dangerous and must be avoided. Stopping anxiety is about stopping avoiding. All avoidance feeds the beast!

Another one of the consequences of anxiety relates to inaccurate perceptions. Anxiety tends to skew your perceptions and the resulting inaccurate perceptions limit your ability to see the world as it truly is and to make rational decisions based on that view. Look again at the picture. While the world may see a handsome young man, he is projecting something else entirely. We tend to see what we believe (not the other way around). Anxiety focuses all attention toward the worst possible outcome. This, of course, leads to incredible loss and is why the majority of anxiety sufferers also suffer from depression.

Another one of the consequences of living with anxiety is resulting inaction. Anxiety sufferers tend NOT to take chances, speak up for themselves or start new projects for fear of failure. Even when truly miserable with their lives, they live on the principle that the “devil they know is better than the devil they don’t,” as fear of the unknown is like the Great White swallowing them whole. They also tend to be plagued by problems with decision making, always fearing they will make the wrong one, which means that anxiety is effectively running (and ruining) their lives. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem as they feel trapped by their fears and emotions.

The saddest part to me is seeing very capable, talented people living far beneath their potential because anxiety is playing a never-ending horror flick in their heads of the worst and least-likely outcomes of everyday events. The missed opportunities, self-recriminations and regrets are heart breaking for these individuals. Reach out to those with anxiety and support them in taking their lives back!

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