If we experience an actual physical threat (such as a near car accident) our body reacts instantly with an alarm system. Our Sympathetic Nervous System causes us to breathe faster, our heart rate increases, we sweat, our blood pressure increases. This is a natural bodily reaction and does not harm us. We call this a “fight-flight reaction.” However, sometimes there is no actual physical threat but our belief that something dangerous is about to occur.
Worry is the process of thinking that something negative and catastrophic will happen to us and we will not be able to cope with it. This may trigger the same Fight Flight reaction. This response is sometimes so uncomfortable and can even feel like a heart attack. People may end up in the emergency room thinking they are dying, losing control or “going crazy.” Physicians and psychologists call this a panic attack.
Unresolved worry may repeatedly trigger this same bodily fight-flight reaction. The panic attack may feel so uncomfortable that your mind tells you it is dangerous. You want to escape the situation to relieve the uncomfortable dreaded feeling. You may begin to avoid life situations that you think causes the discomfort.
Speaking to a psychologist can help you understand and cope with worry and reduce negative thoughts. A psychologist can help you learn to learn to deal with life stressors. A psychologist can teach you methods to reduce your psychical reactivity to stress. Reading a book about anxiety may be helpful. The Worry Trick by Dave Carbonell is one example.
Dr. Lynda Behrendt
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Athans & Associates
32 Main Street, Park Ridge, IL 60068