Anxiety – 10 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know

Anxiety - 11 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know

On average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some time in their lives. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you’ll be too familiar with its whip-cracking chase that seems to come from nowhere. Here are some facts about anxiety that will hopefully help to make more sense of your experience.

  1. Anxiety has a genetic basis.

    If either or both of your parents suffer from anxiety, there’s a high chance you’ll experience it as well. It’s about here the nature/nurture argument steps in. Anxiety can be passed down through genes (nature) or through parental behaviour (nurture). In a 2014 study, the α-endomannosidase gene was found to be associated with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. On the nurture front, research has shown that anxious parents are more likely to inadvertently feed anxiety by being slower to grant autonomy or by supporting the avoidance of situations that might cause anxiety. (These behaviours are completely understandable and driven by the most loving intentions but for kids with anxiety the short-term easing of anxiety can make anxiety worse in the long run.) This does NOT mean that parents cause anxiety – they absolutely don’t. It’s likely that both genetics and environment play a part – the genetic vulnerability to anxiety makes it easier for environmental factors to stir anxiety. It’s important to remember that genes aren’t destiny. Anxiety can be managed. Just because it’s in your family denims doesn’t mean it will be passed to you, and if it is passed down, you won’t necessarily do anxiety in the same way as the people who came before you. 

  2. Anxiety can be physically painful.

    Anxiety has a strong physical basis. Every physical symptom is a direct result of the body’s fight or flight response. When the brain senses a threat (real or imagined – it doesn’t care) it will surge the body with a cocktail of neurochemicals to provide the physical resources to fight for life or run for it. Physical symptoms can include a tightening around the chest, headaches, nausea, muscle tension, heart palpitations and tummy trouble. Anxiety hurts. It’s different for everyone but the physical response is just as real as the emotional one. 

  3. Exercise can reduce anxiety.

    Anxiety is the body’s fight or flight response in full swing. When there is nothing to fight and nothing to flee, the stress hormones that are surging around have nowhere to go so they build up, bringing with them the physical symptoms of anxiety. Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response. Exercise helps to balance out the neurochemicals that contribute to anxiety. 

  4. Anxiety can confuse the sense of smell.

    Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that people with anxiety have a greater tendency to label neutral smells as bad smells. Typically, when processing smells it’s only the olfactory (smelling) system that gets activated. When a person becomes anxious the emotional system becomes intertwined with the olfactory processing system.

  5. People with anxiety are quicker to perceive changes in facial expressions.

    People with anxiety are quicker to pick up on changes in facial expressions than those without anxiety BUT they are less accurate. The tendency to jump to conclusions means that highly anxious people will often make mistakes when trying to infer other people’s emotional states and intentions. Understandably, this has a way of creating tension and conflict in relationships. If you’re the anxious one, keep in mind that what you think others are thinking or feeling might not necessarily be right – your speedy powers of perception might have fed you a misread.

  6. Certain diets can influence anxiety.

    A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that people who followed a ‘traditional’ diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and whole grains tended to be less anxious compared to those who followed a ‘western’ diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products and beer.

  7. Anxiety widens personal space.

    Everybody has an invisible zone of personal space around them. The closer we are to someone, the further they are allowed into our personal space zone. The preferred personal space zone differs for everyone but generally it’s about 20-40cm away from our face. Closer than that and we’re stepping back. If you tend towards anxiety, your personal space bubble is likely to be wider.

  8. Performance anxiety? Nah. Excited.

    Research by the Harvard Business School has shown that anxiety around performance is better managed by getting excited. The secret is in the re-labelling. The way we talk about our feelings has an enormous impact on the way we feel. Both anxiety and excitement have a lot of the same physical elements. Labelling a feeling as ‘anxious’ brings to mind thoughts of what might go wrong. Reinterpreting it as ‘excited’ brings on a more positive emotional state.

  9. Your friends actually think you’re pretty fabulous.

    People with social anxiety often think they don’t come across well socially. According to new research however, people think they’re pretty fabulous. Possibly due to their sensitivity to others, by the time socially anxious people speak, their words are well considered and ready to leave an impression – which they often do. If you struggle with social anxiety, remember that when you let people see you, they really like you. You might not believe this just because you’ve read it here, but next time you’re out, try acting as though it’s true. It will make a difference to you and to the way you’re seen.

  10. Anxiety also comes with strengths.

    Nothing about us is all good or all bad – nothing. If you’ve struggled with anxiety, for all the angst it causes you, it’s also helped to shape the person you’ve become in positive ways – the choices you make, the friend you are, the partner, colleague, sister, brother, leader or employee you are. Anxiety is not who you are, it’s something that happens to you sometimes. It’s part of being human and the sometimes beautiful, sometimes messy, sometimes extraordinary art that it is.

[irp posts=”106″ name=”Managing Anxiety: 8 Proven Ways”]

 


A Book for Kids About Anxiety …

‘Hey Warrior’ is the book I’ve written for children to help them understand anxiety and to find their ‘brave’. It explains why anxiety feels the way it does, and it will teach them how they can ‘be the boss of their brains’ during anxiety, to feel calm. It’s not always enough to tell kids what to do – they need to understand why it works. Hey Warrior does this, giving explanations in a fun, simple, way that helps things make sense in a, ‘Oh so that’s how that works!’ kind of way, alongside gorgeous illustrations.

 

 


 

26 Comments

Irene

These are the type of articles, I should read more often, Really has made me think of my anxiety in a positive way and made me feel stronger.I’m not alone in this every day struggle.
Thank you so much!

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Tracey

Im a parent of a 15 year old boy suffers anxiety which as made him recieve little education. He crys to me saying his not normal but he is . he is clever buts lets his anxiety control his life im homeschooling him now but everyone said he was lazy but his not his a wonderfull boy that struggles to come to terms with what he as got i help him so much and stay up nights with him which oh well im his mum and love him so much. It affects his sleeping and learning so much. Im there for him 24/7 and its my duty to do so . if only he would seek help but his to ashamed to he thinks people will judge him or not understsnd him . its been a battle since age 6 but ive always been there for him no matter what. Doctor said his got anxiety also on dla for his condition . all my love to everyone in this situation take care your not alone .

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Tracey I’m sorry to hear your son is going through this. Anxiety is manageable, but it sounds as though your son is at a point where he needs professional support to be able to find ways to manage his anxiety and get his life back. I understand how difficult it is to get him this support if he is worried about what people think or if he is feeling any sense of shame around his anxiety. Anxiety is so common. It affects about one in five kids, so in his class, there would very possibly be five other kids who are struggling with anxiety or who have struggled with it at some point in their lives. It is so disappointing that other people looked at what he was going through and interpreted this as laziness. Anxiety has NOTHING to do with laziness! Your son would have been fighting a battle every day. It’s exhausting and it’s so hard. If you can, perhaps encourage your son to read this article. It is an article about anxiety in teens. Hopefully it will help your son to understand what’s happening for him, as well as giving him some strategies to try and most imporantly, help him to realise that he isn’t alone https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-teens/. If he can speak with a doctor or counsellor, I have no doubt they would be able to support him through his anxiety and help him to feel stronger in himself.

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August Webb

Question: Are you the publisher and editor of your website I am doing a research speech over anxiety and I want to be able to cite my work correctly

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Kim

I have struggled with anxiety since college and am now in my late 30’s. I recently broke my leg and needed surgery. There is so much that I cannot do for myself right now and the vulnerability that is feeding my anxiety is hard. I am working to see people and things in my life that I am grateful for, connect with friends and family, and try and find things to do that bring me joy. Your article has been very helpful.

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Hey Sigmund

Kim I’m so pleased the article was able to bring you some comfort. It sounds as though you are doing everything you need to do to get stronger. Love and healing to you.

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Judy

Very hopeful and helpful not to mention the fact that I probably know more..that I suffer from anxiety that the people around me. My anxiety has gotten so bad that I’m ecoming a hermit a prisoner in my own home. I even get anxious when my husband gets too close to me. I start sweating profusely and have to move or he’s gotten so use to it that he will move away just to try to make me feel better. Its difficult for our marriage. I’ve had it since I was 5 yrs old and 50 yrs later it’s probably the worst it’s ever been. I believe mine gets better when I’m in a routine of some sort- spiritually. When I get away from praying regularly, reading the word, going to church…socializing with people in church…which I JUST CAN’T DO ANYMORE. I just want to run. Its so tough. I wish I didn’t have it. But I do. Thnx…for your sharing.

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Hey Sigmund

Anxiety can be really tough. I completely understand. It’s important that you have found something that helps. There is a lot of work happening in the area so hopefully we’ll keep getting closer to closer to understanding more about anxiety and the things that help to bring relief.

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Jill

I’m 17 and have struggled with anxiety for awhile now and have just felt like I’m the only one. I have just recently started going to a new school which has sent my anxiety to a whole new level, and I’ve noticed that so many people joke about it instead of trying to understand it or the person who struggles with it. After reading this article I feel like I can breathe again. Seeing that I’m not the only one and knowing that other people care instead of mock you for it.
This is such a great article and well explained

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Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased this has helped you to feel less alone. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety – you’d be amazed! Anxiety can be really hard to understand for people who haven’t been through it and they can respond in funny ways. Whatever the reason though, having someone take lightly what you’re going through would feel awful – I really understand that. Here are some other articles that might help – just in case you haven’t read them:

>> What I’ve Learned About Anxiety That Only People With Anxiety Could Teach Me: https://www.heysigmund.com/the-things-ive-learned-about-anxiety-that-only-people-with-anxiety-could-teach-me/
>> Dealing with Anxiety: The Facts That Can Turn It Around https://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety/;
>> And to help the people in your life understand things a little more: https://www.heysigmund.com/when-someone-you-love-has-anxiety/
>> Anxiety: 15 Ways to Feel Better Without Medication – https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-without-medication/

I hope these are able to bring comfort to you. You’re certainly not alone. Thank you for sharing your story – you’re wonderful and your comment will help more feel to feel less alone. I wish all good things to you at your new school.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re certainly not along with this. If only you knew how many people are struggling with this. I hope this has helped to bring you comfort.

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Emina

I love this article! Really has made me think of my anxiety in another way. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it without having to take medication and it’s things like these that make that seem more and more possible.

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Erin

I am 22 and in my last year of college. My family has recently been taking on the challenge of caring for an elderly family member. In the process of studying for my CPA exam, trying to find a job, and working the 2 jobs I currently have, plus finishing school and making time for my family I have been struggling greatly with my anxiety. This has never really been a problem for me before. This article was very helpful to help me understand a little of what is happening within my own body.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased the article has been helpful for you. You have a lot going on at the moment, so it’s understandable that your body is responding the way it is. It’s great that you’re so open to the information and understanding what’s happening in your body. I know there’s a lot happening for you at the moment but you sound as though you’re doing an amazing job of positioning yourself for a great life. Keep going. It will be worth it.

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Lauren

I have just recently discovered your website and I love it! I’m in my early 30s and anxiety has really started rearing its ugly head lately. I love reading about the techniques to deal with it and to know that I’m not alone!

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heysigmund

You are so not alone! There are so many people struggling with anxiety and it’s been wonderful that so many people have shared their story. I’m pleased you’re enjoying the articles. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.

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Disa

Is the first time that I read information like that(about anxiety)is very helpful for us.I have more than 2 years living with anxiety.I have medicine for some month but I stopped them because they make me feel addicted.I am trying to keep calm my mind whith breathing exercises,i do exercise in and out every day,i balancing my food,i try to enjoy little things and I trying don’t think about bad thing.

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jess10203040

I come to this site to get advice as its such a informative website and offers reassuring advice,i am 17 years old and im currently at my first year in college and its become very stressful,because of that i have started having panic attacks and your website has been very useful in getting information and techniques on how to deal with it all.

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heysigmund

I’m so pleased you found us here. I know how stressful first year college is, I used to make myself sick with worry (before I knew how to manage it!) but what I wish I knew then (well, I probably knew it but I wish I believed it!) is that everyone gets to where they’re meant to be no matter what. My path from then to now has been nothing like I expected but I’ve ended up exactly where I’ve needed to be (right now it’s saying to you what I wish I could have said to myself!). I’ve had huge joy along the way and massive disappointments – but – every disappointment has lead to an opportunity I never could have imagined. Life’s like that. I can see that you feel the pressure and you certainly aren’t alone there. Trust that you will end up where you’re meant to end up and as long as you work hard it will be somewhere wonderful. You care so much, that it can’t help but be any other way. Even if you have a diversion of the path, most times, if not all times, that will be a gift. It’s always hard to believe until it happens. I’m pleased you’ve found the website useful. You’ve probably already done this but there are quite a few articles under the ‘Being Human’ tab under Stress’ and ‘Anxiety’. Thank you so much for coming to the site.

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Kim

Thank you for this article. I look forward to sharing it with my now 18 y/o daughter. She has been struggling with this & I think showing her this article will help her see what I have been telling her, that she is not different from her peers & that a lot of them go through this as well & it will be ok.

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heysigmund

Yes! You only have to look at the comments on this post to see how many people are struggling with anxiety – and it’s all ages. It means so much to me that people are taking the time to comment. One of the things it’s doing is letting everyone who feels different because they have anxiety, know that they aren’t. There are so many people experiencing exactly what your daughter is experiencing. I hope the information is able to help her.

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Makayla

I’ve always thought and felt like I didn’t belong but as I grew up I realized that I need to be myself who cares if I belong or not because it was mostly anxiety eating away at me. As soon as I went to college it opened my eyes because everyone was starting over and everyone was looking for friends so I told myself everyone was in the same boat! Going to college has been one of the best experiences of my life. I figured out that by going out of my comfort zone and despite the anxiety I can overcome anything I set my mind to! I’m still shy but I’m not afraid of anyone not liking me anyone because I don’t care! At the end of the day I know that I’ve been the best me that I can be and it makes me so much happier. Granted I still struggle with anxiety everyday but I have truely became a stronger person because anxiety has shown me how tough I can be when things get rough. Even though my road has been long and I’m still not at the end,I’m proud to say I love the person I’m becoming ?

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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