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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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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