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Anxiety

Understand and Prevent Anxiety Course

5. What is the difference between normal and pathologic anxiety?

Using the thermometer as a metaphor for understanding normal versus pathologic anxiety, one might consider normal anxiety as that which keys the body and prompts us to action in a way that helps us function better in life.Pathologic anxiety would prevent someone from doing what she wishes to do or from feeling how she would like to feel. For example, an upcoming test or performance can motivate us to study or prepare for the challenge at hand.

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6. What is the difference between conscious and unconscious anxiety?

Conscious anxiety is that which we know we fear. Snakes, heights, germs, a first date, a big presentation, taking a test, or going to the doctor are all common conscious fears. Unconscious anxiety is that which is beyond our conscious awareness. This anxiety most often declares itself when someone has a panic attack  seemingly out of the blue.

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7. What are life’s normal, expected phases of anxiety?

Normal, adaptive anxiety is a feature inherent to human development. As we progress from one stage to the next, we have to experience anxiety to get from point A to point B. Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud used the birth of the infant as a model for explaining what might happen in understanding anxiety.

He saw us - like the baby leaving the womb - as leaving one comfortable place to enter a new place, though less comfortable initially despite its also affording greater freedom. With each developmental phase, new anxieties appear; we have to prepare for the next step towards autonomy. Children learn to walk and to separate from their parents. In American culture, we often leave home to go to school or to college. Or, as we become sexually active, choose a long-term mate, entertain the complexities of parenthood, navigate the vicissitudes of normal aging, or cope with medical illness or death, we relive the built-in human experience of anxiety about what might happen in the next phase. Moving to the next phase provides the desired liberation from the constraints of the prior phase or a feared loss of those freedoms in the case of end-of-life stages.

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8. What questions can I ask myself about my anxiety to understand it better?

A. Is this symptom new in onset or more longstanding (i.e., what is my history with this particular symptom?)

B. Is this symptom present more in my mind (e.g., worry) or in my body (e.g., nausea)?

C. How high is the temperature on the anxiety thermometer?

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9. How common are anxiety disorders?

The statistics of anxiety disorder cases are difficult to determine with precision, and different sources cite different percentages.

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