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Are We Looking at Anxiety Disorders the Wrong Way?

By Terry Dixon

anxiety disordersCurrent explanations of the cause and cure of problems involving such things as: extreme nervousness, anxiety and panic; obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior; phobias and depression have failed millions of people looking to understand and overcome these problems. Beliefs about illness / medical / genetic causes and treatments based upon these beliefs have not even come close to an answer.

Yet, when we look closely at these problems we can see that they are not:-

Diseases - They follow a logical psychological progression based on our life experiences and we can map exactly what happened and why, the effect it had on us and how this fits in with our problem

Mental illness - most people with these problems are actually above average intelligence and are fully aware of what is happening, yet feel powerless to stop it.

Chemical imbalances - Synapses, those connections between the neurons in our brain (around 10,000 for each neuron), are tiny spaces that are occupied by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that carry information between neurons. Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters regularly mentioned with regard to anxiety and depression problems and chemical imbalance, usually referring to deficiencies of these neurotransmitters, is often proffered as a reason for anxiety disorders and depression.

Well, anxiety and depression deplete our body of many resources, including: energy, vitamins and no doubt neurotransmitters. Surely, any chemical imbalance is the result of these problems not the cause. Balancing chemicals in the brain through the action of drugs may alleviate some symptoms to a degree but never touches the cause.


Curable with drugs - medication works on a physical level. These problems are psychological and the answer is psychological. Whilst short-term medication may be beneficial for symptom relief, drugs never touch the underlying reason for these problems. Indeed, the mere act of taking medication can make the underlying cause worse.

Due to genes - evolution and our genes provide us with predispositions not fixed behaviours. A way we are predisposed to behave given the right environment. That is, our life experiences. We cannot be programmed with fixed behaviours (eg. OCD or GAD) for we don't know the environment we will be born into ... it would not be adaptive to react with extreme anxiety to unconditional love.

And most importantly, these problems are not 'disorders' or irrational - our mind and body are perfectly ordered in what they are trying to do, and we get them for the most rational reason there will ever be ... for our survival.

We can spend a lifetime looking for the right cure for our 'illness' - if only we can find the right pill or method. Unfortunately, in doing this, we are looking at these problems in totally the wrong way.

When we look at the backgrounds of large numbers of people with anxiety problems, they are often strikingly similar in many ways. Negative life experiences and subsequent feelings involving self worth and insecurity occur across the board with such regularity and are so similar that it is hard to see how they cannot possibly play a major role in these problems.

Far from being an illness, something strange that has happened to us, or something that is wrong with us, we can see exactly how we develop anxiety disorders (and depression). They follows a logical psychological progression based on our life experiences and learning, and we can follow step-by-step exactly what happens to us and why.

Events in our lives and the effect they had on us conspire to bring about anxiety-related problems ... life experiences that have made us feel afraid and unable to cope. Not usually single frightening instances (with the exception of some forms of PTSD) they more likely develop from general living situations which involve such things as: constantly being put down, being ridiculed, being made to feel ashamed, made to feel guilty and made to feel worthless. When we feel like this often, it's not surprising that anxiety takes over.

The interplay between experiences, thoughts, feelings and deep-seated survival instincts make these problems seem so powerful, that something drastic is wrong with us, yet the potential to develop anxiety problems lies within us all, it is a part of human nature, and it only takes the right (or 'wrong') set of experiences to bring them out.

Given a certain series of events, conditions and circumstances every single person on the planet can start to become highly nervous, over anxious and insecure for much of the time, for this behaviour reflects the way we all work as human beings.

And once nervousness and anxiety start to rule our lives it's not long before greater problems, those problems we define today as 'anxiety disorders', start to take shape.

When we see anxiety disorders for what they are: behaviours learned and conditioned due to our life experiences, we can really do something about them.

About the Author:

By Terry Dixon, founder of and author of Evolving Self Confidence : How to Become Free from Anxiety Disorders and Depression.

Webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate

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