Despite much of what I am reading Anxiety not an emotion, it’s a collection of visceral body sensations bought on by emotions which activate the fight, flight or freeze responses. The trigger emotions are usually fear, guilt or shame, that has our bodies responding.
While it is great that so many people are helping those who suffer with anxiety, please visit a professional for comprehensive support, to fully understand what’s happening in your body and how you can work on managing the symptoms.
Techniques such as learning to ground yourself and the use of dual awareness can help.
With support you can learn to tolerate what is happening in the body and use the bodies social engagement system, to soothe yourself and stay well.
Furthermore, through breath work you can learn to slow the heart rate and apply the parasympathetic break to help to regulate the body. Meanwhile the brain produces a substance called Gabba which calms things down.
On occasion information goes straight into the brainstem, sometimes by passing the prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) which can lead to defensive behaviours which are not fully cognitive. This part of the brain maybe almost permanently lit up in people who have experiemced trauma and too much unpredictability during early years.
The Survival Brain works at 300 millionth of a second, so that counting to ten might not work so well for some. It can take practice to unlearn fear, and learn how to process human emotions, tolerate uncertainty and accept feeling vulnerable.
It can take some time to integrate the salient, default and central network and stay in your Thinking Brain. This is required for problem-solving, planning, etc.
This is the reason chaos and rigid patterns can be observed in those who have experienced trauma. Many be stuck in all or nothing patterns of behaviour as they attempt to grow. Moderation may difficult to find and guilt and shame cycles maybe present.
Many when experiencing stress or triggers will experience overwhelm and panic as the prefrontal cortex goes offline.
There is a feeling of helplessness as you are unable to see the past, present or future. It leads to reacting instead of responding, and delayed gratification impulse control maybe compromised.
This means we can’t recognise when to stop in respect of overeating, consuming too much alcohol or other self-sabotaging behaviours. The lower brain literally hi jacks the top brain.
For those who have experienced trauma, the timekeeper dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may not work so well. Feeling safe may take some work and flipping into rage or freezing might happen
Many report social anxiety, as they meet new people the lymbic system switches on the Fight flight survival response and it maybe difficult to think remember or even speak as the Bocca speach region shuts down.
Relational trauma is quite simply that nobody was emotionally there when you needed it. You weren’t helped to come out of a distressed state.
Left untreated anxiety can have us not showing up in our personal and professional lives. The inhibitory emotions of guilt and shame may dominate our landscapes over working and people-pleasing, and the inability to find our voice may keep us stuck and depression is often experiemced as the body shuts down and numbs out.
The long-term impact of being in anxious states can cause serve health conditions as it causes inflammation in the body, changing our body at a cellular level. Shortening our telomeres, which are like boot lace caps for your strings of DNA.
Bodies flooded with stress hormones such as noradrenaline, cortisol and adrenaline, leaving us feeling sick, shaky, with a dry mouth and a racing heart. When the limbic system detects a threat it puts the body into fight flight freeze responses.
Learning to process emotions, have a better relationship with yourself and understand your body will help with recovery.
Practicing mindfulness may help people to move back into their body. However, bringing someone back into their body whose experienced significant trauma can be terrifying so its important to work with a trained professional who can help keep you safe and in what we call the window of tolerance.
Working with untrained professionals can destabalize trauma sufferers and inexperienced counsellors might find themselves out of their depth if flashbacks, or disassociation occurs.
In the stressed states we lose the inability to use some of our drives, just like a phone in battery-saving mode. The sex drive shuts down and the digestive system may also be impacted. We may experience stomach aches and diarrhoea. In extreme states we may notice disassociation, bed wetting and the loss of speech.
If we have emotionally shut down to cope, we may experience low mood, an absence of joy and a lack of interest in activities. Anxiety and depressive episodes are often experienced by trauma survivors.
Often the weird and wonderful symptoms make far more sense when we look through the lens of trauma.
If we look more closely, we notice that trauma is not just significant episodes such as surviving rape or war, it may be more subtle – for instance not having an emotionally-present adult in earlier years. Many have experienced relational trauma and have developed an identity based on what happened to them.
Here, I will help you to explore your own interpersonal neurobiology, and will help you to heal, and work on the relationships with yourself and others. I want to support you to move from surviving to thriving.
If you would like support for understanding and managing your own anxiety or depression get in touch.
You’ll find a compassionate and understanding therapist, who won’t just tell you to “breathe”, but will help you develop healthy habits and truly understand yourself.
As we create new meaning, our shame reduces, and in time as we feel the grief of what anxiety and depression robs us of, we allow space for pride because you survived.
Is it time to learn how to thrive?
Blog by Mel Riley. I am a counselling coach and senior accredited psychotherapist. I provide personalised therapy to a wide range of adults and children. I also deliver clinical supervision, training and business mentoring. I have a special interest in attachments and trauma, born of my own experiences as a child. I am passionate about relationships and helping people to thrive beyond anxiety, depression and trauma. https://www.meljriley.co.uk/contact-me/