What’s the difference between worry and anxiety?
Not much…unless you suffer from them…
Worry is a word derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or twist…which is an apt description of what worry feels like. Likewise, anxious is from a Latin word, anxius, that derives from angere, meaning, guess what…to twist…
The difference in the usage generally is this: Worry means to be concerned or anxious about something that’s happening. Anxious generally refers to becoming worried about something that might happen at some point in the future.
You forgot to pay the utility bill this month. You get home after being gone for three days and find a disconnect notice. Today is the day they’re going to turn your electricity off, but you don’t know what time. The office closes in twenty minutes. You really want to get down there and pay the bill. You set out, worrying that you might not make it in time. You get there, pay the bill, everybody is happy and your electricity is preserved.
Okay…now imagine this. You go to work. You dislike your boss. He looks at you with that, "I really do despise you," look and you think…"I know he’s going to fire me…and if he fires me I won’t be able to pay the utility bill and if I don’t pay the utility bill they’ll shut the lights off and then what if in the middle of the night, there’s a noise in the living room and I start out to find out what it is but the electricity is off and I fall over the cat and then get tangled up in the carpet and fall down the stairs and break every bone in my body…ohhhhh myyyyy Goddddd.."
` Worry can be done intellectually.
Anxiety is generally done from the gut…
Worry is by far the easier of the two to deal with.
You can handle worry in a number of practical steps.
- Clearly define the problem. We’ll talk more about critical thinking, but one of the worst mistakes people make is leap-frogging from one problem to the next. You have to learn to isolate the problem and clearly define it. (The problem, for example, is not "My life is in shambles", the problem is or are 1) I don’t have a job, 2) my spouse/lover is cheating on me, 3) I have a terminal disease…" The more concrete you can become in articulating the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution.
- Get the facts that relate to your problem. Dean Hawkes, Columbia University: Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision."
- Analyze the possible solutions to the problem. Once again, be as concrete as possible. "I’m going to evaporate" is not a good solution.
- If you are concerned about a particular outcome…you have to ask yourself how likely is that outcome to take place, do what you can to mitigate the circumstances and then accept the outcome. More on this later.
- Implement your solution. Do the best you can. That’s all you’re expected to do…ever.
- Never look back. Once you’ve made your decision, don’t second guess yourself.
Now…get a 3 x 5 card and write this down. You can cut the card down to credit card size if you like.
- Clearly define the problem
- Get the facts
- Analyze possible solutions.
- What’s the probability of the worst case coming true?
- Implement the solution. Act.
- Never look back.
Put that in your wallet. When you find yourself deluged with worry, take it out and look at it. Read it again and again. I swear to you, you’ll forget it in the meantime. You think you’ll remember it, but you won’t. You need a physical reminder.
But, you say, I have anxiety…
I have physical symptoms…I’m making myself sick from worry…
What are the symptoms?
Tingling in the extremities
Shooting, hot pains through the abdomen or back, usually followed by nausea
Nausea and/or vomiting
Feelings of disassociation (not feeling like you’re really in your body…feeling like you’re watching yourself do things, or feeling too big or too small for the setting)
Fear of losing control of bodily functions
Fear of becoming violent or saying bizarre things
Constant repetition of unpleasant or disruptive thoughts
Lack of appetite
Lack of sexual desire (libido)
Anxiety’s twin is depression
They’re actually the same thing…Anxiety is the active form, depression in the passive form.
It’s all about Fight or Flight…
In Anxiety, you’re ready to move…you want action. Your body is poised for it. Quite literally in fact. The physical symptoms you experience with anxiety, up to and including vomiting are the result of adrenaline.
Adrenaline in the chemical that fires everything off in your body. It’s secreted from a gland in the lower back (which is why those hot shooting feelings come from there.) It sizzles through the body when it is excreted in large doses. If you look up suddenly and see a truck bearing down on you, your body responds instantaneously. You get a huge shot of adrenaline and jump out of the way of the truck in order to save yourself.
If you’ve ever gone to the dentist, gotten a shot of novacaine and suddenly, about two minutes later, been hit with a wave of anxiety and even terror, you know what this is. Novacaine isn’t one drug, but a drug cocktail, and one of the components is epinepherine, a synthetic form of adrenaline. It operates on your body and brain in the same way, as adrenaline, only a little slower. But it also apparently breaks down a little faster. Why is it in there? As a vaso-constrictor. A what? Yes, a vaso-constrictor. It keeps you from bleeding as heavily as you naturally would by closing off, to some extent, your blood veins. Adrenaline does this to keep you from bleeding as heavily when you’re injured in what your body hopes will be your fight or flight from danger. Pretty neat, huh? It also dilates your eyes (so you see better in dimmer light), makes your pulse faster, contracts your muscles so you get more power and causes you to sweat (to keep you from overheating). Great if you’re fighting a saber-toothed tiger or Vikings. Not so great if you’re getting ready for a test in school.
In anxiety, the body says, "Wait, something’s wrong. We’re under attack…" and if gives you a whopping hit of adrenaline to get you out of the situation. But if the situation is that your old man just came in and you know you’re going to get creamed, you really can’t do a lot. So the body is pumping out a chemical that it can’t use.
So it sits there, and slowly breaks down. Unfortunately, while it’s breaking down and becoming neutral, it’s also giving you symptoms of anxiety.
Depression comes when your body finally wears out. It’s had all these adrenaline shots. It’s miserable. It’s been jerked around from pillar to post and you haven’t gotten it out of the mess. It’s given you adrenaline to escape. You haven’t escaped. So it goes on hold. It shuts down. You have other symptoms then, including…
Lethargy (being tired all the time)
Lack of appetite
Feelings of worthlessness