How to Turn Anxiety into a Superpower?

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. It’s a normal reaction to stressful situations such as taking a test or public speaking. However, when these feelings become excessive and all consuming and interferes with your daily life it’s a sign of a bigger problem such as an anxiety disorder.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety can occur in a group of disorders that interfere with your daily life. It’s a chronic condition that is characterized by exaggerated worry and tension about future events.

Anxiety Disorders include: 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with daily activities. The symptoms are similar to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety.
  • Social Anxiety: A form of anxiety caused by irrational fear, embarrassment and self consciousness stemming from social interactions.
  • Separation Anxiety: A disorder in which a child becomes anxious when separated from parents.
  • Phobia: An extreme fear or irrational fear or aversion to something. Some people have a phobia of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness or embarrassment called agoraphobia. There are a lot of cases of sufferers being afraid to leave their homes.
  • Hypochondriasis: Better known as Hypochondria or simply Health Anxiety is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive worrying about having a serious illness despite medical tests never finding anything wrong.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Excessive obsessive thoughts that lead to repetitive compulsive behaviors. OCD often centers around themes such as, the fear of germs or the need to arrange objects in a specific way.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder that causes anxiety and flashbacks triggered by a traumatic event.

What are  the symptoms of anxiety?

Symptoms include:

  • Fast Heart Rate: If you are experiencing fear, anxiety or stress you’re heart rate will increase.
  • Rapid Breathing: Better known as hyperventilating. This occurs when you are anxious.
  • Sweating: Nervous sweating occurs mostly with social anxiety, but it’s an indication that anxiety is getting to be too much.
  • Feeling Tired: Sleep disorders are common side-effects of anxiety and can quickly make you tired.
  • Restlessness: Felling restless and not being able to relax is common with anxiety.
  • Shaking: Shaking or trembling can occur when anxiety gets out of hand.
  • Feeling nervous, tense or fearful: All these are feeling that occur with impending doom caused by anxiety.

How Anxiety can be your superpower?

There are many people inflicted with anxiety disorders have amazing abilities that are overshadowed by their symptoms.

People with conditions such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have a tendency toward labeling harmless things as threats or they feel worried or anxious when nothing is wrong.

Along with conditions such as ADHD the brain of a chronic anxiety sufferer functions differently than someone who doesn’t have anxiety. For example, according to mentalfloss.com the regions of the brain associated with fear and worry including the Amygdala are overactive in someone with an anxious brain.

An overactive Amygdala explains why someone with anxiety over generalizes and overthinks about every situation. The brain will lump together things that are both safe and unsafe and label them as unsafe.

However, with treatment that involves therapy and medication people with anxiety manage these symptoms well.

People with anxiety also tend to see the world from a different perspective due to over generalization and they have abilities that someone without an anxiety disorder may not have.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/76694/brains-anxious-people-may-perceive-world-differently

These abilities include:

  • Increased Empathy: Anxious individuals demonstrate unique social-cognitive abilities characterized by cognitive empathy. It simply means that its a conscious drive to recognize another person’s emotional state.
  • EmpathyFeature
  • Creativity: Those who suffer from anxiety disorders are also creative. There are artists, actors and writers that suffer from mental health problems related to anxiety. The artist Edvard Munch suffered from anxiety and expressed himself through art when he needed an outlet for whatever was on his mind. He was having an anxiety episode when he painted “The Scream”. (My favorite painting btw)
  • scream
  • Higher IQ: Many people with anxiety disorders tend to higher IQ’s on average than those will little or no chronic anxiety. A symptom of anxiety is compulsive thinking and compulsive thoughts are compulsively analyzed, so anxiety sufferers tend to be more analytical than the average person.
  • iq
  • Ability to Read other People’s Vibes: Someone who is anxious is able to sense the energetic balance of those around them and this allows them to determine potential negative or positive bonds. Due to the preoccupation with negative outcomes anxiety can feel worse when someone with anxiety is around people that give off negative vibes. They also make an effort to surround themselves with positive people partly due to the fear of negative outcomes that characterizes anxiety and also they learn who their friends are.
  • vibes
  • Easily Pick up on Lies: Negative self talk that characterizes chronic anxiety can enhance your ability to detect dishonesty. Due to trauma caused by separation anxiety from childhood stemming from abandonment and separation and/or being bullied can cause someone to become hypervigilant and sensitive toward other people and can make someone a little cynical too.
    lies
  • Has a Sixth Sense: Someone with a sixth sense seems to have a natural ability to keep one step ahead of someone else because of their anxiety. It allows warning signals to quickly reach the regions of the brain which are responsible for action. Someone with a sixth sense can not only sense future danger, but also future opportunity.
  • 123DABBA-D76C-486F-9228-7C8B1E5BA565_4_5005_c

My personal experience with living with an Anxiety Disorder.

All my life I’ve been living with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It’s a disorder that can be comorbid with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

ADHD symptoms can include impulsiveness, problems focusing on a task, excessive activity or restlessness and also problems with regulating emotions.

The worst problems I experienced were with regulating emotions.

Problems included:

  • Quick bursts of Anger and Frustration
  • Impatience
  • Excitability in Response to Everyday Events
  • Depression and Anxiety

As an adult these symptoms started changing. I recall as early as 2005 I starting having panic attacks during my last semester in college and I had one that was so intense that I had went to the ER because I thought I was having an asthma attack, but after being examined by a doctor it turned out to be a panic attack.

Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Racing heart
  • Feeling weak
  • Dizziness
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Chest Pains
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Feeling a Loss of Control

A terrible habit I used to have was sweeping problems under the mat and pretending they never existed and then moving on. Overtime these type of emotional problems continued to occur and starting happening more frequently.

The stress caused by not being able to find consistent work after graduation added fuel to the fire. When I did find a job as an Independent Contractor with an Engineering company it wasn’t what I had planned to do, I was hoping for something that was full-time with benefits. For two years I worked hard for this company hoping to eventually get not only recognition, but also a full-time job. Even though I was good at what I did I had growing feelings of self-doubt about myself and increasingly about the future.

I had a hard time regulating my emotions which included negative self-talk and cynicism about the world. This job made my problem worse when I became disillusioned when the company I worked for had no intention of hiring anyone full-time. Around this time I started experiencing more intense symptoms including over generalization,.

Over generalization can start off as a negative experience that you may view as part of an inevitable pattern of mistakes. It can convince you that no one likes you and can’t do anything right. It can result in many self-defeating limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I could never do that”. These are thoughts that can make anxiety and depression worse.

Following a Nervous Breakdown in 2010 was when my life hit rock bottom. The straw that broke the camel’s back was being let go from my job during the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s. Worsening anxiety caused by worsening over generalization had a detrimental effect on my health, but at the same time I also saw this as having a silver lining. Change was needed; not just change in career or lifestyle changes, but also change in perception.

Change in Perception

How you perceive the world can be affected by over generalization. However, there is a way to change that with reframing.

What is Reframing?

Reframing is a process where negative and unhelpful thoughts are identified and replaced with positive and empowering ones.

Reframing can include:

  • Identifying my Thinking Patterns: When I find myself have negative thoughts about myself or not doing something out of the fear of failure I write them down in a journal and I start noticing my own thought patterns.
  • Challenging Myself: I look at my journal entries and I start to challenge my negative thinking.
  • Replacing my Thoughts: I challenge my negative thoughts and start using self-talk to think more positively.

The abilities I listed can be the result of reframing negative thoughts. Since people with anxiety tend to be more hyper-vigilant than non-anxious people and remain hyper-vigilant to an extent even after treatment they have unique perspectives that can help them in their lives.

Anxiety sufferers are great friends, because they care about how they are perceived and they are always concerned about what happens to their relationships.

Due to hyper-vigilance there is always the compulsive need to analyze negative thoughts with “what if” scenarios, so due to their ability to be analytical of negative thoughts and then coming up with solution they are both creative and intelligent.

Due to a strong tendencies toward negative thoughts and other people’s negative thoughts anxiety sufferers can be good judges of character.

When symptoms of anxiety are relieved through medication and therapy including reframing your thoughts you can become the best version of you.

How do you handle your negative thoughts?

Please like and comment!

4 thoughts on “How to Turn Anxiety into a Superpower?

  1. I run from all distractions to clear my mind and rethink things. Nature is what helps me most.
    I found a lot of myself in this post. You gave me a few points to rethink things a bit more 🙂 so thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, that all sounds very familiar!

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