When people suffer from anxiety, they often blame themselves. They internalize everything they're feeling and wonder why they are the ones that have to suffer from anxiety. The "what is wrong with me?" question is a common one, because so many people with anxiety can't figure out why they have these symptoms.
Find Out What is Wrong With You
Want to learn more about your anxiety and how to treat it? I have developed a free 7 minute anxiety test that specifically shows you what anxiety you're suffering from and what you can do to reverse its impact.
How You Got Anxiety
You may be wondering if you even have anxiety, why you can't stop it, or if something is wrong with you as a person. I strongly suggest you take my free anxiety test to answer those questions. On the test you'll get graphs about what causes your anxiety and information on what it means and how to treat it.
But today, we're going to try to explain how and why you suffer from anxiety in the first place - and why logic alone doesn't stop it.
Anxiety is Behavioral, Chemical, Mental, and More
The most important thing to understand is that there is rarely a specific origin of anxiety. With a few exceptions (like post-traumatic stress disorder and the rare times anxiety is caused by a health condition), the exact origin of your anxiety can never be known.
That's because there isn't one origin. Anxiety is something that grows over time, through a combination of genetics, experiences, feelings, reactions, and more. You can get anxiety from:
- Your Genes Some people are born with a predisposition to anxiety.
- Your Parents Parents can both teach anxiety and accidentally encourage anxiety.
- Your Friends Hanging out with unsupportive people is known to cause anxiety.
- Your Habits Those that engage in certain behaviors or do not exercise can get anxiety.
- Your Health Those that pay too much attention to their health can develop anxiety.
These are only a small number of reasons you may develop anxiety, and most likely every single one of them play a role. It should be noted that even if you are genetically predisposed to anxiety, anxiety is curable and preventable (for reasons that will be explained shortly), so that genetic predisposition neither guarantees you would have developed anxiety nor prevents you from treating it.
But the question most people are wondering is why it's still there. When you suffer from anxiety, you know that these thoughts, fears, and feelings are irrational. You know that you shouldn't be having them and you shouldn't be suffering. But you cannot seem to turn it off. That's the main reason that people wonder what's wrong with them.
It's also for this reason that so many people with anxiety visit the doctor - because they cannot believe they would be suffering from these types of symptoms. It's also why so many people with anxiety develop depression - they feel helpless, and do not understand why their anxiety continues to spiral out of control.
So why does that occur? Why can't you use logic to stop your anxiety? There are several reasons for this, including:
The most common thing you need to understand is that anxiety occurs on a chemical level, as the result of things like low levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals. Those that have a predisposition to anxiety often have naturally low serotonin levels, and those that develop anxiety on their own cause their serotonin levels to weaken. Low serotonin levels are one the reasons that you can't control it - once they're low, your emotions and your feelings will change.
There's no way to know which one came first - whether you were genetically predisposed or developed anxiety and caused low serotonin - but studies have also shown that it doesn't matter. If you can learn to properly cope with stress, you can increase your serotonin even if you were genetically predisposed to it. But it is this low serotonin (and other neurotransmitters) that can keep anxiety coming back.
Weak Coping Mechanisms
"Stress Coping" is an often misunderstood term. People think of it in terms of activities, and when you struggle to cope with stress they claim it's because you're not doing things that are effective for stress coping. While there are activities that are helpful to control stress, true stress coping is more like a muscle. The more you use it effectively, the stronger it gets.
People that struggle with anxiety often have poor stress coping because they've been unable to put themselves in a position to cope with stress effectively. For example, they may spend too much time alone, drink to cope with stress, not have the friends and support around them necessary to give them the mental strength to move forward.
It's more complex than this of course, but the basic idea is that people develop weaker and weaker coping ability, almost like they're not working out their muscles, and that's why anxiety becomes so hard to control - because your coping muscle is weak, it gets weaker while you have anxiety, and it takes a long time to strengthen that muscle back up.
Finally, even when people have anxiety, very few people make the right choices with regards to overcoming it. According to the National Institute of Health, fewer than 20% of those with anxiety ever even seek an effective treatment.
Many people use placebo/fake treatments, or they don't seek any treatment all. Many more skip sleep, drink alcohol to cope, spend too much time alone, avoid exercise, watch horror movies - they do all of these different activities that fuel poor coping and make it harder to control anxiety.
Making these negative lifestyle choices are problematic for those with anxiety, because they keep your coping ability weak (and in some cases can make it even weaker). Remember while there is no specific coping strategy, it's still a muscle, and if you're not exercising it correctly it doesn't get any better.
NOTE: Not all of these choices are your fault either. Remember that anxiety changes your thought processes, your desires, and more. So sometimes you'll be making mistakes that you think you want because of anxiety (such as wanting to spend time alone) that are actually damaging to your coping ability.
Anxiety is Self-Sustaining - But Treatable
What's wrong with you? Nothing. You have anxiety. And the reason that it's so hard to stop - and why it seems to create its own symptoms - is because of the reasons above.
But as much as it can seem impossible to stop you're anxiety, it's also one of the most treatable conditions out there, provided you make the right choices with your anxiety.
I've helped thousands of people control the repetitive nature of their anxiety starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. I strongly recommend it, as it is an extremely revealing and beneficial test.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.