Anxiety, worrying or overthinking is like most things — on a scale. Some people will avoid ‘scary’ things like the plague, others will simply play an event in their head a thousand times, or ruminate and stay up all night worrying about ‘what if’. Some people will be known as ‘nervous’ whilst others will be able to hide it very well. These symptoms, weather severe or mild, may be impacting your life. This is where a psychologist can aid in managing these intrusive and difficult thoughts, feelings, and unhelpful behaviors.
Overthinking and Worrying
You may have an image in your mind about what anxiety is. That person who can’t make eye contact and shakes during presentations, or that person who does not want to try anything new because they are ‘too anxious’. You may think because of this the term ‘anxiety’ does not apply to you.
However, what you do notice is that you overthink everything, and that maybe you have a suspicion that you worry more than other people. Come to think of it, perhaps you do avoid certain activities just to prevent that overthinking brain to go into overdrive? Perhaps you may even notice you rely quite heavily on alcohol or an intense distraction to just ‘switch your brain off’.
Social Anxiety and Generalised Anxiety
Does your stomach drop when the phone rings, when you are invited out, or a mate does not reply to a text message within that ‘allotted time’? Maybe this is as simple as your chest tightening or perhaps you break into a sweat, feel dizzy, and can’t sleep at night thinking about it.
Social and generalised anxiety can manifest in many forms, such as:
- An overwhelming sense of worry or fear regarding interacting with others;
- Avoiding putting yourself into situations which might trigger horrible feelings that make you want to just run away.
Why does my brain do this?!
A fair question. It is an incredibly frustrating, complex set of evolutionary mechanisms that has served your ancestors very well! 100,000 years ago something moving in the grass was, to your ancestors, likely a life and death scenario. The best thing to do would have been to run away, sit in a tree, and worry about it all night long. Was it tall and big with claws? Or small and venomous? It makes sense really, planning other routes, and piecing together how that threat moved, hid and attacked was what allowed your ancestors to survive and thrive.
Fast Forward to the 21st century, and the chances are low (we hope) you won’t be mauled by a tiger hiding in the long grass. Yet this pesky overwhelming survival mechanism is alive and well. Nowadays instead of that scary animal, it’s a public speaking event or text message.
What can I do?
Whatever label you want to put on it: overthinking, social anxiety, phobias, or panic attacks — these symptoms may be preventing you from being the person you can truly be. Psychologists use an evidence based technique to aid you in managing these symptoms — spending quality time with you to help maximise your potential at work, at home, at sports, or whatever matters to you. Together we can teach you how to respond to and deal with these horrid emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
By Dr Elio Martino, Registered Psychologist