Dr. Natalie Dwyer-West on the Psychology Behind Anxiety

ANXIETY & Self-Image

Anxiety is the generalized term to describe several “disorders” that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, worrying and continuous overthinking and out of control thoughts of what “might” happen in the future.  
Even if we look at the word disorder it’s “dis-ordered” thoughts, feelings and reactions. Each anxiety disorder has unique symptoms based each person’s own unique conscious and unconscious programming.
These “dis-ordered” thoughts affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms that engage the fight or flight response even though 100% of time you are not in real danger you are in created dis-ordered “fear” which triggers the releases of adrenaline.
However, one area that is commonly overlooked when talking about stress & anxiety is the role of our Self-Image.
Some people have a greater problem with this conflict which causes them great distress and anxiety, often to the point it can stop you from functioning.
In 12+ years working in this area Stress & Anxiety are the side effects of a very poor and conflicted self-image, this reactional behavior appears when trying to control yourself, your environment people & or circumstances in your life.
One of the most important limiting factors in our behavior, and ability to be 100% productive in our lives is our Self Image.
Our Self – Image is the way we view ourselves and more importantly how we feel about our knowledge, physical characteristics and the way we handle emotions, these are all unconscious programs formed in your first critical 7 years of life.
Your Self – Image forms the relationship with yourself and all other relationships in your life, personal and professionally….
Applying all external tactical, band aid methodology or motivational stuff can only get you so far, if you are being held back by inner feelings of not being deserving of business success, or not feeling that you’re good enough personally to succeed not just in business but also personally your self-image affects our performance at work, in subtle yet impactful ways and this is all unconscious behaviour.

 Our progress gets impeded by how we see and feel about ourselves deep down inside and other people’s perceptions of us this stops you moving forward in the direction you truly desire.
If you keep hiding your true self, based on other people’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions your life will become like slow drawn out painful experience of stress, anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition around the world. Up to one-third of women and one-four of men will experience anxiety at some point in their lives, and research suggest one – two by 2020.
Severe anxiety is a feature of a group of mental health disorders including:
generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
social phobia
specific phobia i.e spiders, planes,
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
panic disorder
separation anxiety disorder
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
And, Self – Image is generally absent from most diagnosed groups when it comes to describing anxiety disorders which I believe is the root to most mental health conditions, Self-Image conflicts can cause great anxiety and depression of self.

While there are many types of anxiety disorder, there are some common signs and symptoms.
You might be feeling:
very worried or afraid most of the time
tense and on edge
nervous or scared
irritable, agitated
worried you're going crazy
detached from your body
feeling like you may vomit.
You may be thinking:
'everything's going to go wrong'
‘Something is wrong with me’
'I might die'
'I can't handle the way I feel'
'I can't focus on anything but my worries'
'I don't want to go out today'
'I can't calm myself down'.
‘No one likes me’

“I hate myself’
You may also be experiencing:
sleep problems (can't get to sleep, wake often)
pounding heart
'pins and needles'
tummy aches, churning stomach
light-headedness, dizziness
twitches, trembling
problems concentrating
excessive thirst.
When these constant repetitive thoughts and feelings take over, we can feel overwhelmed, lose sleep, feel exhausted, and start to avoid social situations.

Providing the right strategies and understanding around the why’s prior to an attack is impetrative, and anyone that is experiencing stress and anxiety needs to learn how to breathe correctly even when they are not in a panic attack but all the time.
Its’ being in touch with your body, and your lungs by using them correctly, most people do not breath correctly, this is our bodies natural calming response.  
The slow breathing technique is useful, as it helps you to settle down, stop releasing adrenaline, and turn off the fight or flight response.
I also recommend listening to your favourite music, carry ear pods and turn your music on and just breath and switch your attention to listening the words in the song – it immediately switches your focus to what you are hearing, also recognizing that you’re having a panic attack instead of a heart attack, you can remind yourself that this is temporary, it will pass as it has in the past.

Humans have evolved the fight response so that they are ready to take down anything big and scary. If you’re attacked by a large animal in the wild, you might have to be ready to fight it!
Adrenaline is a useful hormone when used as it is supposed to protect you from the wild animal, highly unlikely in today’s environment, unless you work in a zoo!
This response helps you to focus and give your muscles oxygen so that they can fight. This response might make you overly reactive in situations that aren’t really threatening.
These physical changes occur rapidly and automatically. If one were experiencing a life-threatening event, they would be expected. But, when they occur while picking up a few groceries for dinner or sitting in a meeting at work, they can be quite frightening.
Since much of the stress is our current day society is psychosocial anxiety & stress, this prehistoric response which once was necessary for survival is now detrimental.
During a panic or anxiety attack, the body’s alarm system is triggered without the presence of any danger. It is the absence of identifiable danger that actually intensifies the fear associated with panic attacks.
If there is an identifiable danger, we understand the symptoms. We can then fear the danger, not the symptoms. However, if there is no danger and someone experiences sweating and changes in heart rate, breathing, vision, and hearing, it would seem logical to fear the symptoms, even believing they are life-threatening.
Physically, your body is telling you to get ready, you are in grave danger. But how do you prepare psychologically for certain danger that is unseen?
It may be that you assign the symptoms mistaken meaning.  It may be that you immediately flee the situation as if it were dangerous. But, these thoughts and actions don’t get you out of danger. They only reinforce and strengthen the association of a fear that is not based on an actual threat of danger.
Since the fight or flight response isn't under conscious control, but rather an involuntary unconscious response.

Yes, there can be, however people who been told they have depression do not always have anxiety and vice – versa.
The consistent link I see over & over again is Self-image, values and attitudes all derive from the programs we took on during those first critical 7 years of our life, formed from the thought and feeling reactions recorded by your unconscious mind about how you see yourself in the world.
We are taught so often from a young age to run away from our feelings, or not talk about how we feel, so we dismiss them and push them so deep down inside that they will come up eventually like a volcano and we have no way of managing them.
High anxiety levels are created in this society by the environment simply because we react to the environment according to our internal programming.
There are many sources of internal stress that continue to ferment below the surface, forever adding pressure to a personal emotional overload and common stressors include
Self-image conflicts
Sexual self-image and belief systems
Religious beliefs that fuel guilt
Uncontrolled drive for Success
Some people can cope with these; others can't.
People react to the environment differently because each of us carries different memory systems based on a vastly different circumstances supplied by those in authority to us in the vital first 7 years .

A spotlight is now being shown globally on the effects of poor nutrition and how this can interfere with your nervous system in many ways, along with mental health.
Your Self- Image reactions are triggered a thousand times a day, continuously raising adrenaline and cortisol levels and over a period of time this cause your body to be out of balance.
Poor nutrition or an insufficient supply of essential nutrients can also cause your nervous system to malfunction.  As a result, huge mood swings occur.
If you are operating on a diet of high processed sugar, chemical laden food, take away and soft drinks this will have a direct effect on your body, your mental health and this will affect your energy levels and your ability to function at the optimal level.
In the case of overcoming anxiety this comes down to understanding how YOUR mind really works both conscious and unconscious programming, your self- image, limiting beliefs, value systems that will drive your behaviour cycle both positive and negative.  
It’s also crucial that the person who is wanting to overcome the anxiety cycle is provided with real actionable strategies that work permanently, along with looking at the effects on nutritional deficiencies that may not be obvious to most people, and or seek health professionals trained in this area.

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About Natalie

"I am Clinical Psychotherapist/ Hypnotherapist, Master Self – Image Coach, Entrepreneur and Speaker.
I am so in love what I do and feel so privileged that I get to work with brilliant entrepreneurs and stressed out CEO & Executives who are truly ready to overcome their stress and anxiety, no longer just learning how to cope.
So, they can really get back to doing what they love and being in love with who they really are. Back into their business and moving forward, be more present & back into loving life and with the people they love.
I am a mum of two, and a mum of a very moody Burmese cat named Monty, however it’s becoming fine balance between the cat and soon to be 12-year-old son right now!
My mental & physical health is #1 priority for me.  I weight train 5 -6 days a week and eat a high nutritional dense based diet, I LOVE food and only drink restructured antioxidant water.  
I steer clear of tap water due to the chlorine amongst other toxins and bottle water is off the list as it’s highly acidic around 2.5ph (yellow) on the PH scale and not to mention the plastic it’s been sitting in for who knows how long, and the impact on the environment with all that plastic waste.
I love music and dance and have ever since I was very young – if I wasn’t doing what I am doing now I would be a Rockstar – however an in-tune voice was not what I was gifted with, however I will continue to suffer the eyerolls from my children
I live in Melbourne – Australia, but my other home that I frequently visit is Toronto Canada."