This One Thing Is Surprisingly So Common!

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Have you ever suffered from a panic attack or an anxiety attack? Even if you haven’t, you have surely felt anxiety at some time or another in your life. With about 13 million adults suffering from feelings of anxiety during the past year, this is becoming more prevalent than ever. In fact, with the number reported cases of anxiety alone in the past year, this type of feeling is eclipsing all forms of cancer combined by about 800 percent!

Is it any wonder that we are feeling anxious? Our modern day life is one constant hassle! Everything from getting up early so we can hope to beat traffic; our commute; the jobs we hold which demand far too much for far too little; trying to work in exercise and relaxation time; the kids, our spouses; and the constant demands from cell phones, fax machines, computers. The gadgets made our lives easier, but now demand that we be available at all times and ready to work at a moment’s notice. We have poor diets which do not allow our bodies to deal with this stress, and then we get messages from mainstream media suggesting that not only should we have it all and do it all, but we better look good doing it!

Although employers are urged to be sensitive to employees who might be experiencing anxiety, the truth is most of them simply don’t care even though the accommodations needed are easy and inexpensive. If employers were to offer more flexible work schedules, tele-commuting when possible, and more private work spaces, or encourage solutions to common problems such as on-site child care and after work yoga or exercise sessions, perhaps anxiety levels in America would drop and productivity would increase.

Unfortunately, anxiety is even common among college students. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that more than 50 percent of those visiting on campus clinics reported having feelings of anxiety or anxiety attacks. In fact, one national survey found that just in the past year, one out of every six college students was treated for anxiety.

The fuel for the fire of anxiety is uncertainty. Taking a more lighthearted approach to things can help. We can’t help it — as human beings, we prefer certainty to uncertainty. For example, studies have shown that, offered the choice of receiving an electrical shock right now as opposed to “later” (no definite date given), people overwhelmingly preferred to be shocked right now, therefore eliminating the uncertainty.

The main area where people differ in the degree to which uncertainty bothers them is age. A team of researchers in Quebec developed a scale called the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale, or the IUS. This scale looks at and assesses how much people desire and seek out the certain, the predictable, and the ways they react in ambiguous situations.

Higher levels of intolerance are predictive of an increased risk of developing anxiety attacks or other kinds of anxiety disorders, such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

In fact, for anxiety to exist, there must be a certain degree of uncertainty, according to research performed at the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.

According to one of the creators of the IUS, those who suffer from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) are on one end of this scale of worry. Their worries aren’t different than yours or anyone else’s, they just have a whole lot more of it. Think of it as a type of psychological allergy.

There are a great many brain processes in anxiety including the regulation of emotions and the perceived threat or safety detection. When an uncertain situation occurs, your brain looks for environmental clues, such as past experiences, so that it can associate this as a safe event or a threatening event. When you are in a unique situation that you have never experienced before and you don’t know anything about it, your brain takes the “better safe than sorry” approach and sees everything as a threat.

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