Any given situation could give
rise to various feelings. Sometimes several feelings could emerge at the same
time.  We do not tend to think much about
it if the feeling is a positive one. 
However if it is a negative one, we usually can not put our finger on it
despite knowing it to be a bad feeling. 
But we need to give a name to that negative feeling and make sense of it
to be able deal with it.   

 

Anxiety could be defined as one’s
being consciously concerned about the possibility of an undesired situation or
his/her state of being scared of a real situation that is currently taking
place.  Fear and anxiety are closely
related.  However while fear is a
functional reaction that is shown in the face of a real threat, anxiety is a
more widespread feeling.  It is sometimes
a causeless or extreme reaction shown against a current or possible future
threat.  Anxiety may become uncomfortable
when it starts preventing or limiting a behavior that developmentally facilitates
conformity.    For instance while the
anxiety suffered by a child at the age between 6 months to 3 years due to
his/her separation from his/her mother, and the gradual decline of such anxiety
after the age of 3 is expected to happen and considered to be developmentally
normal, it is regarded as a problem if it is observed in an adolescent because
it affects the ability to act alone and the learning process in a negative way
during the development of an adolescent. And it can be a serious problem for an
adult. 

 

Even normal stimulus can be
conceived as “threatening” by the person suffering anxiety during the state of
anxiety.  For instance it is only natural
to expect to have fast heartbeats after a strenuous physical activity.   Normally a person, after such an activity,
thinks that “I should get some rest”. But a person having anxiety
about that particular situation tends to think that “I’m having a heart
attack”.  On other hand a strenuous
physical activity may have other indications such as excessive breathing.   But an anxious person could specifically
pick out such stimulus that recalls the anxiety. And this results in the
perpetuation of the anxiety without being dealt with.  

 

The development of anxiety is very
complicated.  It is a process where a lot
of factors are involved.  There are
various theories as to the development of anxiety.  For instance, according to the Barlow’s
model, fear and anxiety are natural and normal reactions which help us get
ready against any threatening situation and save us from being harmed.   Therefore the feeling of anxiety prepares a
person either to fight against or flee from a threat.  It is not normal to show this reaction when
there is no threatening situation or to show a far more excessive reaction than
is necessary.  To illustrate this point;
a snake is an animal that scares most of us and causes us to grow anxious if it
is somewhere where we can see.  This is a
normal reaction which protects us from the harm that a snake can inflict on
us.  However it is a different story for
a person who gives the same reaction to a snake photograph or a person who is
afraid of going to picnic or a walk in the forest because of their heightened
anxiety level.  Because at this point
anxiety stops being a feeling that regulates our conformity and is transformed
into a reaction that causes problematic behaviors and interferes in our daily
lives.    Another model has expanded that
theory a bit further and articulated physiological, cognitive and behavioral
elements into it.   Such elements are
fundamentally independent of one another but at the same time they are in
interaction with each other.  
Physiological elements are the reactions such as the acceleration of
heartbeats, tightening of muscles and excessive breathing.  Cognitive elements are that of anxious
thoughts, the state of anxiety and interpretations of danger.  Behavioral elements are the acts of
conceiving of a danger or threat and thus the prevention or running away from
the situation that causes anxiety.  Such
a situation could be illustrated as follows: 
The idea of making a presentation to a group of people causes you
anxiety, because you’d be preoccupied with such thoughts: “I’ll be embarrassed
if I forget anything” or “Everybody will be watching me”. When
you think such thoughts your muscles are tightened, your heartbeats and
breathing get faster.  For this reason
you shy away from the courses or jobs that entail presentations.   According to this model, the unnatural state
of anxiety comes into being due to the impairment of one or more of those
abovementioned elements.    They increase
the state of anxiety by interacting with each other later on. 

No matter which one is the case or
how old you are, anxiety is a state that you should be aware of and deal with.

Prof. Dr.
Bengi Semerci 

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