Anxiety as a road sign

anxiety, depression, mental health, psychotherapy

Anxiety is often described as a feeling of worry, which could be mild or severe, and it is associated with the prediction of future events. This is the reason why it is followed by negative thoughts and catastrophic scenarios i.e. all kinds of different stories about future disasters. Physical manifestations that accompany the anxiety include muscle tension, stomachache and an experience of tightening in the stomach, fatigue, exhaustion, and problems focusing. In contrast to fear, where such reaction is always somehow connected to the lurking danger in the outside environment, it appears that anxiety is always about factors and awaiting consequences that are not in the “here and now.”

The importance of pain

Pain is part of life, companion of many important life events, a clear sign that something demands our attention, a conspicuous signal that something is wrong or not quite right, and an invitation that we should ask for help. Pain might be physical or mental/psychological. Psychological pain is sometimes defined as “the affective state associated with discrepancy between ideal and actual perception of self.” Psychological pain is tied to any form of inner suffering or intense unpleasant feelings (e.g. guilt, fear, loneliness, panic, helplessness, despair). Suffering can be caused by frustrated psychological needs, such as need for love, belonging, autonomy, success, etc. Fulfilling these needs is a drive to action—it can be big part of human motivation per se. However, personal meanings and the unique story of each person differ from one human being to another, even when the same or similar needs are not satisfied. So, suffering and pain of each person are specific: in order to understand something about them and to approach the inner core of their problems, we must first understand their life story. Psychological pain is at the heart of many psychological problems. In depression, the pain is often described as “physical,” which can further lead to an over exaggerated reaction to negative images and stimuli. Consequences might include feelings of unhappiness, guilt, ruminations, etc. Very intense pain could lead to suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviors. The risk of suicide rises as general psychological and emotional pain becomes stronger. Suicide happens when the pain becomes excruciating—when it becomes intolerable—so the very act signifies escape from unbearable suffering.