In life there are some things that are good for us and some things that aren’t. Many times though, the things that we think are doing us harm actually have a component of good.
This is true for things like relationships that although were not healthy while we were engaged, taught us great life lessons weeks, months or years down the road. The same can be said for anxiety.
Anxiety was best described to me as the point when your fight or flight response is triggered by something that should be completely innocuous. It can be brought on by social interaction, peer pressure, perceived slights or even things as seemingly harmless as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk or not doing the precise number of actions or the precise order of actions before something happens.
Anxiety is the result of compounding worry that’s sparked when we feel we’re losing control and many times it can be debilitating enough to interfere with our happiness.
In my case anxiety is brought on when I perceive my delusions of being ostracized as reality. This is the one point of living with schizophrenia that hasn’t gone away with meds, and it happens often enough that I’ve gotten pretty used to it. Despite logic, and despite my knowledge that people aren’t actually laughing about me or making fun of me, this anxiety has made it a daily chore for me to get out of the house and do the things that I need to do that day.
In my experience, though, the anxiety has also served me well as a defense mechanism. As much as I hate experiencing it in the moment, it has kept me out of situations that have the potential to be harmful later on.
Eight years ago when I was having my first major psychotic episode, I took a spur of the moment trip to New York and the U.N. During my trip, I spent a night in an alley in New York and several nights via seedy public transit. There were many instances when I was approached by people offering me both drugs and prostitution.
What kept me from getting further into trouble was my anxiety about interacting with these people. For me to talk to these people, let alone look them in the eye would’ve led me to a place I may have never gotten out of.
Sometimes there’s a reason we’re feeling anxious, even if it seems like a harmless situation. There may be a reason that we’re on alert. Maybe we get the feeling from the way things are going that an unpleasant situation is likely to happen. Maybe there’s a pattern we recognize from previous experiences that we notice that causes our anxiety to rise.
The point is, even though we’ve been told time and again to take our unreasonable fears with a grain of salt, there may be something to them.
Granted, living with schizophrenia, I have also learned to be skeptical of the instances in which my anxiety seems unwarranted. But in those times when I have been on alert, it has kept me from taking both unnecessary risks and from engaging in activities, which may have been detrimental. My wariness and fear prevented me from getting hurt.
It’s important for us to be conscious of what we’re thinking even if what we’re thinking may have no basis in reality. If our flight or fight response is being triggered, there’s probably a good reason for it. Even if your anxiety seems unwarranted, it’s best to be wary.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 May 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Hedrick, M. (2014). How Anxiety Can Protect Us. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/05/29/how-anxiety-can-protect-us/