Anxiety in a societal perspective

Anxiety is an essential neurological reaction, to keep humanity alive. But, if you have had anxiety, you might not be comfortable with me describing anxiety as something we need. Of course not, you might want to slap me through the computer, because there is a severe discomfort connected to that feeling.

But, truth is, it does play an important role in our survival. We have to be able to outrun a bear or fight against a boar. Although, in our society, how many of us really fights boars? We run over the streats in order to escape that crazy driver, we change sidewalks instead of going past that gang, we stay in the slow lane. Sure, we do a lot of things to survive or to keep anxiety in check. But, let’s face it, most things in 1st world societies are not that life threatening, and most of us do not stand face to face to the threat. How does that affect us? Our brain and nervous system is wired in a way that it can not distinguish between a bear in the woods or ruminating about not begin able to pay that bill. The anxiety can become equally big.

How does that affect us?

Now, I will claim something that I do not have any backup on, from any studies….and before you just X out this page and leave to read something else, hold on a bit…..bare with me:)

Since we live a life in most 1 st world contries where we are physically removed from a lot of dangers, often times we are mostly affected by the mental threats. Being our imagination or a true threat, our brain can not tell the difference. The part of the brain called amygdala is reacting quickly, raising the pulse, blood pressure, and gets us ready to fight or flee (or sometimes freeze, when our blood pressure goes down and we feel numb). This is not dangerous, but our body is made to get away from the threat and then our body will normalize by activating our parasympathetic nervous system, that calms us down. The problem in our society is that so many threats or worries are in our heads, that part of the nervous system does not have a say, we do not shut down our brains.

I am wondering whether that is part of the reason anxiety (and also depression, since ruminating and worrying often also cause depression) is increasing in our part of the world, even though our actual threats are decreasing? I mean, we do not get to solve the problems, we do not get to outrun the bear. If we did, would we trust our own abilities to handle life better? Would we be better suited to shake off the feeling of threat, the way our bodies are really designed to do? Are we too remote from the nature, that we can no longer react in a healthy manner? Do we have so much time to think of potential worries instead of using our brain on how to hunt enough food for our family?

On the other hand, having experienced a trauma causes the amygdala area to grow, making us more exposed to anxiety (that we DO know), and this does not support my aforementioned theory. But, even so, a lot of people with anxiety has not experienced a trauma. We have a lot of expectations in our society; to be good in school, to get a good job, to look good, to have great friends and partner, to work out and have energy for everything. This pressure can probably cause anxiety for a lot of people.

So, have we changed the expectations to ourselves on a societal level to the extent, that our reasons to become anxious now are more permanent worries, and they are so many, that they cause us to get sick from it? Can we no longer trust nature to take care of us? Are we so far removed from witnessing illness and death during our lifespan that we feel like total strangers to the idea and are in constant fear? Are our expectations from ourselves or the society so many, that we not longer can practice to master a few things, and feel an accomplishment when we feel like we master them somewhat? And have we made sure to express to our children that they are perfect as they are, and not only because of what they accomplish? How many of us can say “I am perfect the way I am”?

I would love to hear your opinions!

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4 comments

  1. Ja vi diskuterte jo denne problematikken endel sist.
    Er litt som i den vestlige verden blir vi så rar av at alt er tilrettelagt. Vi har mer angst og depresjoner og psykiske og mentale lidelser enn noengang før. Det er diagnoser på hvert bøogginnlegg omtrent og i avisen hyler de mot oss om manglende søvn og dårlig sex og nedbemanning i større firma og lite jobber og og og.
    Hjernen jobber jo overtid når vi ikkje lengre har kroppsjobber til å slite oss ut med, eller bjørner og løpe fra.

    Tror mange GJØR ting mer komplisert og ikkje klarer å kjenne på følelser uten å sette navn på hva de føler og fordi de blir overveldet så heter det plutselig en diagnose som kanskje ikkje engang er reell.
    Som datteren min som fikk tilbudt lykkepiller -når hun vet hun ikkje trenger det.

    • Ja, jeg tror at når vi fjerner oss fra å bruke kroppen, som du sier, og vi ikke lever i pakt med naturen, ikke dyrker maten selv, så bruker vi hjernens kapasitet på andre måter. Måter som iblant er positive, men iblant negative, for vi grubler i stedet for å løse “reelle” problemer.

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