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Anxiety: The Beast Within, or The Angel of Peace?

A gray cardboard cutout of a persons head against a white background with a twin cutout with deep blues and black watercolors halfway inside. An art piece that depicts depression or anxiety.

Yes, it’s mean as hell. This “thing” that takes over my mind and my body. What is it?

That is only part of the question we need to ask about the monster of anxiety. The other part should be, “How do I get rid of it.”

Fear is the beginning of all anxiety. Just as money is the root of all evil, so is our own fear, and it is mean as hell.

Anxiety is an intense emotion of fear. This fear is generally of future events or activities. This fear then can cause us to have negative self-damaging thoughts, images of destruction, failure, or catastrophe, and intense adverse physical responses in the present.

We all experience fear and anxiety to a lesser or greater amount in our daily lives. In fact, fear and anxiety can act as either positive or negative emotions. They can act as a warning system that helps us decide what to do in a particular situation. Or, fear and anxiety can act as a catalyst to our own living hell.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013)  gives the following picture, “ with fear more often associated with surges of autonomic arousal necessary for fight or flight, thoughts of immediate danger, and escape behaviors, and anxiety more often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautions or avoidance behaviors.”

Let’s see an example of this:

If you were walking home after a night out with your loved one, and you had a choice to go down a dark alleyway or walk along a lighted sidewalk. You might experience fear and anxiety accompanied by negative thinking and body sensations about walking down a dark alleyway. This type of fear and anxiety is good. It warns us and helps us to survive.

But this does not work for our inner world experiences.

If we were to apply this same logic to our inner world as we do to our outer world, the outcome would be debilitating.  If you were a college student at a prestigious university preparing to take a challenging exam. You most likely would experience strong emotions of fear, negative thinking of failure, and the urge to do something else besides studying for the test. This is anxiety at work. It floods our senses with fight-or-flight sensations and inundates our minds with negativity and disaster.

The problem with anxiety is that we form negative habitual responses to the inner pain that we experience. Like the above situation, we have a future event that we will face, we have negative thoughts, negative emotions, and urges that arise, then we try to reduce them with negative behavior.  Over time, if we allow fear and anxiety to lead our life and look for ways to “get rid” of it, negative behaviors can become habitual and physiological disorders can take hold.

Do I have It?

Yes, we all will experiences anxiety in our life. The question is how does anxiety affect our daily lives? Does it take over and debilitate us?

How do I treat it:

The good news is that anxiety is shared by everyone. This means there are many resources that can help us learn and understand it.


There are many types of therapy self-help books for anxiety. Below are some good resources that are available either from Amazon or the local bookstore.

  • The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety, by John P. Forsyth, Ph.D. and George H. Eifert, PhD
  • The Anxiety Toolkit, by Alice Boyes, PhD
  • The Anxiety & Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution, by David A. Clark Ph.D. and Aaron T. Beck, MD
  • When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, by David D. Burns, M.D

When should I seek out a counselor or Professional advice?

If you feel that anxiety is getting out of control in your life, that is when you should reach out and seek professional help. Seeking out a professional is like hiring a coach to help you throw the ball better, swim faster, or advance your academic skills.


In looking up the word “cope”, the first definition is interesting., reads, “to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success.” This definition is helpful, for it gives hope that the individual who is experiencing extreme anxiety has the capacity to have “some degree of success” in a better way of living.  Learning to live out different degrees of success with anxiety in our life is not easy. Using self-help books and going to counseling can assist a person to understand their unique life situation and gain the knowledge to have success in their life.

Do I need to take medications:

This question should be answered by your primary care provider. Medication can help reduce the feelings, emotions, urges, and sensations of anxiety but will not cure them.