Do you get anxious about being anxious? If a nervous-sounding “yes” simply popped into your head, then this one’s for you.
The fear of anxiety itself is a real condition, which clinicians call “anxiety sensitivity.” People with high nervousnes sensitivity are fearful of the physical sensations and symptoms that accompany anxiety the cold sweat, racing heart rate, dizziness, shallow breathing and that fluttery feeling you get in your belly. Beyond being unpleasant, the condition is a known risk factor for depression, panic disorders and anxiety itself.
While the symptoms of nervousnes aren’t fun for anyone, people who are lower in nervousnes sensitivity generally don’t perceive them as harmful or dangerous.
“For most people, sweaty palms and an increasing heart rate are simply unpleasant symptoms that occur in stressful situations; for others, these same symptoms are interpreted as a sign of impending doom, ” Dr. Nancy Frasure-Smith, who led a 2010 Canadian study on nervousnes sensitivity in cardiac patients, explained at the time. “People with high anxiety sensitivity tend to exaggerate the potential consequences of their anxiety symptoms, leading to an increase in nervousnes and its symptoms in a spiralling increase of anxiety and worry.”
Here are four signs that you might have high nervousnes sensitivity 😛 TAGEND
At the heart of anxiety sensitivity is fear of the uncomfortable physical symptoms that come with nervousnes and a faith that these symptoms pose an immediate threat to the individual’s own well-being.
“It’s the tendency to interpret anxious sensations as catastrophic–it really is fear of fear, ” Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University, recently wrote in Scientific American.
Even if the symptoms come from more benign causes like drinking a little too much coffee or going for an extra-long run they can still feel scary to someone with nervousnes sensitivity.
For someone with high levels of nervousnes sensitivity, the onset of anxious feelings triggers the fear of a more serious problem. In some routes, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: This added fear can lead to a more extreme anxiety reaction although not, in most cases, a full-on breakdown.
“Someone with high nervousnes sensitivity might dread the dizziness that comes with being anxious, thinking it means they’re going to snap and have a mental breakdown, ” Hendriksen wrote. “Another might dread the pounding heart that comes from walking into a room of strangers, supposing a heart attack is around the corner.”
Prone to panic? It could be due to high nervousnes sensitivity. The trait is a major risk factor for both individual panic attacks and longer-term panic disorders. The more anxiety sensitivity a person has, the more likely that person will have a anxiety response to a difficult or uncomfortable bodily sensation.
The DSM-5 describes hypochondriasis as the “preoccupation with dreads of having a serious medical illness based on misinterpretations of benign( or minor) bodily sensations.” To a hypochondriac, a headache means a brain tumor, a quickened heartbeat entails a heart attack, and a mole means melanoma. Any symptom, real or perceived, can send the individual down the rabbit pit of frantic Google searching and Yahoo message-board posting.
Hypochondriasis in common parlance, hypochondria is organized around fearful and anxious feelings. Although it’s not technically considered an anxiety ailment, it is closely related to anxiety sensitivity.
“We interpret those sensations differently when we exert, ” Hendriksen wrote. “We pull apart the inconvenience from the negative interpretation. If anything, when we feel the shaky muscles and ragged breathing of exercise, we feel positive: virtuous, accomplished, and strong.”
When you feel like you need a good reminder there’s nothing to fear but dread itself, lace up your running shoes, reached the gym or head to a yoga class. It’ll help you refocus on the normal, healthy styles that your body conveys itself.
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