How do thoughts and emotions influence anxiety

Anxiety is a normal thing that every human being can feel. We should not worry about feeling some anxiety or tingling in the stomach, as it is only a small warning from our brain, telling us to be alert.

However, if these sensations invade the person, specialists in Psychology consider that this anxiety is not adaptive, since instead of preparing the person, it blocks him/her. This is because the response is disproportionate to the stimulus. It is perceived as more threatening than it really is because it is “inventing” or imagining the future with the worst possible outcome.

And the sensations are only an exaggeration of normal sensations, which increase because the person thinks he/she will be in danger. These sensations or emotions do not produce any harm. It is important to accept emotions as normal, without trying to avoid them. Anxiety usually does not last long, and the duration depends on how long the person focuses on it. If the fear is fed with catastrophic thoughts the person will only be inventing a negative future, generating more anxiety.

What emotional reactions occur in anxiety?

The emotional reaction that generates anxiety can be observed from three levels:

  • At the cognitive level, in terms of thought and experience. It is at this level when there are feelings of discomfort, hypervigilance, excessive worry, fear or insecurity.
  • At the physiological level, with bodily changes. Here there are alterations in breathing, sweating, gastric problems, changes in heart rate, muscular tension, etc.
  • At the motor level, that is, in the observable behavior of the person. At this level, hyper or hypo activity, crying, facial tension, avoidance of situations that the person fears, substance use, etc., are observed.
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Relationship between anxiety and illogical threatening thoughts

The patient with anxiety feels as he/she thinks. The problem is not that people look at him/her, but the interpretation that the patient makes of why he/she thinks he/she is being looked at.

Anxiety is the consequence of maladapted and illogical thoughts in the face of possible false threats. When the person changes his way of thinking, his way of feeling will change. The problem is not the problem itself, but the assessment we make of the problem.

Anticipatory thoughts in anxiety generate unpleasant feelings.

Anxiety is usually generated by an anticipation that we make before a certain event. This anticipation or anticipatory thinking is usually negative, accompanied by unpleasant feelings and somatic symptoms.

It is important to note that anxiety is the prelude to stress. To overcome anxiety, the patient must be able to identify the source of the stress.

Thoughts can be chosen and become positive

The reality is that the person can choose what he/she thinks. The brain does not care whether we think negative or positive thoughts. However, depending on what the thoughts are, that is how the brain will act. When efforts are made to avoid an emotion, the emotion increases. It is as if someone tells us not to think “of a pink elephant”, that image will automatically be generated in our brain.

The idea, therefore, is not to say “I’m not going to think about the anxiety I’m having”, but to confront that feeling and generate new thoughts that are more positive than catastrophic.