Diffuse anxiety: causes, effects, and countermeasures
Fear is a primitive human reaction that ensures survival. Not only in humans but also in the animal world, fear caused by concrete dangers is important as natural protection against threats and carelessness. It resolves after the danger has been overcome and, in the case of an acute threat, causes hormonally influenced physiological processes that control behavior appropriate to the situation. These are felt, among other things, as a feeling of pressure in the chest, as an increased pulse, in the form of stomach discomfort or perspiration. This concrete, well-founded fear is confronted with an unspecified mental disorder that scientists call “diffuse anxiety .” The adjective “diffuse” in this context stands for “inexplicable”, “indistinct” or “confused”.
Diffuse anxiety is a situation-independent, ongoing and pathological disorder that often significantly adversely affects the general mental and physical well-being of those affected. Psychologists divide them into several forms depending on the symptoms. In addition to a general and unfounded feeling of fear, diffuse anxiety can also manifest as phobia, in the form of panic attacks or as obsessive-compulsive disorder. An estimated ten percent of the population suffer from diffuse anxiety. If this persists for more than half a year, experts recommend targeted treatment to reduce the occasionally heavy burden on those affected and their social environment.
Triggers and causes of diffuse anxiety
Although diffuse anxiety is not triggered by acute danger situations, it does occur as a result of negative living conditions. People who have had a threatening experience in their childhood or past or have suffered considerable anxiety are at an increased risk of later developing an anxiety disorder. Children from broken or problematic family relationships, who can not cope with a separation between their parents or who have become victims of domestic violence, often suffer from diffuse anxiety as adults. Even children who can not cope with a traumatic experience, a negative memory, performance pressure at school or problems in the social environment are at an increased risk of having an anxiety disorder or developing it in later life years.
Even in adulthood, negative experiences such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, or a problematic work environment can cause diffuse anxiety. However, whether or not someone develops an anxiety disorder due to negative experiences depends on the individual’s character, resilience, and mental health. The degrees of diffuse anxiety also vary from person to person. While some just feel a generalized queasy feeling or are generally anxious in different everyday situations, others suffer from panic attacks with considerable physical reactions.
Particularly at risk for all types of anxiety disorders are people who are prone to neurosis. Since significantly more women exhibit neurotic behavior patterns than men, it is estimated that twice as many girls and women are affected by diffuse anxiety compared to boys and men.
Diffuse anxiety and its effects
People who suffer from generalized or morbid anxiety feel a constant fear of potentially threatening situations, which, however, usually do not occur or are very unlikely. This unconcrete, chronic anxiety, like any anxiety caused by acute threats, is manifested by physical reactions. The hormonal influences cause that the typical, mostly only temporary symptoms of anxiety constantly affect the organism and can thereby harm the mental and physical health in the long term.
As different as the forms of diffuse anxiety are, so diverse are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Many people formulate anxious thoughts, constantly believe in a poor outcome of normal everyday situations, fancy being seriously ill, or suffer from a strong fear of loss, which sometimes leads to irrational or ill-considered actions and behaviors. This can have a significant negative impact on work performance and interpersonal relationships. Other sufferers are increasingly withdrawing from their social environment due to their fears, leading in extreme cases of inability to work and total isolation.
Diffuse anxiety also becomes particularly problematic when violent panic attacks trigger dizziness, palpitations, and respiratory disorders. Those affected often experience an overwhelming fear of dying at such moments. Regardless of whether anxiety or fear of anxiety, a generally anxious behavior or serious obsessive-compulsive disorder, diffuse anxiety definitely affects the quality of life and inhibits the healthy development of the personality.
Measures to overcome anxiety
If unfounded anxiety symptoms persist for more than a few months, sufferers should seek professional help. By confronting and addressing their fears, a human being takes the first and most important step towards successfully overcoming the disorder. In many cases, the deliberate change in living conditions brings a significant improvement. Autogenic training, meditation or yoga helps many people with anxiety disorders to reduce chronic stress and to get to the root of the threatening feelings.
For specific phobias such as claustrophobia, fear of flying, fear of heights or test anxiety, participation in special courses offered by psychologists is a good option. To combat pronounced generalized anxiety and panic attacks, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven successful. Only in particularly severe cases, drug treatment with antidepressants, especially drugs from the group of so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI may be required. Due to the strong side effects, which in turn negatively affect the quality of life, however, a psychotherapeutic treatment should always be considered before the use of such drugs.