We recently watched the classic Mel Brooks movie “High Anxiety.” Besides the fact that it is absolutely hilarious, and relentlessly parodies psychiatry and psychiatrists, it also leads into a discussion of anxiety as popularized by psychiatry and psychology.
The American Psychological Association says, “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.”
The American Psychiatric Association says, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress … Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety.” But they go further and list many different types of anxiety disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists no fewer than 54 disorders using the word “anxiety,” plus a number of other disorders with different names but which may still be considered as a type of anxiety disorder.
Psychiatrist Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, played by Mel Brooks in the movie, suffers from “high anxiety,” manifested as vertigo ostensibly from a fear of heights, which in the DSM would be a “Specific phobia.”
The English word “anxiety” itself means, among other definitions, “apprehensive uneasiness, worry, or nervousness typically over an impending or anticipated ill, or something with an uncertain outcome.” [Latin anxietas, from anxius, from angere “to choke”]
Psychiatrists and psychologists attempt to give it a “medical” definition, which is necessary in order to prescribe drugs for it. One medical dictionary says this, “Anxiety disorder: A chronic condition characterized by an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension, with physical symptoms such as sweating, palpitations, and feelings of stress. Treatments include the comfort offered by understanding the condition, avoiding or desensitizing exacerbating situations, and medications.” Google says this, “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”
The relationship of anxiety to stress should be self-evident. You might like to review what we have written previously about stress.
Anxiety, like stress, is not a mental illness, and cannot be fixed with a drug. It can only be fixed by finding and eliminating the causes of the condition. For example, many doctors and nutritionists are finding that anxiety attack symptoms can be the result of food allergies. There are many other potential causes. We recommend a full, searching clinical examination by a competent non-psychiatric doctor, to find out if there are any undiagnosed and untreated actual medical conditions.
There is an international nonprofit organization called “Anxiety and Depression Association of America”, whose purpose is the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety and other “co-occurring disorders.” Naturally they claim, falsely, that anxiety disorders have a biological basis, giving them a reason to prescribe drugs. The National Institute of Mental Health says, “Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.”
If you were thinking of an anti-anxiety drug, be warned that these can cause hallucinations, delusional thinking, confusion, aggression, violence, hostility, agitation, irritability, depression and suicidal thinking. They are also some of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from.
Anxiety is an emotion, and is really a conflict, or the restimulation of a conflict, or something containing indecision or uncertainty. It is exemplified by a conflict between something supporting survival and something opposing survival. It is rooted in an inability to assign the correct cause to something, which itself is rooted in an inability to observe. As we said, the cure is not a drug, but in finding out the correct cause.