Panic, sweating, racing thoughts, exhaustion, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, ruminating thoughts. Some of the painful, and exhausting symptoms of anxiety.
In many cases, anxiety is accompanied by a strong inner-critic which places pressure on us to be perfect. It can also be accompanied by paranoia, depression and many other symptoms. If any of this rings a bell for you, I have to say first that I truly empathize with you. The pain and pressure of anxiety causes many symptoms that get in the way of our daily functioning such as sleeping, relationships. You are carrying a heavy and painful burden and I empathize with you. I see you.
The emerging research around anxiety increasingly supports the fact that it does not develop out of nowhere. When our sense of self is fractured (or non-existent), we lack the ability to regulate ourselves. Our brains and bodies are in perpetual states of hyper-vigilance, reactivity, sensitivity, and exhaustion. Our systems are on overdrive. We are strung out looking for the next threat to our very survival.
Anxiety is exhausting. It is the warning sign that your system is overloaded and overwhelmed.
When we are investigating what causes anxiety and how to heal it, we need to ask how our sense of self became fractured. We may even need to ask why our sense of self is missing.
As babies, we are connected to our parents biologically, emotionally, and psychologically. This connection is much deeper than words. It is primal. This connection exists because we are dependent on our parents for survival. Our mothers can attune to and soothe us with something as simple as a facial expression. Our parents have the ability to regulate our emotions as well as our bodies.
It is this connection that helps our brains develop properly. Particularly, as Dr. Allan Schore discusses here , in our right brain. Our right brain holds subconscious and subjective matter such as memories, emotions, and our sense of reality and self. If, in early childhood through to adolescence, our parents do not attune to and regulate our emotions – both negative and positive – we will find difficulty doing so throughout our lives. If this pattern of emotional neglect continues, and if we do not develop a strong sense of safety and connection (that we will be soothed when we are in distress, that we will be seen as we are etc.), we end up with a very weak, fragile, and fractured sense of ourselves. This fracture can cause feelings of emptiness, lostness, danger, dread, depression, and anxiety.
Here are some family conditions that are breeding grounds for anxiety
Drawing Connections Between Childhood Trauma and Anxiety
In families like the ones listed above, our parents did not have strong a strong sense of self. Maybe they were addicted, personality disordered, or dissociated. This means that our parents had difficulty connecting with (attuning) to us because they had difficulty connecting to their self.
Growing up in the conditions listed above means that Complex Post Traumatic Stress disorder may be hidden root cause of your anxiety. Complex PTSD happens when we are repeatedly exposed to stressors. If you lived life as a child on high-alert or completely shut down because your family wasn’t safe, you may be suffering from complex PTSD.
When we are able to take an honest look at the root cause of our anxiety, we are much more able to develop the proper tools to heal ourselves. Anxiety is body mind and soul. It’s not just an emotional/psychological state.
You’re not defective. Anxiety doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, but it may mean there was something wrong with your family dynamic.