Advantages of Anxiety, Disadvantages of Anxiety
Anxiety can be difficult to live with; indeed, some might argue that is a huge understatement. There are different types of anxiety disorders, and each comes with its unique challenges and obstacles. All of them fall under the umbrella of anxiety because they share certain commonalities, such as excessive worry and fear, disruptive thought patterns, and a host of physical and emotional anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders share another trait: anxiety, in general, has two sides.
Anxiety Has a Function, But It Can Turn Into Dysfunction
Not all anxiety is a disadvantage. Throughout human history, anxiety has kept us safe. Our ancestors who were just a bit on edge were more aware, more alert. They were prepared to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way, be that harm other humans, ferocious animals, or severe weather conditions.
This “edginess,” if you will, continues to keep us functioning optimally even today. A healthy level of worrying about a test, a presentation, a date or whatever life brings means that we care about something and this helps us prepare to do well.
It is when anxiety becomes too big, overtaking our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, that it stops being helpful and starts to be downright harmful. When anxiety skyrockets, rather than functioning better, we can almost completely shut down. Sometimes panic sets in. Sometimes we are driven into dark corners of our homes to hide in fear. Sometimes our obsessive anxious thoughts drive us to repetitive rituals, compulsions, in an attempt to alleviate the worry.
Anxiety isn't just a single word representing a single concept. There’s a lot to it, and that’s good news for those of us who live with it. Because it has depth and is multifaceted, it can be examined. Upon examination, we see that it has different aspects, each with two separate sides.
Anxiety can be crippling or motivating.
Anxiety can makes us prisoners or safe.
Anxiety can induce paralysis or a healthy case of the jitters.
Anxiety cause our thoughts to race uncontrollably or stimulate our thoughts enough to problem-solve.
Find a Place Between Anxiety's Extremes Where You Feel in Control
Truly, living with some anxiety is healthy. It helps us care, to prepare, do our best, and make good and safe decisions. It’s when anxiety becomes a monster that we experience the negative side of the coin.
The good news is that there are two sides and we don’t have to accept disadvantages. Study your own unique coin. What’s on the unhealthy side? What is this part of anxiety doing to you?
Once you have awareness of exactly what anxiety is doing to you in your life, you can decide how you want to flip the coin. What does the opposite of your anxiety look like? If it’s keeping you from socializing, for example, what’s on the other side of the coin: big parties, lunch with a friend, a walk down a public sidewalk? The other side of your coin doesn't have to be extreme. What does the flip side of your coin look like?
Now that you've pinpointed one of the disadvantages of your anxiety and what its opposite looks like for you, you can define little steps to take every day in order to flip over the coin of anxiety (it’s pretty heavy, so working in small pieces is best) and begin to experience life as you want to live it.
NCC, T. (2015, January 15). Advantages of Anxiety, Disadvantages of Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/01/advantages-of-anxiety-disadvantages-of-anxiety
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
I'm so glad you returned to share your insights. I alwas enjoy reading your comments and professional thoughts. Thank you for mentioning the global index of personal life functioning (a similar scale that I'm familiar with is the global assessment of functioning). Tools that assess overall functioning are very important because they do the very thing you mention: help distinguish between a disorder and a disturbance/difficulty. It's when anxiety, etc. impacts someone's life functioning in a negative way that there is something that needs psychiatric attention. Thank you for contributing!
And what to avoid for curing pain