LETTERS

Are you anxious or do you have anxiety?

Posted

To the Editor:

“Anxiety” has become a bit of a buzzword of late. And why shouldn’t it? Repeated surveys and studies in recent years have shown that Americans’ anxiety in general is on the rise. [1] But I’m sure you don’t need to read the data and consider the validity of the studies to ascertain that in general, everyone is anxious. I’m sure you know someone who struggles with anxiety or is constantly stressed out. Heck, I’ll bet that you’re stressed out, dear reader, in this very moment about something. Did you lock your house? Did you lock your car? Did you lock your keys in your car? Do you have a deadline that you keep putting off and putting off and putting off? What if you are mortally wounded by a minute meteorite speeding through the skies on your way home?

Does thinking such things evoke anxiety? Of course they do. Anxiety is hardwired in our brains and bodies; a primal survival mechanism that has kept homo sapiens alive for millennia. It would be abnormal if one did not feel a deal of stress—or anxiety – from time to time. [2] Yet in an era where general anxiety has been on the rise for over half a century, it is important to be aware of our stress triggers, anxiety, and how we communicate our relationship with this human experience.[3]

So back to my earlier inquiry: do those aforementioned stress triggers give you anxiety? Or do they make you anxious? “What’s it matter?” one might argue. Anxiety is awful and stresses you out, so why should we play a semantics game? But the crux of the issue does not lie in playing a semantics game, rather it lies in communicating our feelings in the most realistic and understandable fashion. When it comes to anxiety, something we all deal with in varying degrees of distress, that necessity is exacerbated. If one says, “x gives me anxiety,” then at some level, that speaker is positing or inferring that the stress trigger, whatever it may be, gives or delivers or administers the feeling of anxiety. But this is an inaccurate representation of how we as people think and deal with anxiety. Anxiety is not a product that is given or received by external stimuli or bodies; it is a product of our brains and our bodies in response to external stimuli – it is a condition of our very being.

Yet by and large this language has been adopted, and communicates a general understanding that anxiety is a foreign entity. If one says that “x gives me anxiety,” one others the anxiety as external, a product or entity that doesn’t belong. But in so doing, that anxiety is empowered because it is subconsciously othered and thought of as an external entity. With this model, one fosters an unhealthy relationship with anxiety because if it is constantly seen as an external threat, it will forever be an external threat rather than a response to threat. By speaking and referring to anxiety as an outside force, that otherization is enforced.

So perhaps instead, we should rethink the way we refer to our anxiety, and our stress triggers. If we say, “x makes me anxious,” we – subconsciously and/or consciously – own our anxiety as a legitimate experience and feeling we have. Sure, at some level it may hurt to acknowledge that we have this anxiety, but it is better to acknowledge it rather than other it because if we think of it as an external entity, it will be one; the devil on your right shoulder administering anxiety into your ear. Instead, if we acknowledge that we have anxiety as humans, we can begin to change the way we approach anxiety, and hopefully have a better relationship with it.

James Welsh

The author is a senior at Rhode Island College and a secondary education/English major.

[1] Tim Newman, “Anxiety in the West: Is it on the Rise?” Medical News Today, 5 Sept 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322877.php

[2] Ibid

[3] Peter Dockrill. “America Really is in the Midst of a Rising Anxiety Epidemic,” ScienceAlert, 9 May 2018, www.sciencealert.com/americans-are-in-the-midst-of-an-anxiety-epidemic-stress-increase

Comments

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justanidiot

do likes dey used to do in da old days, suck it up, have a shot and a beer, and face life. effin whiners

Thursday, July 25
warwick10

That's the problem-- using alcohol to manage your anxiety. Though alcohol (and drugs) may lessen anxious feelings in the short term, long term --especially in today's world--is causing more problems.

Too many people turning to/abusing alcohol to cope.

Monday, July 29
justanidiot

ok, do it like udder old schoolers, suck it up. if world war two were to happen today, we would be speaking germaine in a week.

Monday, July 29
warwick10

yup, suck it up--without alcohol or drugs!

Tuesday, July 30
FASTFRED WARD 4

DRUGS. A cookie a day makes you feel like a million bucks. Living in this swap

Thursday, August 29