Wednesday, 03 November 2021

Can Your Hyper-Anxiety Lead to Depression?

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Can Your Hyper-Anxiety Lead to Depression?

In his Mental Toughness series, Dr Steve Harris, motivational speaker in South Africa, recently discussed that the drivers for hyper-anxiety are usually the negative legacy emotions of shame and guilt. These self-defeating emotions are triggered opportunistically after you experience the consequences of trauma.

Tragically, hyper-anxiety is also associated with constant rumination about negative events in your past or about events that could happen in the future. This causes you to perpetuate depressive behaviours because you find new, imagined problems to be anxious about.

In this state your reasoning capacity is impeded, and you become governed by a melodramatic, as opposed to a fact-based world view. Thus, instead of rationally recognising and logically analysing your feelings of regret or remorse caused by the trauma that could catalyse a change in your behaviour, you end up searching for reasons to justify your feelings of guilt and shame. The result is blaming others or being angry with them as you try to navigate a constant sense of crisis.

People suffering from hyper anxiety tend to mix up what is a frightening or perceived threats, with a dangerous and real threat. This results in a conflict between the life they expected and the one they have and is mostly accompanied by a notion that they have less, if not – no choices. They often see bad over good and become prone to conspiracies while blaming others. They then struggle to accept responsibility. Their flight or fight response is on high alert which causes exhaustion and burn-out.

Substance Dependence Behaviour

In such circumstances, your brain depends on a pain managing or recreational substance that you see as a medicating, soothing or a stimulating solution – without considering that the substance may be problematic. The misuse of cell phones and social media dependency are also included in dependency behaviour.

The overuse of substances is particularly hazardous when combined with a predilection for addiction. You often become righteous, polarized, irrational, have mood swings, renewed anxiety, fear, distrust, and extreme bouts of anger. When challenged about irrationality, you revert to denial and counter accusations. Anti-social behaviours like lying and stealing manifest and personal hygiene deteriorates.

Extreme Grief can Contribute Towards Depressive Behaviour

During a state of severe sadness, you may experience anhedonia – a lack motivation, a feeling of being left behind, experience chronic remorse, loneliness, irrational hopelessness, and despair. You become a ‘baby doomer’ dominated by the belief that you have lost touch with happiness.

In my opinion, the concept of chasing happiness opens a can of worms. Firstly, we often confuse excitement and goal achievement with happiness. Secondly, the suffering and sacrifice endured in the quest for this goal achievement highlights the opposite, i.e., it magnifies what you are not achieving.

You need to allow room for reflecting on the role of lofty goals and consider cutting back on your expectations if they are at the root of your suffering. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “the purpose of life is not chasing happiness. It is to be useful, honourable and compassionate”.

Should Happiness be our Default Position?

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Published in Health and Medicine

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