Anger, Anxiety, Depression and Survival
Sometimes we feel angry because we have been wronged in some way or our boundaries have been crossed. We might be fed up and frustrated with something or someone after we have tried for too long and are exhausted. At times we feel nervous about an upcoming change in our lives, meeting new people, a big test or feel overwhelmed by money issues. We might also feel sad because of a loss and hopeless after a long struggle with unresolved issues.
It is normal to have a full range of emotions, as our emotions are meant to give us important information, and enable us to experience life in color, not just black and white. You can think of feelings almost like a super power. If we notice, and listen to the signs our bodies give us, we can overt danger; and at the same time notice and appreciate beauty, kindness and love when it presents and we feel happy. Here are some examples of what I am talking about. Have you ever had that feeling in your stomach when something isn’t right, followed that instinct and avoided a dangerous situation? Have you felt angry or irritated when someone disregards your well being and expects you to do something you aren’t comfortable with? Has a part of you said “this isn’t a good idea” when something that seemed okay turned out to be really bad? We get feelings about good things too, like those times we get a good feeling about someone, and they turn out to be an amazing person. All of our emotions have a purpose, and are expected under certain circumstances.
So, what happens when the frequency and intensity of the emotion doesn’t match the event triggering it? In other words, the reaction is unexpected given the situation. If this is happening to you on a regular basis it is a sign you may be having difficulty regulating your emotions, and there is likely an underlying cause. It’s a good idea to seek the help of a medical professional, as different health problems can manifest as mood issues. If you are physically healthy, you might be struggling with an underlying mental health issue, which is also a medical problem. There is often a genetic component to having increased anxiety, depression and extreme mood fluctuations so it is also a good idea to investigate your family history and consult with a therapist.
Unresolved trauma is another potential root cause of overwhelming symptoms of anger, anxiety, fear, sleep problems, flashbacks, unexplained body pain, stomach upset, depression and addiction.
When we experience something that threatens our life, well-being, survival, or sense of self, we experience a traumatic event. If the traumatic experience goes unresolved by our nervous system, we become traumatized. This means traumatic events can essentially live in our conscious and subconscious mind, and in our nervous systems long after they’ve ended. A traumatic event could be as simple as a fall, or as complex as torture spanning a period of years. Even things we might not regard as traumatic, like a medical procedure or surgery can be very distressing to our bodies.
Usually, people are not fully conscious of the trauma triggers which cause them to have a fight, flight or freeze response. Think of unchecked anger, frequent arguing and punching objects as a possible expressions of being in a “fight” mode; running away, avoidance, excessive movement, and panicking are some examples of the “flight” mechanism; and being mentally “checked out”, feeling emotionally numb, shut down, isolating or thrill seeking/risk taking behaviors are a few symptoms associated with “freeze”. People essentially get “stuck” in one of these survival states, where their nervous system constantly tries to find resolution for what it has experienced. As a result, people are more sensitive, or numb, depending on the state. What can seem like over or under reactions, or irrational behaviors, can actually be the result of the trauma cycles the nervous system is attempting to neutralize. Unfortunately, this experience can interfere with our enjoyment and participation in life, and can wreak havoc on our relationships.
The good news is, help is available, and we are capable of healing old wounds. It is important to seek the support of a professional if you or someone you love is struggling emotionally. The right person can encourage you to have good health practices, help you to develop appropriate coping strategies and enable you to develop a good support system, which is good advice for everyone.
Here are some resources for more information on trauma, and getting support: