Why anxiety is real

posted in: Blog in English | 2

If you have a problem in your lungs, you don’t want to get rid of them.

What you do is

  1. Find out exactly what is causing the problem. It could be a virus, a bacteria, or something related to the air you are breathing.
  2. Once you find out what is causing your lung problem, you can take action
    1. Antibiotics (if they exist) for bacteria
    2. Change of environment so that the air is better if the air is the problem

At no point, we try to get rid of the lungs, but we investigate what is causing the lung problem.1.2

When it comes to anxiety, depression, jealousy, anger, discomfort, we seem to forget what these things really are, and we invest all our efforts on eliminating them from our lives…

But they are like the lungs, we can’t live without them, and we need to get rid of what is causing the lung problem, not the lungs themselves.

It is time we treat anxiety as something real, as real as our lungs, if we want to feel better. Once you recognise anxiety as real, you stop pretending it does not exist, you stop telling yourself that it is nothing, that it is “just in your head”. Let’s put things straight: anxiety exists, it is a real state of being that involves thoughts, emotions and body sensations, it is not just in one’s head, but is a common human state that everybody on earth has felt. The fact that our scientific knowledge has not located anxiety somewhere like we locate lungs is a limit to science rather that the proof that anxiety does not exist.

The scientific method has been applied, unfortunately, to get rid of anxiety symptoms based on the assumption that the symptom is the problem that needs to be eliminated.

Equally scientific would be to consider that the assumption symptom = problem is not completely true. I’m not discounting the great advances in mental health that this model has made, but I’m saying that the model needs to be refined.

1.3The refinement I propose is symptom = problem OR/AND clue that something in our life is problematic. Like lungs, if someone is born with a malfunctioning lung, then the lung is the problem… But if the problem is caused by a bug, then the lungs are functioning perfectly, and we need to act on the bugs.

So here is the deal: when you suffer from anxiety, there might be nothing wrong with you, but what is wrong are circumstances in your life. Ignoring anxiety, getting rid of it, or pretending you should not feel it only makes you waste energy because the only reasonable thing to do is to understand the circumstances that cause it, how these circumstances affect you, and what is changeable in these circumstances.

In this scenario, anxiety is our healthy lungs, and life circumstances are the bugs that cause the problem. So… do you still want to get rid of your lungs and do nothing about the bugs?


Follow Alessio Rizzo:

UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist and Counsellor

Alessio is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist and counsellor working in Shoreditch (Central London) and on-line specialised mainly in anxiety (GAD, OCD, Panic Attacks, PTSD) and LGBT issues. Educated at Master's level in psychotherapy and other fields, Alessio integrates CBT, Gestalt, mindfulness, motivational interviewing and System's theory in his practice. This is in addition to a personal 15-year-long journey in mental health and wellbeing.
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2 Responses

  1. Mental Health Education

    Hi there, thanks for the great article. I have a question I’m hoping you might be able to
    answer. I was wondering, What’s the difference between general anxiety and social anxiety?
    My doctor told me I may suffer from anxiety but I don’t know which…
    I would appreciate any insight you can provide.

    • Alessio Rizzo

      The feeling of anxiety is the same whether it is “general” or not. If you suffer from anxiety, it is important that you understand what situations generate the most anxiety to you. If you feel particularly anxious when you are in a group of people, then this is called “social” anxiety. If you are anxious because you have certain targets to meet, then this is called “performance” anxiety.
      I hope this helps.