You know that feeling of butterflies in the stomach, being out of sorts, shaky, not able to focus on what you have to do but your mind worrying, worrying about all kinds of things? Sometimes it can immobilize you, because of fear about what might happen. At times, it could be that you are ruminating and thinking of what the partner may be up to … Is he or she thinking of leaving the relationship? Or falling in love with someone else?
What anxiety signifies is the mind sensing a threat, an arrow aimed at you, your sense of self, your feeling of security, and your survival. I’m not talking about physical survival here, as most of us do not encounter wild animals or even physical disasters. When we read about earthquakes, or a tsunami, or a huge fire, we are really talking about fear which is warranted. Anxiety has more to do with what we imagine “might” happen. If you have to give a talk to an audience, the anxiety you may feel has to do with worries about whether you may falter in presenting, or be asked a question you can’t answer, or an expectation that you might come across as stupid. None of those thoughts are based on reality. They are all possibilities that one conjures up. As soon as you start to insert some rationality into those thoughts, you can decrease the worrying. For example, I ask people if they can remember asking another person a question which he/she couldn’t answer. Then I ask if they thought that person was stupid. Invariably, the response is a no. So why would you be seen differently? The problem is that anxiety generates emotions, thereby controlling the mind.
Let’s delve into the relationship sphere. Do you check your partner’s cellphone? His/her computer? Wallet? I’ve come to know more partnerships break up because one person felt anxious about the loved one’s loyalty and started to look for some “evidence” to present. Of course, it’s possible that there is distrust and cheating and the suspicion is warranted. Then too, it may not be. However, when you start to poke into devices and personal items, you create an atmosphere of distrust that is hard to reverse.
How does one deal with such anxiety then? First, think of your present and your past. Have you always been consumed by anxiety? Over all kinds of possibilities? If so, seek some help to manage it. Physical exercise, practical tips, and medication give one options not to live a miserable life. On the other hand, if this is happening now and you haven’t had such episodes before, then it may indeed have something to do with the present circumstances, whether pointing to the relationship, a job challenge, or some other event. Write your thoughts down when you feel anxious. See if you can discern a pattern. Some people worry on Sunday nights – apprehensive about the work week starting. Or before a date. These are to be expected. So, go for a walk or a run. Sort through your thoughts, discuss with a friend, or seek counseling. Do remember, you don’t have to be at the mercy of your brain. There are ways of making life better.
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.
Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577