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Why am I anxious?

To work out why you're feeling anxious, it can be really helpful to understand what anxiety actually is, and how it evolved in the human brain.

Evolution of humans from ape to cave person to modern person

What is anxiety?

Believe it or not, worry actually serves a purpose! When we think we're safe, it helps us to process potential threats, so we can respond to them effectively in the moment. 

  • Anxiety is a normal, natural emotion everyone experiences from time to time
  • Anxiety may be a sign you don't feel you have the 'tools' you need to cope with a certain situation or experience
  • There's a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety is a problem when it is intense, lasts longer than usual or interferes with your everyday life

The history of anxiety

Throughout most of human history, ‘stress’ and ‘danger’ were seen by our brains as being pretty much the same thing.

For hundreds of thousands of years, humans didn’t have things like homework, tests or social media. The two main stressors humans faced were:

Danger, e.g. a bear trying to eat you

Famine (hunger and starvation) 

What happens in your brain when you're stressed?

Watch to learn the science behind feeling anxious.

Why do people have anxiety?

Anxiety can be triggered by lots of things.

Sometimes, you might feel anxious for what feels like no reason. 

To answer the question, "Why do people have anxiety?", it can be helpful to understand some basics about your brain. 

How your body tells you it's feeling anxious

“When our brain thinks we are in danger, it responds to help us stay safe. This is called our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response. The good news is, once you are safe and calm down, everything in your brain returns to normal.” 

– Amanda, Kids Helpline Counsellor

The evolution of our brain

Did you know your brain is over 200,000 years old? 

Our brains evolved when the world was very different – when people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in tribal communities.

Modern humans (homo sapiens) appeared about 200,000 years ago - that’s pretty recent, in the grand scheme of things. But it’s still a long time.

So you’d think we’d have this whole anxiety thing figured out by now, hey?

But evolution is (usually) very slow and gradual. Our society in general (and our technology in particular), has evolved very quickly.

Much faster than our brains can evolve!
 

We live in a world that is full of stress.

Stuff like homework, fighting with friends, etc. can still trigger our fight/flight/freeze/fawn response.

If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, talking with someone can really help

You’re not alone – support is always available.

If you want to learn more about anxiety and how to deal with it, give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today.

If you need more information for other digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.
 

This content was last reviewed 02/04/2020

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