The Benefits of Anxiety

by: Kendall McCarthy, LPC, CSAC


Anxiety can be a horrible feeling that most want to avoid at all costs. Biologically, there is researching showing that anxiety can be related to dips in serotonin levels, predisposing us to hypervigilence and awareness of stress.  Nonetheless, to the individual feeling these symptoms, it can seem all encompassing and overwhelming.

As a trauma therapist, I want to change the narrative on anxiety. Think about amazingly protective anxiety is. When bad things happen in our life that are out of our control, our anxiety is our gut instinct talking. It’s the thing that keeps us safe when there is real danger. This is a biological thing, driven from the part of the brain we share with prehistoric man when the dangers of the world were literally life or death.  The cavemen that were not anxious were lunch, and the others ran off and survived to be our predecessors. In this way, the anxious tendency was literally passed to us from our predecessors.

Nonetheless, it a brain thing; we are pre-wired to sense danger in a different part of our brain than the part that makes logical choices like what to pack the kids for lunch. The problem is, when we live in that part of our brain too frequently, it’s hard to turn off. That’s when we don’t sleep, or zone out, or ruminate in worry.

As a trauma therapist, I love anxiety. It tells me right where we need to start the work. We can work to get you out of your head and into your body using strategies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or mindfulness strategies. As we shift you to balance thinking with feeling, we can make some real changes in your experience with anxiety.

Some tips:
  • Recognize that your anxiety is just a part of you, and not the whole you.
  • You have the ability to step away from your anxiety and see it objectively.  Mindfulness techniques can be helpful with this.
  • Give your anxiety some credit! There are likely times when it is helpful.
  • If your anxiety feels out of balance and is becoming dominant in your life, seek help from a professional.