Anxiety: Acute vs. Chronic Stress Response

What are the symptoms of Anxiety?

“Anxiety is a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential.”

-Thierry Steimer, Ph.D.*

In layman’s terms, Anxiety is the result of a Real or Imagined Stress.

I have personally worked with and been the doctor for thousands of patients with nervous system disorders, Anxiety, insomnia and depression. And I was lucky enough to have very well educated, wise patients who insisted that I help them discover the root causes of their Anxiety. As a consequence, I became an expert on the subject to 

1. Help my patients heal, and 

2. To Heal myself.

For me, as a physician and fellow Sufferer from Anxiety for decades, this word, Anxiety, has been very enigmatic. Having had a strong ego, and a strong need to be Healthy, Or at least appear to be healthy to my patients and friends, I denied that I had Anxiety for most of my life. Living in Denial, I frequently self-medicated with alcohol, CBD, Tobacco ( gasp!) and pretended that all was great. I pushed the Anxiety away, not knowing that it was just gaining power by denying it. And that in ignoring it, I was ignoring the deeper truths and lessons that it was trying to teach me:

“We should not try to “get rid” of a neurosis, but rather to experience what it means, what it has to teach, what its purpose is.” 

Carl Jung, Civilization in Transition

Denial and Suppressing Anxiety has repercussions, of course. First off, anything that we deny just increases in power and intensity until we deal with it. We are just sweeping it under the rug until one day we notice our entire home is one giant dirty mess from all that we have swept under that little rug! Luckily, everything we deny just comes back up again and again until we deal with it. This is very advantageous to our growth and development; however, it may seem extremely painful and cruel at the time we are experiencing it! 

A frequent secondary repercussion of denying Anxiety is Addiction.

Photo by freestocks 

Addiction can be anything that takes us away from the present and numbs us to that pain of the Anxiety. It’s releasing dopamine and wiring our brains in a way to reinforce that behavior more and more. It can be anything from Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll to just mindless self distractions such as Phone Addiction, Facebook, Twitter, etc. All of which takes our mind temporarily off of the subject. Whenever I was disturbed and anxious, I would react in Anger, Judgement, and Reach for a Mind-Numbing Distraction to calm my nerves. I was Addicted to Distraction, Fear, and Addicted to that which kept me Anxious, Angered, and in Judgement and thus Addicted to the Neuro-Hormonal Response that was behind it all! I call this the “Junk Food” of the nervous system. It is basically the release of the hormones Cortisol and Adrenaline, and it gives us a temporary rapid high, akin to eating sugary junk food. Followed by an emotional, physical, and psychological crash after that. 

Another consequence of Anxiety is loneliness and lack of intimacy. 

Anxiety blocked me from true intimacy and vulnerability. 

Anxiety is nothing more than energy, a frequency, and vibration that is activated by the Sympathetic Stress Hormone response in our body that releases Cortisol, Adrenaline, and NorEpinephrine. It is nothing more than the end result of a nervous system that has tipped too far in one direction and is out of balance, and out of harmony. Anxiety is a symptom of a nervous system that IS STUCK ON HIGH ALERT. It’s as if we are Accelerating our car over a cliff with our foot on the gas and brakes at the SAME TIME.  

No matter how hard we try to pump the brakes with Mind-Numbing Agents like Alcohol, Cannabis, Benzodiazepines, Opiates, etc. the effect is only temporary. Why? Because our foot is still on the Gas Pedal, as we are fueling the stress response repeatedly, often subconsciously. Ever try hitting the brakes on your car while you are pressing down on the accelerator? What happens? Will the car need more maintenance if you do this for long? You bet!

This stress hormone response was designed to last for a few minutes, and then our nervous system is designed to revert back to normal.  

However, have you noticed that nowadays, when we get in a minor altercation, like an angry driver who cuts us off, an unexpected outburst from a loved one, or even just a negative comment on social media that we spin out for hours or even days?  

Although these stress hormones create an unpleasant feeling in our body called Anxiety, they do give us a stimulus, a “boost of energy” and though we typically call it unpleasant, we do become hardwired to run this way, and when we do not get that stress hormone response, we feel a withdrawal of sorts.

These “addictions have been popularized: Remember the Megadeath Song “Addicted to Chaos”?

And this article from Psychology Today in 2016:

“In a culture where the ‘extreme theme’ has become the norm, people are increasingly seduced into believing that intensity equals being alive. When that happens, the mind becomes wired for drama, and the soul is starved of meaningful purpose. This type of life may produce heart-pounding excitement, but the absence of this addictive energy can bring about withdrawal, fear, and restlessness that is unbearable.”

We as a society have become ADDICTED to Stress, to Noise, to Chaos and to the “Junk Food” of Hormones called Adrenaline.  

  • Have you ever eaten Junk Food and gotten an immense high and then crashed a few minutes or hours later?  
  • Have you ever been in an argument and gotten an immense high and then crashed a few minutes or hours later?  

We are all starting to realize how bad sugar and junk food is for our system, but what about the “Junk Food” of our Nervous system? What is that doing to us?   

My Goal to be More Loving, Kind, and Grateful was not Congruent with the Anxiety that I was experiencing and actually mutually exclusive. Meaning the Anxiety was blocking me from living the life that I So Longed for.  

As a chemist and an MD trained by the best schools and doctors, you would think that we were trained to know what Anxiety is, right? Wrong, I had no clue! I thought it was only a label for those with severe life-crippling phobias and obsessions. I did not realize that the low-level restlessness is always present was Anxiety. I did not realize that the discomfort that I felt at a social gathering that made me wanna chug a cocktail or two was Anxiety. I did not realize that the reason that I froze when asked a question in public was due to Anxiety. The list goes on and on!  

So what is Anxiety? 

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Common Anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger Anxiety

Looking back now, I had every one of those symptoms for years! I am fortunate enough to have had experienced all of these symptoms of Anxiety so that I can empathize more with each of you reading this. Unlike many physicians, I only talk about, write about, and work in areas that I have personal experience. This has been called the Wounded Healer, and this is the Archetype (from Jung) that I manifest in this world and am grateful to have personal experience that I can share with you.  

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Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.

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