The Devastating Effects of Hidden Anxiety

Hidden Anxiety


The single greatest block to getting the job you want, the education you want, the relationships with the people in your life that you want, or anything else that is important to you, is chronic low level anxiety.  And the worst part is you may not even know this is going on.  Chronic low level anxiety does not show symptoms that a person can recognize in all cases.


A level of anxiety creates a state in the body where our higher level thinking is cut off and the rest of our body and brain is getting the message to shut down.  Low level anxiety is a message to our system to freeze in place.  This system is also present in other mammals. 


The best option for an animal that is likely to be lunch for another animal is to avoid being seen in the first place.  There is some evidence that the earliest mammals faced the threat of being eaten by animals that were very good at seeing motion.  These animals developed a switch that is activated by fear that causes them to freeze in place and not be allowed to move no matter what the other parts of their brain were saying.


For animals the messages to change behavior come from instincts.  The animal does not go through a thought process when it see a predator.   When it saw a predator that wanted to eat it, the instincts are triggered.  At the base of this animals brain is a system called the amygdala.  It is at the base of the brain because this is where it can control all of the other areas of the brain.  One part of the brain that is disabled by activation of the anxiety center is the cortex, or the part of the brain where our higher level thinking is done.


So the effect of anxiety causes us to freeze where we are and to disable our higher level thinking.  The problem that this causes us human beings in modern society is that we tend to freeze in the same situation that is creating the anxiety.  And the exact part of the brain that could get us out of the problem is disabled.


The effects of anxiety will be seen every place in our life.  If it starts in childhood it will affect who we choose as friends and how we are see and are seen by our teachers and friends and yes even how we are seen by our family.  If you can’t use the higher part of your brain then you are not going to do very well with taking tests.


When we have a career it affects how well we do.  Even before that it effects what career you would even be willing to choose for yourself.  It will affect who you choose to spend time with, your choice of relationship and how you raise your children.  Anxiety patterns that you don’t address will by passed on to your children.


My experience with anxiety is that it is mostly a chemical process in the brain.  If we try and correct the thought patters without addressing the underlying chemistry then whichever therapy is being used will not work.  I believe therapy has value but only in combination with treating brain chemistry.  There is no point in pouring water in a bucket that is leaking.


All of this can occur without a person even knowing that they are experiencing anxiety.  The anxiety is a low level chemical state in the brain that is activating the danger response system that may not even be creating symptoms that are experienced as anxiety.  Any state of chronic inflammation can create this hidden anxiety also.  This means any kind of chronic pain syndrome can cause this whether it is back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain or any other pain experienced for more than a few days.


Anxiety is one of those issues that still has a lot of judgement surrounding it.  Our vision of the anxious person in one of a weak person that lacks internal fortitude.  Probably someone that basically just needs to suck it up at some level and get on with life.  In this  sense we haven’t changed much from the days when physical illness was blamed on some defect in character, person or spirit.


If you have places in your life where you are stuck, either in a relationship, or your career, or your education or any other area of growth, then you have to suspect hidden anxiety.  If you see in your children any anxiety you have to treat that the same way that you would if you saw swelling on their knees or they were complaining of a sore throat.  A “little bit of anxiety” is no more naturally or beneficial than a little bit of swelling in the knees of your son or daughter after sports.


Any anxiety that a child experience will decrease their success and affect the choices that they make and how they see themselves.  Opportunities evaporate when we are not present enough or confident enough to act on them.  They evaporate when our level of anxiety prevents us from making even very simple step toward our own progress.  It is easier to see in children where anxiety or lack of confidence is having an impact on their life choice but it is much more difficult to see that for ourselves.


Over the last 40 years there has been a lot of research in brain chemistry.  I have seen myself, in my own health, how that understanding can be applied to make us healthier without the potential side effects of conventional medications.  In my own health I had years of chronic inflammation that had a profound effect on my brain chemistry.  I remember at some point during naturopathic medical school telling the professor that I used to have a good memory.  And that was really the way I felt.  When I was sick I really felt that my brain was operating at ten percent of what it was capable of.


 Now I have no acceptance for anything other than feeling my best.  I wake up in the morning and immediately assess how my body and brain are feeling.  If anything is off then I fix it immediately.  To me this is no different than if I was sleeping in a boat overnight and woke up to find that the boat had taken on water.  Seeing this situation you would immediately take action, and I treat my brain the same way.  As I have continued to heal it becomes both easier to see the imbalances and easier to treat them.


My years of ulcerative colitis came with years of severe anxiety and depression.  Being able to cure the physical symptoms was wonderful, but what I didn’t realize until years later was that the mental changes had not been fixed.  If you have been through inflammatory brain syndrome then you know that I am not talking about life’s various ups and downs.  I am talking about a persistent state that in spite of common sense efforts to make changes persists, and persists.  It is an intolerable situation that leads many people to various forms of self destructive behaviors and beliefs.


Imagine now that you were in one of these states but that it was below the level of your conscious perception.  This is the state I call hidden anxiety or hidden depression.  We now have access to testing that lets us see our own brain chemistry.  The levels of various signaling chemicals in our brain is the number one cause of how we feel.


More important than anything may be going on in your life outside, it is the chemistry inside your brain that will determine how you feel about the world, and in a way how the world feels about you.  There is very little in life that you have more direct control over that can affect your success on every level than your brain chemistry.  Testing allows us to figure out your brain chemistry by using saliva and urine to test for the concentration of brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters in your brain.  Neurotransmitter literally means the chemical that transmits the signals from one part of your brain to the other.


To figure out exactly what is out of balance and how to fix it we measure a few different things.  We measure the cortisol at four times during the day so that we get a graph of how hight the cortisol is.  Knowing the level of cortisol is very important because if the cortisol is too high or too low at different times of the day it can block that action of any of the other neurotransmitter brain chemicals.  The we measure twelve different brain chemicals to see what the balance or imbalance is.  


The way I think about it when we are measuring the brain chemistry by measuring neurotransmitters is that we are basically looking at the gas pedals and the brakes of the brain.  We want to see if you are all gas pedal and racing out of control.  An example of this is a person with out of control inflammation like arthritis, or very high anxiety.


Another situation we could see is when a person is all brake pedal and no gas pedal.  This person is fatigued, unmotivated or depressed.  This is usually the end stage of a chronic inflammatory process that has drained the system of energy.


Of course there are two other states that can show when we test our brain chemistry and neurotransmitter.  We can see a person that is all gas pedal and all brake pedal in the brain.  We can also see a state where the person has no brake and no gas pedal.

The first state is usually present at the beginning of chronic illness when a person has not identified what is causing inflammation in their body.  The constant stress between the inflammatory stimulation and the body drying to stop it create the last state.


In this last state a person has no gas pedal and no brakes.  They are coasting like a ship lost at sea.  They have no control over acute inflammation attacks on one hand or depressive attacks on the other hand.  They may battle fatigue or anxiety or both.  It is remarkable to see these people present with both anxiety and depression.


All of this is the end state of a chronic process that began years before.  Now we can address these situations before they become this bad through testing.  If they are already severely out of balance the testing tells us not only what is out of balance but how to fix the problem most effectively.  This is true healing.