Anguish is a crippling emotional state. It contains several things: anxiety, fear, the feeling of danger, existential emptiness and an indefinable weight that prevents us from breathing. This psychological state is very common today. Although it’s often associated with panic disorder, it has other triggers that are worth knowing.
We may have said, “I feel anxious” before. This word is extremely familiar to us and others can relate to us when we say it aloud. However, from a clinical point of view, this psychological experience is quite complex, if not diffuse.
What is the exact origin of anxiety? Are we just talking about anxiety or is it something bigger? There is always great confusion and a lack of consensus when defining it in the field of psychology. Philosophers, on the other hand, have always been in agreement on the meaning of the term. The word anguish comes from the German “angst” which defines something narrow, which produces discomfort.
For Søren Kierkegaard, for example, this emotion is the acceptance that people are limited. We would therefore be faced with something that makes us dizzy, in addition to fear, when we think about the (limited) future possibilities that we have before us. Jean-Paul Sartre, in turn, explained that the feeling of anguish arises when we are aware that everything that happens to us is due to our decisions. We are the authentic ones responsible for our happiness or our unhappiness.
What is anxiety and how is it characterized?
Anguish and anxiety share the same “guest”: fear. In the case of anxiety, we find a series of features that give shape to this suffering so common in human beings at certain times of their life.
- Anguish is the fear of something indefinable.
- The anguished mind anticipates irrational things. He thinks only of future dangers.
- The present is a void in which the person feels immersed and paralyzed. Her gaze is fixed only on the future, on this tomorrow which bothers and frightens her.
- This psychological experience is also accompanied by physical symptoms. There is a feeling of suffocation, chest pain, palpitations …
As we can see, at first glance it is quite difficult to differentiate anxiety and anxiety. In fact, most of the time, the main symptom of panic disorders is the feeling of anxiety. So it’s customary for them to go hand in hand and for the anxious mind to be the trigger for a panic attack. These are very complex clinical realities that are only demarcated when each patient is assessed individually.
Why do we feel anguish?
Philosophers have explained to us that anguish occurs when we become aware of our existence as such. Because we are not eternal, that our decisions mark us, that time passes… This uncertainty is very present in the news. And it is for a very simple reason. If there is one thing that characterizes modern society, it is not knowing what will happen tomorrow. Work, economy, relationships… Everything can change from day to day. And that causes anguish.
So we have to understand one thing: feeling anguish is absolutely normal. There is nothing pathological in this fact if this anxiety is adaptive. If it allows us to reflect on our situation and make a decision about our future. This is what Sigmund Freud defined as “realistic anxiety”.
On the other side, we would therefore find non-adaptive anxiety. This is the one we described previously and which would have the following origins:
- Personal crises that have not been adequately managed. These are conditions that become chronic and can combine with other disorders such as depression.
- A feeling of blockage and inability to handle certain situations. Factors like unemployment, separation, change about to occur can determine its occurrence.
- Problems in our social relations, conflicts, disillusions …
- It is important to talk about the genetic factor. Very often, anxiety sets in within us for no apparent reason. It is known, for example, that some people are predisposed to experience surges in adrenaline or to suffer from drops in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). All these neurochemical alterations will promote the onset of anxiety.
To conclude, we will point out that generally, anxiety attacks are correctly treated through therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and engagement therapy and different approaches like mindfulness are strategies that will provide us with excellent results. In the most serious cases, we will also opt for pharmacological treatment.