Hijacked by anxiety.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

Hijacked by anxiety – update Aug 1, 2022

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Why we sometimes falsely think we hate ourselves.

As of late, I have found myself slowly accumulating angst – anxiety that goes far above and beyond my daily battle with the beast. I know now that I’ve been suffering more as of late because of the times we are living in – a fact that never dawned on me at the beginning of the outbreak. I now know that I was hijacked by anxiety.

This deluge of bonus dread snuck up on me like some sort of stealthy ninja. It was so slick that I really didn’t see it coming. However, in retrospect, with having generalized anxiety disorder, I feel like I should have known better.

Regardless of what I should or should not have seen coming, the fact remains that I did not. So, I simply had to deal with its fallout – move through it and not hate myself for it.

I really can’t find evidence to say “Yes, I should hate myself.”

Although I tell myself not to hate myself and not to fall for mental illness’s powers of destruction, my anxiety hijacks my sense of reasoning, thereby turning my brain into the “wild west.” The main player is, of course, anxiety, with guest appearances from my depressive disorder and my old arch-nemesis, PTSD.

Once I caught myself being overtaken by my own mental-health conditions and accepted it, I couldn’t help but think about how others were coping. There must be millions of others out there living in their own sea of fear and uncertainty.

Front and back cover of the road to mental wellness - 8 sings your relationship is hurting your mental health.
Find out more below – Written for therapeutic release, published in hopes it helps you.

Likewise, there must be just as many individuals on every continent hating themselves for the way they are feeling. But, when you look at the neuroscience behind what’s making us hate ourselves, it clearly shows that we have little reason to believe that we are the awful people our minds make us out to be. Now, more than ever, we are being hijacked by anxiety on an epic scale.

Want to hear people talk about their own mental wellness journey? Check out The Depression Files

Even though science can clearly show that what I am going through is preception based on emotions and not necessarily that of reality the neurological processes responsible for it make this “I hate me” phenomenon look and feel real. Thus, this “false reality” is in fact, at least in my mind’s eye, real.

Despite what the science says, my own, real experience with self-loathing seems to be synonymous with low mood and a heavy sense of dread.

Thankfully, I have come to understand the difference between what makes me, me – and what makes up the symptoms of my angst. In other words, I try not to let symptoms of a mental illness define who I am.

Personally, I prefer to call myself a worst-case scenario thinker.

Although I do have these feelings, I acknowledge them and try putting it in context. For example: is what I am feeling natural given the current circumstances? (heightened anxiety) Absolutely! Moreover, is it appropriate to hate me because of world events that are beyond my control? No, there is no logical connection between the two; therefore, it’s the anxiety hijack at work. I really can’t find any tangible evidence to say “Yes, I should hate myself.” Here’s why:

Our brains on anxiety.

A more in depth look at anxiety and the brain

Our brains are amazing! This malleable mass that sits between our ears is responsible for making us who we are. It’s so perplexing to me that this lump of grey matter, weighing just three pounds, is responsible for driving our temperament, how we interact with others and the wider world around us.

Sadly though, it’s susceptible to corruption, both by other regions of the brain and by external influences. There can be many reasons for this; however, anxiety and/or anxiety disorders are a great example of how we can be hijacked by anxiety.

How anxiety disorder effects our brains.

Now, with all that said, let’s use my generalized anxiety disorder as an example. Simply stated, my angst is exacerbated over anything and everything, and it never shuts off. Therefore, the results of this turn me into a clinical worrywart – a fact that I find very disheartening at times. So, personally, I feel better when I refer to myself as a worst-case scenario thinker.

For those of us with anxiety disorders, this response is literally running the show.

So just how exactly does anxiety work? What gives GAD so much power in the first place? Anxiety is thought to come from our old brain or limbic system; more specifically, there are two almond-shaped structures in the brain that help with emotional regulation. Its main job is to modulate emotions like anger, fear, sadness and, you guessed it, anxiety.

This cluster of nerve cells lurking near the base of our brains is the main driver of our fight, flight or freeze response, basically throwing us in survival mode. This is a very useful function when facing the prospect of being eaten. This prehistoric alarm system has helped get humanity where it is today. However, in a busy modern world, most of the fear we experience is not immediately life-threatening. With that said, our very busy lifestyle and exposure to tragic news 24/7 keeps us on constant alert.

For those of us with anxiety disorders, this response is literally running the show. We are often in this fight, flight or freeze mode for no discernable reason.

“When it comes to our brains, our emtional centre seems to take precedent over logic and reasoning.”

While it may seem like there is no seemingly real reason for your anxiety to be ablaze inside your head, I can assure you there is, and it’s rooted in our neurobiology. Here, let me explain. Have you ever noticed that the more anxious you are, the less you seem to be able to think clearly? Does it feel like you’re fumbling around in a fog, full of forgetfulness? Maybe you felt like your memory has gone on vacation or your concentration has checkout? That’s because all this is really happening…for real!

Mental symptoms of anxiety

While it may seem like it, trust me, you are not losing your mind. I know, I know, it feels like we are; sometimes we even feel like we are going to die. Of course, the good news is that we are definitely not going crazy and so far, at least in my experience, I haven’t died yet. All of these feelings are anxiety-driven. They also include that self-hatred feeling.

I would encourage you to challenge this notion by looking at it with your logical brain.

Okay, so what’s really going on when all this occurs? Essentially, the amygdala hijacks the part of the brain that is responsible for your personality, your ability to reason and to make good decisions. This area is known as the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain sits just behind your forehead…cool eh?

So, why the heck does the amygdala do this? Well, simply put, it senses danger, real or imaginary. And in sensing this danger, it overrides and dictates all priority to your survival. In other words, it doesn’t need you to think or rationalize. It feels like you need to flee or fight.

Sadly, this emotionally-driven dominance over the frontal lobe of the brain seems to be “always-on” in people with anxiety disorders – and wreaks havoc in their daily lives. Imagine, living in a blanket of brain fog, not having full ability to concentrate; man, it’s hard work trying to keep up.

Lastly, it’s tough trying to wrestle with this “I hate me” notion, no matter how untrue it is. Just remember that in all probability, you were hijacked by anxiety. I would encourage you to challenge this notion by looking at it with your logical brain. If you can find little evidence of this, then it likely isn’t the truth.

In crisis? Call 1.833.456.4566 | Text 45645 (Crisis Services Canada) Crisis Services Canada

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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