The Brain Glitch That Causes Anxiety & How To Work With It (Instead Of Against It)

Photo: Magda Ehlers, Joshua Resnick, bernie_photo | Canva 
Woman hiking, out of the box of imaginary fear

Anxiety affects a significant portion of the U.S. population, with many women facing different issues from general anxiety. To combat the symptoms of anxiety, many are resorting to medication to feel better and believing their symptoms are how they’re hardwired.

There is power in understanding what causes anxiety to give you an alternative solution and grant you the knowledge to take control and create for yourself a calm and confident mind, body, and spirit.

For starters, understand the difference between fear and anxiety. Both inflict the same physical response of feeling panic, a racing mind, accelerated heart rate, and rapid breathing. They both put us in a mental state referred to as "fight or flight" and are activated by the subconscious mind.

Fear is a natural response to a legitimate threat. But, what happens when your brain's natural response "glitches out"? Anxiety.

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Here's the brain glitch that causes anxiety and how to work with it instead of against it.

How anxiety is supposed to work.

I’m an avid hiker, so fear serves me well, especially if I encounter a rattlesnake along the trail. Without consciously thinking about it, my subconscious activates fear in me as it recognizes the threat and activates the senses in my body to respond to danger in the fight or flight mode.

My conscious mind kicks in to evaluate the threat and my next move. In this instance, I choose flight. I don’t run away in a panic, but I cautiously remove myself from the vicinity of the snake and let it know I pose no threat so it will also retreat.

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How anxiety turns into a "glitch".

Anxiety occurs when I imagine a threat. I’m a public speaker. Early when I first started, before I got up to speak, I had terrible anxiety as I had thoughts that I was going to suck, that my audience wouldn’t like me, I was unprepared, and they’ll think I’m a fraud.

The same physical response occurred: my heart rate increased, my throat became constricted, and I felt like I just wanted to run away. All this response was created by my imagining how things would go wrong. I couldn’t prove any of it. There was no truth in it. Yet, my physical response was activated as though it were true.

It’s also critical to understand how powerful our subconscious mind is. Unlike our conscious mind, the subconscious never sleeps. It works constantly as it keeps our heart pumping and lungs breathing without us even thinking about it. It triggers our fear response when we are confronted with danger. Therefore, the subconscious mind seems more powerful than our conscious mind.

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The subconscious mind has a critical flaw.

It cannot distinguish between a legitimate threat and an imaginary one. It triggers the body to respond the same. It’s the subconscious mind that powers nightmares when you’re asleep. You wake up from a nightmare with your heart rate accelerated and possibly sweating. Nothing in a nightmare is real, but consider how powerfully it affects you physically.

The subconscious mind gives us some benefits when we are awake as well. For instance, It allows us to get emotionally involved in a movie and experience fear, excitement, and sadness even though, consciously, we can tell ourselves what we are watching is simply people acting out a script with a film crew around them.

But even that doesn’t shut down our emotional experience. Why? Because the subconscious mind is always at work responding to the stimulus it’s fed. It’s always at work feeding off everything, whether a visual stimulus or an imagined one.

Our thoughts and words are powerful. Thoughts trigger feelings that determine our actions. For instance, if you have a habit of comparing yourself to others, your subconscious picks up on thoughts of inferiority and causes you to feel depressed and insecure. If you are single and wondering, "What is wrong with me?" on a subconscious level, you believe there is something wrong with you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t ask the question.

staring down anxiety

Photo via Getty

Words are powerful.

You believe everything you tell yourself. Therefore, to begin retaining your brain to combat anxiety, first become aware of what imaginary threats you are feeding into your subconscious.

Learning how to control anxiety takes practice. By consistently applying intervention between thought and subsequent feelings, you can train your subconscious to buy into a more positive, calming, and empowering belief of who you are and what your situation is. Replace your defeating thoughts with powerful affirmations.

Meditation is also very effective. While you meditate, imagine yourself most positively. Create in your mind the ideal image of yourself. The subconscious likes consistency, and the more you can fill it with images of you at your best, the more it will buy into the positive and powerful person you are.



Always be mindful of what you tell yourself. The words "I am" are the two most powerful words in the universe, for whatever follows those two words is your truth. You can begin your meditation with, "I am always, and in all ways, greater than I think."

If you continue to struggle to gain control over your anxiety, consider investing in professional help. Like many who plan to exercise and get in shape but then find better results by hiring a personal trainer, the same applies to personal development. Don’t be scared.

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Craig Nielson is a Professional Coach, Speaker, and Educator who supports clients via his company My Internal Image.

This article was originally published at Bliss Babe. Reprinted with permission from the author.