Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fear + Anticipation = Anxiety

Image result for anxiety fear 

As I said in my previous post, I am working on the draft of the last chapter in my book tentatively titled, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. The final chapter explores anxiety disorder based on the information presented in the previous chapters and my own personal experience of the disorder.

You may recall that chapter two of my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques is about the 'core of all learning.' The core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. One of the forms of identifying similarities and differences that research has identified as being highly effective is comparing. Anxiety is often compared with fear when attempting to explain anxiety disorder.

Many explain that anxiety and fear are both emotional responses to a threat but in the case of fear the threat is imminent and in the case of anxiety it is anticipated.

Plutchik developed the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion which is made up of three models. The derivatives model identifies eight primary emotions which when combined form other emotions. Fear is a primary emotion. Fear when combined with anticipation, another primary emotion, results in anxiety. This, TenHouten explains, has the benefit of identifying the 'temporal dimension' to anxiety.

fear + anticipation = anxiety

Fear and anxiety are similar in that they are emotional responses to a threat that involve fear, howeer, that are different in that fear is a primary emotion and anxiety is a tertiary emotion which combines fear and anticipation. A tertiary emotion is seldom felt, thus, another comparison can be made. 'Normal' anxiety is adaptive and seldom felt, whereas 'abnormal' anxiety (anxiety disorder) is maladaptive and regularly felt. There are many implications to this distinction that will not be pursued in this post, however, this distinction needs to be clearly understood if one wants to understand anxiety disorder.

TenHouten talks about fear merging into anxiety when the focus of one's concerns extends into the future. In this case the anticipation element in the anxiety equation increases. Similarly, anxiety merges into fear when the focus of our concerns contracts into the present and the anticipation element in the anxiety equation decreases.

The action tendency of fear is flight. The action tendency of anxiety is avoidance (although some mistakenly associate both flight and avoidance with anxiety). When there is anticipation we can avoid a threat. When the threat is imminent (anticipation = 0) and we can no longer avoid the threat, we are left with flight.

Many mistakenly associate both fight and flight with fear when using the fight-or-flight concept to explain our natural responses to a threat. Walter Cannon, the father of the fight-or-flight concept, associated fear with flight but anger with fight. Fear turns to anger when flight is obstructed and fight is necessary to survive.

When avoidance is obstructed, fear turns to anger and the anxiety equation becomes anger + anticipation = aggression.

As the threat becomes imminent, the anticipation element in the aggression equation reduces until we are left with anger and fight.

When we experience loss, we feel another primary emotion, sadness. With the loss of hope due to our anxiety condition, fear turns to sadness and when combined with anticipation results in pessimism: sadness + anticipation = pessimism.

This all fits in with the regulation of emotion in pursuit of our goals explained by Nesse and Ellsworth. They explain how behaviour involves goal pursuit and our emotions change depending on our progress towards achieving that goal. Fear turns to anger in order to turn flight into fight in order to survive.

Anxiety disorder is not just anxiety. To truly understand anxiety disorder one must understand that it involves a susceptibility for numerous maladaptive, negative emotions and not just anxiety.

This is but a small part of the chapter that explores anxiety disorder.