Anxiety creates what is known as attentional bias. The brain creates all kinds of biases. There are long lists of cognitive biases which are the brain’s way of essentially getting lazy. Cognitive bias is the way the brain skips out on thinking more than it has to. Attentional bias, on the other hand, results in a change of what we pay attention to. If that seems obvious, the actual occurrence is a bit more obscure. On the sly, anxiety shifts our attention beyond what we are even aware of. By creating a change in consciousness, anxiety has the power to change our reality. How we experience reality is a debate usually left up to philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists alike. Simply stated, the way we think decides our reality. If our thinking, and attention span, is being skewed by the onset of anxiety, then so is our reality.
To someone with anxiety this may not be so scientific. Experiencing an anxiety attack is definitely a reality-jarring occasion. As the heartbeat starts increasing and the thoughts start running, there is little other reality left than the blatantly obvious and undeniable: I’m having an anxiety attack.
The repercussions of being focused on an anxiety attack might seem inconsequential. After all, if one is experiencing an anxiety attack they should probably be attentive towards it. However, the way that anxiety interacts with attention has more effect than just that. According to BBC, “anxiety’s effects on attention my shape worldviews and belief systems in specific and predictable ways. It can even affect our politics without us knowing.”
Attention has a primary purpose rooted in survival: helping us survive. By paying attention, we can be open to seeing what might be out of the ordinary or threatening. BBC writes that. “…anxiety causes this quick and simple threat detection system to become hypersensitive, changing the behavior of the attentional spotlight in a way that does harm.”
Learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety comes with treating anxiety. Untreated mental illness is one of the leading contributors to the development of addiction. Abusing substances only makes anxiety works, though it might seem like it is helping to take focus away from it.
There is a way to treat both substance abuse and anxiety.
Enlightened Solutions is a certified dual diagnosis treatment center offering comprehensive care programs for substance abuse and other mental health disorders. Recovery starts today, with you. Call us for more information 833-801-5483.