Too often, the responses that result from anxiety disorders and/or traumatic experiences are classified as mental illness.  We talk about anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.  That word – “disorder” – leads many people to believe that they are broken, damaged, abnormal, or ill. The word “disease” is thrown around, leading to additional despair and distress.

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It’s important to understand that the sensations, thoughts, and feelings you are experiencing, are a NORMAL part of being human!  These are learned responses resulting from your past experiences.  Feeling afraid or anxious is normal and to be expected.  Why then, do we call these illnesses and disorders?  Fear-based responses to anxiety and trauma may be driving your life in directions you do not like.  Recognizing these responses as simply learned responses can help provide the confidence you need to start to make changes.

We can learn fear-driven responses when trauma or anxiety takes away the sense of safety, regulation, and stability that we crave. When we understand this mechanism, we can begin to un-learn the cognitive and behavioral habits that cause problems in our lives.  It can be useful to have help in understanding how this works, and in expressing our past experiences in a compassionate and constructive environment.

In the end, seeing trauma and anxiety responses as normal but misplaced human adaptations can propel us out of the victim mindset. Seeing ourselves as able to recover and thrive goes a long way toward making these goals into reality.

Thank you as always to my friend Monique for taking the time to chat about an important topic!

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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.