1 - Part played by the Arousal System and why you need to understand it

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We all have an arousal system. So then why do some people get more anxious than others? To answer that we need to first look at how the system behaves.

Arousal moves quite freely up and down the scale. The level moves constantly depending on what's going on around us and how we react to it. It's also affected by what we're thinking.

Because we are human and sometimes too clever for our own good, we also constantly tend to judge whether we like the amount we feel or not.

The diagram shows examples of the sort of emotions we feel with high and low arousal levels and, depending whether we decide we like that or not, the effect of the 'good' and 'bad' labels we put on it.

Arousal system diagram

So, for instance, if you have high arousal and you think that's appropriate or ok (i.e. positive high arousal) you would say you were excited. If, on the other hand, you had high arousal and you didn't like it at that time, (i.e. negative high arousal) you would say you were anxious.

But to the brain and body it's simply high arousal, low arousal, or something in between. 

It's the label we put on the feeling caused by the arousal that determines whether we view it as good or bad!

I prefer to talk about negative arousal rather than anxiety because it helps people to see it in less emotive terms. The word 'anxiety' has lots of other thoughts and emotions attached and as such can cloud the key issues.

So, for the purposes of my explanations on this site:

Negative arousal = feeling terrified, frightened, anxious, scared, in pain, worried etc.

you get the idea.

But all arousal systems are not quite the same. In some people it moves up or down very much faster than it does in others.

If you have a fast moving system and are prone to anxiety symptoms strictly speaking it isn't your fault. Although we all have one, where we differ from person to person is the speed at which it moves – and this is inherited. Click on the image below to find out more.