Deconstructing Anxiety Using Language

We all know what anxiety feels like. Pins and needles, butterflies in our stomach, constant worry. But for many, anxiety is like a meddlesome shadow casting havoc over every part of life. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know the earth shattering fear it can cause.

As a therapist, I’ve worked with a wide spectrum of people and anxiety is something so many face. Just knowing that it’s the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting 18% of the population, can help alleviate the isolation and stigma of what so many go through.

Fortunately, we have many proven treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, E.M.D.R., practicing mindfulness exercises, potentially taking medication, etc.  Please take a look at the links below for ways to cope with anxiety.  Another tool, I believe, to help in dealing with anxiety is by reframing anxiety with language.

Bear with my quick run-down of English and Latin based languages and how they can change the way you think about anxiety.

In English:                                                                                                                                        Anxiety is expressed as an adjective with a being verb.                                                       Example: She is anxious.                                                                                                                          This states that we are something or other and in this case, we are anxious.

In Spanish:                                                                                                                                       Anxious is not directly translated. Anxious is translated in English meaning: To have worry, worrying, or to feel eager.                                                                                                                        Example:                                                                                                                                                                     I am anxious about his health.                                                                                                                            Me preocupada su salud.                                                                                                                                           

In French:                                                                                                                                                    1.   Anxiety is also an adjective but expressed not necessarily paired with a being verb but rather with the verb “to feel”. Instead of a state of being anxious, you feel anxious which is really the case. When we feel anxious, we can allow that feeling to pass and feeling something else as opposed to being anxious. Being anxious is an entirely different animal. I am a human being and I cannon not be a human. Shifting from a state of being to feeling reduces the severity of anxiety.

Example:                                                                                                                                                          The concert pianist felt anxious before her first concert.                                                                  Le pianiste était anxieux avant son premier concert.

2. Or, anxiety is described with a reflexive verb. These are verbs that describe something happening to you like, I brush my teeth. It implies that what happens is happening indirectly. When anxiety is happening indirectly to you, it doesn’t seem quite so monstrous.

Example:                                                                                                                                                           He drove so fast and made me anxious.                                                                                                   Il conduisait trop vite, ça m’inquiétait.

So, hopefully, when dealing with a wave of anxiety in the future, remember our Latin based language speakers. Remove anxiety as a state of being and adopt it as a feeling that will too pass and something that happens but not what you are.




Just a quick disclaimer, this is a blog article and is in no way meant to be a substitute for counseling.  Please click on the link, Find a therapist near me, to find a therapist.


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