Anxiety causes suffering. It gives rise to a tension (it is rather a mental disturbance).
Anxiety brings pain, mental and physical. What does a person do when he is faced with this suffering? He tries to rid himself of it. This is normal and logical. When suffering takes hold of a person, several reactions are possible.
The feeling is the most common response. I have already mentioned this. It is a motor response. It is at times like this at the sufferer from anxiety comes entirely out of himself: he begins to walk quickly, does not know where he is going, will go to the movies, for a drive in his car, he will drink alcohol, he will overeat, etc.
This “running away” can show itself in another way. The person may go to the chemist and obtain tranquilizers. This is the protective mechanism of working. Drugs suppress the visible effects of anxiety but do not make stress disappear.
Protective mechanisms are immensely varied. A tranquilizer represents temporary relief. It is easy to take and available to anyone.
But often the person himself in another way. Subconsciously, he builds up interior protection. Within the brain, some areas try to blot out the anxiety. Little by little, the anxiety sufferer hides under these psychological aids, and these, in turn, influence his way of life, of thinking, action, and observation. Anxiety pushed to the background. Most of the time such reactions remain purely subconscious.
However, as these new outlooks change the individual’s pattern of life, the person himself also changes. The unique design of life, by which he combats his anxiety, turns him, and he is no longer his former self. This will be discussed in more significant detail later, but I would like here to give you an example:
Suppose that a man, for various reasons, subconsciously fears to appear a weakling in the eyes of others. Subconscious anxiety begins to build up that he will be unmasked and exposed. Other people then become a danger against whom he must protect himself. The protective mechanism then comes into operation. They allow him temporarily to be freed of his anxiety (aggression is a typical example).
How are these protective mechanisms exhibited to others? In many ways but, of course, he will try to appear very strong in the eyes of others. He develops a set of mannerisms that give him the outward appearance of having moral strength, the force of character, and of being well well balanced. Gradually the person becomes approachable. He seems very strong in all areas. But this strength is false. It is only a protective mechanism against anxiety, brought on by fear of discovery by others.
It is also clear that this individual must continue to protect himself and that other people represent a permanent danger. Since at any moment they may unmask him. Now develops an inner conflict, which will be discussed later.
Protective mechanisms against anxiety can be numerous and may subconsciously bring on some illness. This illness may enable the individual to go into a sanatorium and to stay there for as long as possible. They are protected from the outside world. Similarly. Different types of asthma are typical refuges for those suffering from anxiety. Some likewise may act in such a manner as to send them to prison, as this also is a shelter against the outside world. There are hundreds of different defects used as protection from anxiety.
The sufferer from anxiety seeks to destroy his concern. And if some of his responses to his fear seem absurd to his friends, one should remember that stress is a good thing to the sufferer and that the danger he experiences is grave.
How to overcome anxiety, by Indiana publishing house, 2011