Emotional distress is like a whirlwind that sucks everything. It renders its victims prisoners by filling them with fear, anguish, anxiety and an indefinable sadness … It is a kaleidoscope of adverse emotions that, in addition to being at the origin of a characteristic psychic malaise, is associated with physical symptoms that can be very limiting.
Byung-Chul Han, a well-known philosopher and South Korean essayist in cultural studies, defines the modern world as the society of fatigue. If there is one thing that is proliferating among us, it is anxiety and emotional distress. For Dr. Han, the cause of all this lies in our performance culture. We are inculcating this virus from our childhood by guiding us towards success, towards the high solvency that we have to reach on almost all the plans of our existence.
In addition to this pressure from our environment, we are introduced very early multitasking culture to stand out and achieve triumph. You have to know how to do several things at once in a short time. It is the law of the jungle because of which not everyone survives and does not integrate effectively. It is also common that some are stuck in the "angst". This German term evokes all that is narrow, oppressive and produces suffering.
"Anxiety, in the same way as other psychic states causing suffering, such as sadness or guilt, constitutes a normative struggle of the essentially human."
Emotional distress: what's happening to me?
When we talk about emotional anguish, the same controversy always appears. Is anxiety synonymous with anxiety? Are they two different psychological conditions? It should be said that there was little, we preferred to use the term anxiety to refer to approaches of a philosophical order, thus differentiating them from the clinical aspect. Soren Kierkegaard, for example, defined this dimension as the fear we experience when we realize that our future is limited and that the quality of our life depends on our choices.
Sigmund Freud for his part differentiated "The realist anxiety" from "neurotic anxiety" by considering the latter as a pathological condition. It is a conclusion that departs from purely philosophical reflections. All this allows us to understand that, in fact, there are two types of anxiety. The one we could define as existential has very clear characteristics. According to Manual Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it often appears as a symptom of various psychological disorders.
Let's look at some of these features:
- Emotional anguish paralyzes us. In contrast, anxiety is usually associated with a nerve component and activator. Anxiety acts as a stopper to uncertainty to foster the development of something we can control or predict.
- When this shadow appears, the concern intensifies and becomes obsessive. Catastrophic thoughts and desperation are emerging.
- Duties such as passing an exam, having to make a choice, waiting for an answer or an event, or having to face something that seems insurmountable often generates anxiety.
- Studies tell us that some people are more willing to experience anxiety. The reason for this lies in the neurochemical universe orchestrated by hormones and neurotransmitters. Thus, an increase in adrenaline or a reduction of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) makes us more able to experience this state of anxiety.
- Emotional distress is also associated with important physical symptoms: vertigo, digestive problems, pressure in the chest, fatigue, muscle tension …
How can we deal with emotional distress?
Previously, poets, writers and painters channeled their anguish through art. The majority of them suffered from existential anxiety, this recurring sensation of the human being. It will be difficult for us to get rid of the understandable emptiness we feel as we look to the future. However, when this feeling, this emotion blocks us and positions us in the corner of vulnerability, we must react.
By quoting Once more Byung-Chul Han, he reminds us that we are forced to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty is the direct link of emotional anxiety. Whoever thinks that this condition is solved using psycho-pharmaceutical substances is wrong (when we are facing an extreme case of course).We actually need to learn how to manage the back and forth of this society, to improve the unpredictable and to better cope with what we can not control.
To achieve this, various proposals are available to us. Approaches such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Engagement Therapy or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can help us. The benefit of these is multiple. On the one hand, we can reduce and work on our anxiety, our negative thoughts and the opposing emotions that block us. On the other hand, we will reach the root of the problem. We will change our vision of what surrounds us to feel more empowered and empower ourselves in a world that is always complex and always in demand.