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Anxiety from a Christian Perspective

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Anxiety from a Christian Perspective

I. Introduction

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            Anxiety may also refer to fear. Anxiety is no respecter of persons but strikes the educated and the unlearned. It produces emotional stress and an inhibitor that has kept more people from fulfilling their destiny than any other one emotion. Anxiety quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit. Quenching the Holy Spirit is stifling or limiting him. Neither grieving nor quenching the Holy Spirit eliminates him from our lives, but they do seriously restrict his control of our bodies, which God would otherwise strengthen and use.

            First Thessalonians 5:16-19 indicates that the Spirit-filled Christian should be one who is able to “rejoice always” and in Philippians 4:4 states “in everything gives thanks.” Anytime we see Christians do not rejoice or give thanks in everything, we are out of the will of God. “In everything” does not mean only in good circumstances; even the natural “flesh” can rejoice in enjoyable circumstances. But we are to rejoice and give thanks in any circumstance.

That means we must live by faith. It is faith in God’s love, God’s power, and God’s plan for our lives that keeps us rejoicing through the Spirit in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. An unhappy, unthankful attitude that quenches the Holy Spirit is caused by unbelief in the faithfulness of our God, which produces fear and anxiety as we face the uncertain circumstances of life.

            This paper intends to: (1) understand the word anxiety and its anxiety disorders; (2) explain anxiety disorder; (3) be aware of the high cost of anxiety and; (4) acquainted its treatments.

II. Background

A. What is anxiety?

            When speaking in front of a class, when peering down from a ledge, when waiting for a game to begin, anyone of us might feel anxious. At one time or another, most of us feel enough anxiety in some social situation that we fail to make eye contact or avoid talking to someone—“shyness” we call it. But for some people, two-thirds of whom are women, anxiety becomes so distressing and persistent that they suffer an anxiety disorder.

            Anxiety is part of our everyday experience. Fortunately, for most of us, our occasional uneasiness does not entail the intense suffering endured by those with anxiety disorders. There are three important types: generalized anxiety disorder, in which a person feels unexplainably tense and uneasy; phobic disorder, in which a person feels irrationally afraid of a specific object or situation; and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which a person is troubled by repetitive thoughts or actions.

a)      Generalized anxiety disorder

            Tom, a 27-year-old electrician, seeks help, complaining of dizziness, sweating palms, heart palpitations, and ringing in the ears. He feels edgy and sometimes finds himself shaking. With reasonable success he hides his symptoms from his family and co-workers. Nevertheless, he has had few social contacts since the symptoms began 2 years ago. Worse, he occasionally has to leave work. His family doctor and neurologist can find no physical problem, and a special diet for those with low blood sugar has not helped.

            Tom’s unfocused; out-of-control, threatened feelings suggest a generalized anxiety disorder. The symptoms of this disorder are commonplace; their persistence is not. The sufferers are continually tense and jittery, apprehensive about bad things that might happen, and experiencing all the symptoms of automatic nervous system arousal (racing heart, clammy hands, and stomach butterflies). The tension and apprehension may leak out through furrowed brows, twitching eyelids, or fidgeting.
One of the worst characteristics of a generalized anxiety disorder is that the person cannot identify, and therefore cannot avoid, its cause. To use Freud’s term, the anxiety is “free-floating.” As some 1 in 75 people know, for no apparent reason the anxiety may at times suddenly escalate into a terrifying panic attack— an episode of intense dread, usually lasting several minutes. Chest pain, choking or smothering sensations, trembling, dizziness, or fainting typically accompanies the panic. The experience is unpredictable and so frightening that the sufferer may then avoid situations where attacks have occurred.

b)     Phobic Disorders

            Phobic anxiety focuses on some specific object, activity, or situation. Phobias—irrational fears—are a common psychological disorder that people often accept and live with. Some phobic disorders are incapacitating, however. Marilyn—a 28-year-old homemaker— so fears thunderstorms that she feels anxious as soon as a weather forecaster mentions possible storms later in the week. If her husband is away and a storm is forecast, she sometimes stays with a close relative. During a storm, she hides from windows and buries her head to avoid seeing the lightning. She is otherwise healthy and happy.

            Other people with phobic disorders suffer from irrational fears o specific animals or of airplanes or elevators or even public places such as department stores. Sometimes it is possible to avoid the fear-arousing stimulus: One can hide during thunderstorms or avoid air travel. With other phobias, such as an intense fear of being scrutinized by others (“social phobia”) or being in open or public places “”agoraphobia”), avoiding fear-arousing situations may dictate never leaving home (Burke & Others, 2000).

c)      Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

            As with the generalized anxiety and phobic disorders, we can see aspects of ourselves in the obsessive-compulsive disorder. We may at times be obsessed with senseless or offensive thoughts that will not go away. Or we may engage in compulsive, rigid behavior—rechecking the locked door, stepping over cracks in the sidewalk, or lining up our books and pencils “just so” before studying.

            Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors across the fine line between normality and disorder when they become so persistent that they may interfere with the way we live or when they cause distress. Checking to see that the door is locked is normal; checking the door ten times is not. Hand washing is normal; hand washing so often that one’s skin becomes raw is not.  At some time during their lives, often during their late teens or in their twenties, 2 to 3 percent across that line from normal preoccupations and fussiness to debilitating disorder (Karno & others, 2002).

            One such person was billionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes would compulsively dictate the same phrases over and over again. Under stress, he developed an obsessive fear of germs. He became reclusive and insisted that his assistance carry out elaborate hand-washing rituals and wear white gloves when handling documents he would later touch. He ordered tape around doors and windows and forbade his staff to touch or even look at him. “Everybody carries germs around with them,’ he explained. “I want to live longer than my parents, so I avoid germs” (Fowler, 1999).

III. Discussion

A. Three familiar Perspectives

            In seeking to understand anxiety disorders, psychologists have emphasized three familiar perspectives—psychoanalytic, learning, and biological

The Psychoanalytic Perspective
. Psychoanalytic theory assumes that, beginning in childhood, intolerable impulses, ideas, and feelings get repressed. This submerged mental energy nevertheless influences our actions and emotions, sometimes producing feelings of anxiety, depression, or other maladaptive symptoms that mystify even the sufferer. One of Freud’s classic cases concerned a 5-year-old boy known as “Littler Hans”, whose phobia of horses prevented (in those days before cars) his going outdoors. Freud’s controversial speculation was that Little Hans’ fear of horses expressed his underlying fear of his father, whom Hans viewed as a rival for his mother’s affections.

            Alternatively, the forbidden impulses may break through as thinly disguised thoughts, which may provoke acts aimed at suppressing the associated anxiety. The result: obsessions and compulsions. Repetitive hand washing, for instance, may help suppress anxiety over one’s “dirty” urges.

The Learning Perspective
Learning researchers link general anxiety with learned helplessness. In the laboratory, researchers can create chronically anxious, ulcer-prone rats by giving them unpredictable electric shocks (Schwartz, 2000). Like the rape victim who reported feeling anxious when entering her old neighborhood, the animals are apprehensive in their lab environment. For many victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety swells with any reminder of their trauma.

            When the shocks become predictable—when precede by a particular conditioned stimulus— the animals’ fear focuses on that stimulus and they relax in its absence. So it can happen with human fears. Perhaps Marilyn’s phobia was similarly conditioned during the terrifying or painful experience associated with a thunderstorm.

            Conditioned fears may remain long after we have forgotten the experiences that produced them (Jacobs & Nadel, 2004). Moreover, some fears arise from stimulus generalization. A person who fears heights after a fall may be afraid of airplanes without ever having flown. Someone might also learn such a fear through observational learning—by observing others’ fears.

The Biological Perspective
Biologically oriented researchers explain our anxiety-proneness in evolutionary, genetic, and physiological terms.

            We humans seem biologically prepared to develop fears of heights, storms, snakes, and insects—dangers that our ancestors faced. Compulsive acts typically exaggerate behaviors that contributed to our species’ survival. Grooming gone wild becomes hair pulling. Washing up becomes ritual hand washing. Checking territorial boundaries becomes checking and rechecking a door known to be locked (Rapoport, 1999).

            Some people more than others seem genetically predisposed to particular fears and high anxiety. Identical twins often develop similar phobias, in some cases even when raised separately (Carey, 2000). One pair of 35-year-old identical twins independently developed claustrophobia. They also become so fearful of water that each would gingerly wade backward into the ocean, only up to the knees.

            The biology of general anxiety disorder, panic, even obsessions and compulsions is measurable as over-arousal (Baxter, 2000).PET scans of persons with obsessive-compulsive disorder reveal unusually high activity in an area of the frontal lobes just above the eyes and in a more primitive area deep in the brain. Some antidepressant drugs control obsessive-compulsive behavior by muting this activity, though affecting the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin, one of those messenger molecules that shuttles signals between nerve cells (Rapoport, 1999).

B. The High Cost of Anxiety

·         The emotional costs of anxiety

            Every year, countless thousands of individuals fall into mental and emotional collapse because of anxiety. Sometimes insulin shock and in some extreme cases electric shock treatments are used to alleviate suffering from tyrannical forces of anxiety or fear. Fear prompts some people to draw into a shell and let life pass them by, never experiencing the rich things that God has in store for them. The tragedy of its all is that most of the things they fear never happen. A young businessman addressing a sales company came up with the figure that 92 percent of the things people fear will occur never take place.

            Moreover, millions of people are victims of lesser anxiety/fears that have a tragic impact on their lives in that they limit their potential and expression of their creativity. Many of those people suffer from inadequate education, not because they were not intelligent enough to go to on to college or trade school, but because they were afraid they couldn’t do upper-level work. Millions of others refused vocational advancement because they were afraid to move out of their familiar comfort zones and venture into something more complex—and today they regret it.

·         The Social Costs of Anxiety

            The social cost of anxiety is perhaps the easiest to bear, but it is expensive nonetheless. Anxiety-dominated individuals do not make enjoyable company. Their pessimistic and complaining spirit causes them to be shunned and avoided, further deepening their emotional disturbances. Many otherwise likable and happy people (and their mates) are scratched off social lists simply because of grounded fears or anxieties.

            Many fearful individuals, particularly those who are quite self-conscious, have a difficult time relaxing and accepting themselves. They make few friends because others do not feel comfortable around them. Consequently, they spend their lives in lonely contemplation with few if any friends.

·         The Physical Costs of Anxiety

            As mentioned earlier that anxiety produces emotional stress and we have already seen that this accounts for two-thirds or more of all physical illness today.

            Some of the anxiety/fear-induced diseases mentioned by Dr. S.I. McMillen in his book None of These Diseases are high blood pressure, heart trouble, kidney disease, goiter, arthritis, headaches, strokes and many others. Anxiety places more stress on the heart than any other stimulus, including physical exercise and fatigue.

            Dr. McMillen points out that anxiety causes a chemical reaction in the human body, as illustrated when the saliva seems to dry in your mouth when you stand up to give a speech. That type of reaction does not harm a person because it is short-lived, but that anxiety indulged in hour after hour can cause physical damage to the body.

·         The Spiritual costs of anxiety

            Anxiety or fear quenches or stifles the Holy Spirit, which keeps us from effectively seeing our weaknesses strengthened by the positive nine fruit of the Spirit. Not yielding to the Spirit cheats us in this life and keeps us from earning rewards in the life to come. Anxiety keeps us from being joyful, happy, radiant Christians and instead makes us thankless, complaining, defeated people who can ultimately become unfaithful. A fearful person is not going to manifest the kind of life that encourages a sinner to come and ask, “What must I do to be saved?” If Paul and Silas had let their fears predominate, the Philippian jailer would never have been converted and we would not have the great salvation verse—Acts 16: 31,“They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

            Fear keeps the Christian from pleasing God. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The eleventh chapter of Hebrews, called the “faith chapter,” names people whose scriptural biography is given in sufficient detail to establish that they represent all four of the basic temperament types. The thing that made these people—and surely others—acceptable in the sight of God is that they were not overcome by their natural weakness of either fear or anxiety, but they walked with God by faith. Since he “shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), what he did to strengthen their weaknesses he will do through his Spirit for you if you let him.

C. Treatments

·         Antianxiety Drugs

            Among the most heavily prescribed and abused drugs are the antianxiety agents, such as Valium and Librium. Like alcohol, these drugs depress central nervous system activity. Because they reduce tension and anxiety without causing excessive sleepiness, they have been prescribed even for minor emotional stresses. Used in combination with other therapy, antianxiety drug sometimes helps a person learnt to cope successfully with frightening situations. Calmed with the help of a drug, the person may learn to deal with fear-triggering stimuli.

            The criticism sometimes made of the behavior therapies—that they reduce symptoms without resolving underlyi9ng problems—is also made of antianxiety drugs. Unlike the behavior therapies, they may even be used as a continuing treatment. Routinely “popping a Valium” at the first sign of tension can produce psychological dependence on the drug. When heavy users stop taking the drug, they may experience increased anxiety and insomnia, driving them back to the drug for relief.

·         Antidepressant Drugs

            If the antianxiety drugs clam anxious people down, the antidepressants lift depressed people up. Most of the antidepressants increase the availability of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, which appear scarce during depression. For example, the popular new antidepressant fluoxetine (marketed as Prozac) blocks the reabsorption and removal of serotonin from the synapse. Patients who begin taking antidepressants do not wake up the next day singing “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” The full effect often requires 3 or 4 weeks, sometimes aided by cognitive therapy to help the patient reverse a new-habitual negative thinking style (Snyder, 1999).

IV. Conclusion

            Lack of faith, even in a Christian’s life, can produce fear and anxiety. That can take the form of anxiety of people, failure, vocation—the list is endless. The fear of the past or more specifically, sins of the past. Because all Christians do not know what the Bible teaches in relationship to confessed sin, many have not come to really believe that God has cleansed them from all sin (! John 1:9). Every individual should transformed and renewed each mind and not dwelling on negative things.


Burke, K.C., Burke, J.D. & Regier, D.A., (2000). Age at onset of selected mental disorders in five community populations. Archives of General Psychiatry, pp. 47, 511-518.
Karno, M., Golding, J.M. & Sorenson, S. (2002). The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in five US communities. Archives of General Psychiatry, pp. 45, 1094-1099.
Fowler, R.D. (1999). Howard Hughes: A Psychological Autopsy. Psychology Today, pp. 22-33.
Schwartz, B. (2000).  Psychology of learning and behavior (4th Ed.) New York: Norton. (pp. 185, 387).
Jacobs, W.J. & Nadel, L. (2004). Stress-induced recovery of fears and phobias. Psychological Bulletin, pp. 92, 512-531.
Rapoport, J.L. (1999). The Biology of Obsessions and Compulsions. Scientific American, p. 83-89.
Carey, G. (2000).  Genes, fears, phobias, and phobic disorders. Journal of Counseling and Development, pp. 68, 628-632.
Baxter, L.R., (2000). Local cerebral glucose metabolic rates in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, pp. 44, 211-218.
Snyder, M. (1999). When beliefs creates reality. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (vol. 18). New York: Academic Press. (p. 408).
McMillen, S.I. None of These Diseases. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1999.

Cite this Anxiety from a Christian Perspective

Anxiety from a Christian Perspective. (2016, Jul 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/anxiety-from-a-christian-perspective/

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