Why Do I Always Feel Anxious?

This article is adapted from Your Brain is Always Listening by Daniel G. Amen, MD. Part of our Mental Health Awareness Month book series.

Ever wonder why you’re so anxious? It could be from Anxious Dragons that are breathing fire on the emotional centers of your brain, causing you to feel nervous, fearful, tense, or out of control. The Anxious Dragons are one of the 13 “Dragons from the Past” I write about in my new book Your Brain Is Always Listening.

As a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain imaging expert, I have found that your brain is always listening to these dragons and unless you recognize and tame them, they will steal your happiness.

When Anxious Dragons take control of your brain, it can contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, irrational fears, chronic stress, phobias, conflict avoidance, a tendency to predict the worst, sensitivity to rejection, and physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches. In some people, the deep desire to escape these uncomfortable feelings can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking or using drugs.

Photo credit: Alina Grubnyak

Wait. The Anxious Dragons?

The Anxious Dragons are the most common of the 13 Dragons from the Past, as 31% of the U.S. population will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Living through the coronavirus pandemic has certainly spawned millions more of these dragons around the world. According to a report published in April 2020, the number of prescriptions filled for anti-anxiety medications spiked by over 34% in just one month during the pandemic.

In my work as a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain imaging expert, I have identified 13 Dragons from the Past, including:

  • Anxious Dragons
  • Abandoned, Invisible, or Insignificant Dragons
  • Wounded Dragons
  • Hopeless and Helpless Dragons
  • Angry Dragons
  • Ancestral Dragons (dragons you inherit from your parents and grandparents)
  • And more

When I teach my patients how to identify their inner dragons, they start to recognize what’s fueling their fears, emotional pain, and unhealthy behaviors. Knowing which dragons are driving their actions and emotions is the first step to taming those dragons.

Photo credit: Jiawei Chen

The Dragons Don’t Have to Drag You Down

The good news is you can learn to take control of the Anxious Dragons and reset your emotional brain, so you can stop feeling so anxious, fearful, and nervous. Some of the science-backed techniques I use with my patients—and that I share in the book—to tame the Anxious Dragons include:

  • Breathe in relaxing scents (including lavender and chamomile)
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Take calming natural supplements (such as GABA, magnesium, and theanine from green tea)

When you rein in your dragons, you can break bad habits, stop self-defeating thinking patterns, and shore up your ability to cope with uncertainty. In fact, taming your dragons is essential for emotional well-being and good mental health.

Your Brain is Always Listening by Daniel G. Amen, MD.

Daniel G. Amen, MD is by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and 12-time New York Times bestselling author. In Your Brain Is Always Listening, Dr. Amen equips you with powerful weapons to battle the inner dragons that are breathing fire on your brain, driving unhealthy behaviors, and robbing you of your joy and contentment.

See more about this book, as well as other curated titles, for our focus on Mental Health and Wellness in the month of May.

Follower of King Jesus. Husband. Dad. Office Barista. Idea Guy. Bay Area native. Serving as a Project Coordinator for Tyndale House Publishers in Carol Stream, IL.

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