Anxiety’s Scale and What You Need to Know

July 14, 2017

By: Julie Smith, LMFT-Associate
Supervised by David Braham, LMFT-S

So, you have anxiety. What do you need to know? Anxiety can be an all-inclusive overwhelming feeling or it can be this little voice in your head that never seems to go away. How is that possible?

Scaling It Out

Anxiety is on a spectrum and I like to look at it through a scale, 0-10.

Having a level 0 of anxiety is your personal utopia. Everything is how is should be at a level 0. For children, this could mean that they get to have their favorite meal, stay up late, and get dessert (it’s their dream world, right?). Adolescents might have a level 0 that looks like no homework, no curfew, and freedom to do whatever they please. As an adult, we can dream that a level 0 includes the perfect family, being the perfect parent, the perfect job, or the perfect vacation. The point is that your level 0 is personal to you. Only you know that experience.

When thinking about what your level 10 can be, it can be easy to start feeling that anxiety build up. A level 10 is when your anxiety is the worst it has ever been to you. This could be a panic attack, getting stuck in Austin traffic, not able to go to work or planned activities, or anything that you can think of that is absolutely the most anxious you’ve ever felt.

After plotting what your level 0 and level 10 could be, finding that level 5 is a good balance marker. I like to think of anyone’s level 5 as a good guide to knowing when your anxiety is approaching the level in which you can’t control it anymore. Again, levels of anxiety on this scale are as unique as the person creating them.

What’s the Point?

So, what is the point to creating this scale? Why do I need to know what my levels of anxiety are? Developing your personal scale of what anxiety can be, allows you to start becoming aware of where anxiety is present in your life, how often it is there, and to what intensity it can level up to. This is the perfect place to start when it comes to gaining control over anxiety. These steps to becoming aware of anxiety in your life can lead to identifying consistent patterns in how anxiety appears.

By externalizing your anxiety into a scale, it allows you to gain power over yourself, because anxiety is no longer powering over your identity. You could become aware about how anxiety is good in some areas of your life. Anxiety can allow for caution when needed. Anxiety tells your body when something isn’t right around you and is trying to be a protector. But when anxiety becomes overly protective is when it becomes restrictive. This is why becoming aware of your anxiety important! It is important to know:

  • What level is your anxiety?
  • Where does your anxiety usually appear?
  • When does anxiety usually show up in your day?
  • Why do you think anxiety is there?
  • How often does anxiety show up?

These questions are a guide for you to help yourself. By gaining tools of understanding, you can have power over your anxiety.

Important Reminders

The most important thing to remember after all those words, is that this is just a start! Anxiety is a big feeling that takes time to get a hold of. Be nice to yourself when starting this journey. There will be times of success and even more times of not getting it right. But remember, this is the start! This journey takes work and effort, and the fact that you are working out speaks volumes of your courage and the power that you already have.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to talk you, your family, or a loved one that you are thinking of. Please contact me through Austin Family Counseling and we can start the conversation between you, anxiety, and your life. Let’s start this journey!


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