Anxiety as an emotion is a normal part of everyday life. Anxiety becomes problematic when the experience or anticipation of anxiety keeps individuals from engaging or meaningfully participating at work, home, or with friends, or from achieving their goals.
Anxiety and avoidance tend to feed off one another. Anxiety tends to make individuals avoid activities, places, or things that may signal “danger.” But by avoiding these things, the anxiety surrounding them tends to continue to grow, making it more and more tempting to continue to avoid. This can happen after a bad experience, like in the case of trauma, or seemingly out of nowhere.
Anxiety can be thought of as the “fire alarm system” of the body, letting us know about danger. With an anxiety disorder, the alarm goes off and goes off loudly, but because of avoidance, the individual doesn’t have an opportunity to find out if it’s a real or false alarm. Treatment for anxiety helps enable an individual to test the evidence if their fears are real or false alarms.