Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience from time to time. It is often described as feeling worried, uptight, nervous, tense, or wound up. When anxious we can worry for long periods of time to the extent where the worry starts to feel out of control.These worries can start, for example, when we start a new job or due to financial concerns. Usually anxiety calms down as the situation subsides but if the situation is prolonged this may not be the case. Sometimes people find their worry does not subside and it is at this stage that the anxiety is starting to become a problem.
Some people may have a thinking style that lends itself to experiencing anxiety. For example, anxious people have a tendency to expect that the worst possible scenario will always occur. They also feel like they must constantly be on guard in case something bad happens. They believe that by thinking about all the things that could go wrong, they will be better prepared to cope if it happens. However, thinking in this way means that they are on regular alert and find it difficult to relax and ‘switch off’.
It has also been suggested that anxiety has familial ties. In other words, if someone in your immediate family is an anxious person, there is an increased chance that you will have similar personality traits.
Anxiety also influences how we behave. For instance, when we feel anxious, we often avoid doing things that we want to because we are worried about how they will turn out, it becomes challenging when anxiety begins to follow people around and is a regular feature in their lives.
Although anxiety is largely an unpleasant experience, it also has positive benefits that have been useful to humans over the centuries. For example, when we are under threat or feel in danger (e.g. hear a burglar), we automatically become anxious. As a result, our heart beats more quickly which supplies blood to our muscles (which helps us run away from or fight the burglar); we sweat (which cools us down during this process); and our breathing changes (which ensures oxygen is delivered to our muscles quickly again preparing us for a quick response). When looking at anxiety in this way, you can quickly see how it can be very useful in certain situations.