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Anxiety problems can take many different shapes. Anxiety is fear of our own internal reactions to events happening in external world. It can also be attached to internal stimuli such as thoughts and memories. This page provides an overview of what anxiety is, how it operates on our psychology, and when it becomes a problem.

Anxiety is a fear of our own reactions which can either be triggered by events happening in the external world or by internal stimuli such as thoughts, memories, etc. While fear is directed at identifying external threat and quickly reacting to it in order to save ourselves and those dear to us, anxiety is a fear of what is happening inside of ourselves. Because fear and anxiety are experienced in our bodies in the same way, depending on how high anxiety is, we are not always aware whether we are experiencing fear or anxiety, and might not be able to successfully identify what actually it is that we fear.

Anxiety is a normal part of human experience and we all have it at pretty much every moment in our life.

What we usually refer to as anxiety – is anxiety problems. Anxiety becomes a problem when it reaches very high levels and when it stays high for a prolonged periods of time affecting our functioning and our ability to enjoy life, while causing us to live in a fearful state, often in an absence of a real danger, and resulting in a wide range of psychological and physical symptoms.

Anxiety has a specific physiological experience which can run throughout our whole body, and which, when high, can impact most of our bodily systems in a debilitating way. Depending on the level of anxiety we can feel scared, or tense, or weak, or we can go blank, or feel all of those. Knowing how your anxiety operates in your body, how to down-regulate it, and understanding what it is driven by – so you can address it at its core, are very helpful skills for your psychological and physical health.

When we operate on anxiety we operate on a fear of facing the truth of our deeper internal reality, which takes us further away from staying present and being in control. 

Anxiety works together with scary thoughts which are not rooted in the reality (such is – it will be too much for me to handle), which frequently impact our confidence, our motivation to explore the world around and our capacity to enjoy the novelty.

Our clients frequently reflect that experiencing anxiety was much worse than actually facing the problem and addressing it. This is because anxiety has ability to paralyze your strength and feeling in control and the good news are that in most cases you can successfully claim those back.

You can read more on anxiety and how it works here, on what to consider when getting treatment for anxiety here and our post on what our clients wished they knew before entering therapy here.


Valeria Zoteyeva, Health Psychologist.
This post is an intellectual property of the Melbourne Health Psychology Centre (c) 2020

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