Anxiety is characterized by a physical and mental state of negative expectation. On a mental level, it involves apprehension and worries to the point of distress. On a physical level, it can activate multiple body systems to respond to real or imagined danger. Anxiety symptoms such as a racing heart and jitteriness are intended to help someone protect the things they care about and make changes where necessary. It is the cognitive feelings that occur when one anticipates a bad outcome that leads to these physical sensations. Yet, the point at which anxiety becomes persistent is when it is no longer helpful but harmful. This is the same for stress, which is a major contributor to anxiety but can also be a response to it.
Anxiety should be managed rather than eliminated, which wouldn’t be possible anyway. Plus, we need anxiety to keep us alive and alert. Those that struggle with pervasive anxiety should find ways to manage it so that it does not interfere with their everyday life. Lifestyle changes, including deep-breathing, meditation, and regular exercise can help control it. Anxiety can also be treated with medication and therapy – sometimes both. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is known for its effectiveness in managing anxiety because it is tailored to an individual’s symptoms, needs, and behaviors. Exposure therapy is also helpful, as it involves gradually exposing patients to their fears in a safe environment, so they do not feel the need to avoid them. The overarching goal of all these forms of treatment is to restore a sense of calm, but CBT especially can help people with anxiety take control when they feel threatened by their excessive worry.