Anxiety is a physiological state causing feelings of fear, apprehension and worry. These feelings are as common as happiness and joy. Studies are suggesting anxiety is a protective mechanism. It could be our body’s way of warning us against participation in potentially harmful situations.
Basically what happens is our minds perceive danger. This may be real or imagined. Our body reacts to this threat by preparing for action. Heart rate and blood pressure rise to increase the blood flow to the major muscle groups. Sweating is increased to help maintain body temperature. When the threat is only imagined, these bodily functions lead to the common, unpleasant physical symptoms of anxiety. These include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, nausea and chills.
Sigmund Freud said anxiety was a “signal of danger” which results in physical defensive behaviors. These “defensive behaviors” are meant to enable our bodies to overcome whatever danger is threatening us. He believed we get these anxious feelings from traumatic experiences, and then reinforce the feelings through classical conditioning.
When we see or feel something we associate with a previous traumatic experience, we feel a resurgence of the anxiety these situations caused. Emotionally, we feel a sense of panic or extreme dread. Voluntary and involuntary behavior urges us to escape. But if we just avoid or run away from these situations without dealing with the anxiety, we reinforce this urge to escape. This just results in even more anxious feelings the next time this situation is encountered.