“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

What is anxiety? What causes anxiety?

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Updated: May 11, 2019


What is anxiety?

Anxiety is NOT a random, unknown, or uncontrollable disease or illness that you develop, inherit, or contract. Anxiety results from a certain style of behavior.

More specifically, we create the physiological, psychological, and emotional state of being anxious when we behave in an apprehensive manner, such as being worried, fretful, and/or concerned.

Anxiety is a result of a behavior. Anxiety is not an “it,” disease, or illness.

Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. And most people have panic attacks at some point in their lives. So anxiety is not bad. It’s just a physiological, psychological, and emotional outcome when we behave in an apprehensive manner.

For example, Webster’s dictionary defines anxiety as:

  • A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.
  • A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.

Once again, anxiety is NOT a disease or illness. It’s a physiological, psychological, and emotional state that results when we behave apprehensively.

Worry is an example of apprehensive behavior.

Apple’s dictionary defines worry as:

  • Allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles

Worry is imagining the future in its worst-case terms. In other words, imagining that a future situation or circumstance has the potential to cause you, or someone or something you care about, harm.

What causes anxiety?

Apprehensive behavior, such as worry, causes anxiety.

Anxiety turns into a disorder - a term used to describe when a behavior causes a disruption to normal functioning – when worry and the anxiety it creates interfere with a normal lifestyle.

You can read more about anxiety disorder here.

So, anxiety isn’t something we need to be afraid of. It’s a normal response to believing something could harm us. In fact, being afraid is a vital part of the body’s survival mechanism. We become afraid when we believe we, or someone or something we care about, could be in harm’s way.

The problem is that overly anxious personalities perceive danger more often and to higher degrees than those who aren’t as anxious. It’s this overly anxious behavior that causes problems with anxiety in our lives.

Once again, anxiety is not bad, a disease or illness we develop, contract, or are born with. Anxiety results when we behave in an apprehensive manner. If we don’t want to be anxious, we need to learn to behave less apprehensively.

While the negative effects of acute or chronic anxiety may feel like a random, unknown, and uncontrollable disease, there’s a lot you can do to successfully address problematic anxiety. The problem is that most people don’t understand anxiety or know how to address it.

Anxiety disorders appear for specific reasons and have definite reasons why they persist. Once these reasons are identified and properly addressed, anxiety disorders, along with their sensations and symptoms, can be alleviated 

Anxiety disorders persist only because the underlying factors that cause them aren’t properly addressed. That’s why those who take medication as their only form of treatment generally remain on medication long term, or find themselves going on and coming off over and over again. Until the underlying factors – the behaviors that create apprehensiveness - are properly addressed, anxiety and its sensations and symptoms generally persist.

The most effective way to address problematic anxiety is with the combination of good self-help information and coaching/counseling/therapy, preferably by someone who has personally overcome anxiety in his or her own life and has been medication-free for many years. All of our recommended therapists have achieved this level of success. Any one of them would be a good choice to help you work at your recovery from problematic anxiety.*

Anxiety disorders can be successfully addressed with the right information, help, and support.**

For more information about what anxiety is and its causes, you can listen to Episode One of anxietycentre.com’s podcasts, which addresses this topic.

For more information about why anxiety causes sensations and symptoms, listen to Episode Two of anxietycentre.com's podcasts.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

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Additional Resources:

Anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for anxiety disorder, with detailed information about what is anxiety and the causes of anxiety.