Is Anxiety harmful?

Written by Jim Folk
Last updated February 27, 2022

Is anxiety harmful?

Anxiety is a state of apprehension that results from anticipating something we believe might be dangerous or unpleasant. Therefore, anxiety is caused by apprehensive behavior. Worrying about something is an example of apprehensive behavior that creates anxiety.

Visit our “Anxiety 101” section for more information about what anxiety is, what causes anxiety, and how anxiety affects the body.

When we’re anxious, the body produces a stress response that prepares the body for immediate action. The stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response since some people “freeze” like a deer caught in headlights when afraid.

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the many body-wide physiological, psychological, and emotional changes caused by the stress response.

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Because of the many body-wide changes, stress responses stress the body. Consequently, anxiety stresses the body. A body that’s under stress can exhibit symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because apprehensive behavior is the main source of the stress that stresses the body, and that stress produces symptoms.

Visit our “Anxiety Symptoms” article for more information about anxiety symptoms, their causes, and how to get rid of them.

Recovery Support members can access a more comprehensive Symptoms section (Chapter 9) in the Recovery Support area. Chapter 9 lists, describes, explains, and provides remedies for each anxiety symptom.

Is stress harmful? It depends.

For instance, short episodes of anxiety, including the stress it causes, is harmless because the body can recover relatively quickly after the stress response has ended. In this case, short episodes of anxiety are harmless.[1]

However, chronic anxiety has the potential to cause harm. Chronic anxiety creates chronic stress. Chronic stress has been linked to many medical and mental health problems. Therefore, it’s wise to address chronic anxiety and stress so that you can prevent the potential for harm.

As far as how anxiety disorder can affect a person’s life, yes, anxiety disorder can cause profound disruption to a normal lifestyle. In this sense, anxiety disorder – when anxiety interferes with a normal lifestyle – can cause significant harm. But it doesn’t have to.

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All of us at have experienced anxiety disorder and its symptoms. We know how devastating and stressful it can be. But we also know it can be successfully overcome.

If you are experiencing problematic anxiety, we encourage you to get the necessary help to overcome it. Addressing your anxiety issues now can prevent the development of mental and medical health problems in the future.

Research has found that the combination of good self-help information and professional therapy is the most effective way to overcome issues with anxiety, including anxiety attacks and panic attacks.

The Recovery Support area of our website contains a wealth of self-help information, and our experienced anxiety disorder therapists are well equipped to help you overcome anxiety disorder.


1. Provided a person doesn’t have an underlying medical condition that is aggravated by stress. Since even short episodes of anxiety stress the body, and sometimes that stress can be significant, underlying medical problems can be aggravated by moderate to high degree episodes of anxiety.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions archive. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Is Anxiety Harmful?