Why Do We Become Afraid Of Anxiety Symptoms?

Written by Jim Folk
Last updated April 8, 2022


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Why are anxiety symptoms so scary?

Another version of this question is, “Why do we become afraid of anxiety symptoms?

There are several reasons why anxious people become afraid of anxiety and its symptoms.

Before we get to these reasons, it’s important to recognize that anxiety is based on fearing something bad will happen. As such, anxiety is fear-based.

For example, some people are confident that no matter what comes their way, they will manage it and be fine afterward. This confidence prevents anxiety.

Anxious people don’t have that confidence.

Anxious people fear adversity, uncertainty, and risk because they believe there are difficult situations they won’t be able to manage and, consequently, won’t be fine afterward.

It’s not that anxious people are weak or can’t cope with life. But in many cases, they’ve had difficult circumstances that taught them that life can be awful and things aren’t fine afterward. This personal experience undermines any confidence they may have had.

For instance, many anxious people have had to endure early life trauma, such as physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse.

These early life experiences taught them that:

  • some circumstances can irreversibly alter your life,
  • they can be extremely unpleasant,
  • when they occur, there’s nothing you can do to prevent a negative outcome,
  • the next situation could be the one if you aren’t careful, and
  • you aren’t “fine” after.

As such, you always have to be on guard to steer clear of those situations.

Hypervigilance to danger is a common anxious behavior that stems from early life trauma. The more proactive you are in preventing negative experiences, the safer you feel.

In this sense, feeling safe is the reward for worrying.

Early life trauma is just one reason why anxious people develop issues with anxiety. We list many other reasons in chapter 7 in the Recovery Support area.

Overall, anxiety is fear-based.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common reasons why anxious people become afraid of anxiety and its symptoms:

  • The feelings of anxiety and its symptoms can be powerful, causing some of the strongest physiological, psychological, and emotional experiences a person can have. Because these experiences can be so powerful, anxiety and its symptoms can be misinterpreted as being “bad” or “dangerous.”
  • Since anxiety and its feelings are triggered by the perception of danger, anxiety and its feelings become associated with being in “danger.” Consequently, the very survival mechanism that’s designed to keep them safe becomes the threat they fear.
  • Anxious people often fear there is nothing they can do to eliminate anxiety and its symptoms. Therefore, anxiety and its symptoms pose a threat they can’t stop. Fearing there is nothing you can do to prevent or overcome a threat is one of the conditions that drive fear. Recovery Support members can learn more about the “Three Conditions That Create Fear” in chapter 6.
  • Anxious people often fear anxiety and its symptoms could be caused by a serious medical condition that could cause long-term pain and suffering, or worse, death. Many anxious people have health and medical fears that fuel their anxiety disorder.
  • Anxious people often fear their anxiety symptoms will never subside, permanently ruining their quality of life.
  • Anxious people often fear their anxiety and symptoms will progressively get so bad that they become incapacitated with anxiety, again ruining their life.
  • Anxious people often fear anxiety and its symptoms will come at inopportune times, interfering with normal activities or making them feel embarrassed.
  • Anxious people often fear their anxiety and symptoms will run out of control, causing them to persist forever without end. Many anxious people fear being locked up in an insane asylum because of relentless, uncontrollable anxiety.
  • Anxious people often fear they won’t be able to handle the strong feelings of anxiety and its symptoms, rendering them fearful of anxiety forever.
  • Many anxious people are afraid of uncontrollable feelings, so the feelings of anxiety are feared, as well.
  • Some anxious people fear the stigma of having a “mental illness,” so the existence of anxiety is making that fear come true.
  • Some anxious people fear that anxiety can lead to more serious mental illnesses, which would completely ruin their lives. So, anxiety itself is perceived as a threat.

These are just a few of the many reasons why anxious people become afraid of anxiety and its symptoms.

Overall, anxious people believe their anxiety symptoms are scary because they threaten their very existence. A common core fear is that anxiety and its symptoms have the potential to ruin or prematurely end a normal life.

This core fear activates the body’s most basic survival instinct. Is it any wonder why so many anxious people become afraid of anxiety and its symptoms?

Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to reduce and eliminate these fears, so we don’t have to fear anxiety or its symptoms. Ending these fears can lead to Level One recovery.

Since dealing with these fears can be lengthy, we won’t address them in this video. However, we address these fears in the Recovery Support area of our website.

We’re also going to be addressing each of these fears and how to eliminate them in future videos. If you aren’t subscribed to our YouTube channel, please subscribe. That way, you’ll be notified when these videos come online.

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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.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including this Frequently Asked Anxiety Question.