Feelings of nervousness, apprehension, or worry are not only normal but useful in guiding behavior. Mild anxiety is what drives us to look both ways before crossing a busy street. Anxiety helps push us to study a little harder for an upcoming test or not to take lightly big decisions that impact our lives.
A little bit of anxiety is a good thing. Without it, we'd be prone to risky behaviors and more vulnerable to dangerous situations. Sometimes, though, anxiety ramps up to the point where it is no longer useful or helpful.
When Is Anxiety a Problem?
It's not always easy to tell when anxiety increases to the point of being detrimental. So, it's important to know the signs.
Anxiety may be a problem if:
- It interferes with your life. You feel so anxious that you're unable to complete daily tasks.
- You struggle to find calm and peace from day-to-day. You may feel in a constant state of worry or panic.
- Your brain can't tell the difference between a fearful situation that's real or one that's imagined. Your mind may make up dangerous scenarios that don't require a fearful response.
Therapists or healthcare professionals undergo training in the treatment of anxiety to evaluate whether it has spiraled out of control. That can be especially important for those who have experienced past trauma and may be more vulnerable.
Anxiety and Trauma
Anxiety is a natural response to a traumatic event. When we experience physical or emotional trauma, it triggers an anxiety response in our brains. That protects you during times of danger.
Sometimes, however, the anxiety response hangs on for too long. Feelings of fear or panic persist even though the situation that triggered them has long subsided. In such cases, the brain is continuing to respond in the same way to protect you.