THE WHAT, WHY & HOW OF ANXIETY SERIES PART 2: Why Do We Experience Anxiety

Frequently Asked Questions About Anxiety

Last month, we covered what anxiety is. This month, we’re going to go after why people experience anxiety. 

Why Do People Experience Anxiety? 

Sometimes, the source of someone’s anxiety is situational, or temporary, such as a high level of stress at work, or complicated family issues. When a person is experiencing these difficult situations, it can be hard to think or process rationally, because our minds are so consumed with the situation that’s causing us stress. Oftentimes, this anxiety is remedied by the situation being resolved, such as switching jobs or cutting off communication with a toxic family member, or ending a romantic relationship. 

Other times, anxiety is more deep rooted. This is common when the source is childhood trauma, significant and lasting life changes (like the death of a child or spouse), or a debilitating illness or injury. When this occurs, it can be a much longer and more challenging process, as the source cannot be undone or remedied with simple changes. Additionally some of us are just genetically predisposed to be more anxious or to have a more sensitive anxious response to stressors and life experiences. 

Last month, we talked about the fight or fight response in this excerpt from last month’s blog:

The fight or flight response (also known as your stress response)  is a physiological reaction to a stressful or frightening event. During this, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, releasing hormones into your body, creating the urge to either run away, or stay and fight, to defend itself from the perceived threat. This is often common in social situations, confrontations, or when a person is faced with major life change or difficult decisions. Essentially your fight or flight response is your bodies survival response to real life or death danger but what happens with anxiety is your body is reacting to a feared or imagined stimulus as though it were a real danger and activating that same physical response- except there is no real in the moment danger!

You can learn more about that and read the rest of the  previous blog here:

So why can’t we just make our response to the anxiety stop? 

Because when we’re trying to control our anxiety, we’re trying to control something that cannot be controlled.  The human mind is very complex, and while there’s much we don’t know about it, we DO know that when you worry about making your anxiety stop, you send a message to your central nervous system that you have even MORE to be anxious about. This creates a vicious cycle, which makes anxiety even worse. 

Why do I get anxious for no reason?

Anxiety or anxious thoughts can manifest and come on suddenly for various reasons. Oftentimes there is an internal or external trigger of some kind, but in many cases we might not even be aware of what it was. External triggers can be stressors or interactions or things that happened that might for whatever reason activate some kind of anxiety response. Internal triggers can be bodily sensations or changes in heart rate or anything happening in our body or minds that triggers as anxious response. For example, it is common for panic attacks to be related to changes in heart rate or breathing that then lead to some other bodily symptoms and those symptoms cause more anxiety and it can spiral from there. Internal triggers can also be intrusive thoughts or feelings that just arise spontaneously that we don’t necessarily know why or where they came from but then anxiety starts to arise in reaction to that initiating thought or feeling. Sometimes we are completely unaware of the initiating thought or feeling at all and we notice it later in the cycle or just notice an anxious bodily response that comes later in the anxious cycle. Finally, sometimes anxiety does arise just “spontaneously” and we really don’t know why. Its possible that a lot of “spontaneous” anxiety is really related to some internal or external trigger and that we just did not realize or make the connection but we may never know in some instances what a specific anxiety trigger is. Some people wake in panic for example that might be related to a dream or even to a breathing pattern during the night (ex: sleep apnea). Also the more your body gets into a pattern of anxiety and panic responses and nervous system sensitivity, the more easily it will jump to that same pattern in reaction to smaller and smaller triggers and signals and can even just start to be a habitual pattern.

Why do people often just tell me to take deep breaths when I am feeling anxious?

Last month, we talked about some of the things that can help us combat our anxiety, such as going somewhere quiet and taking deep breaths. Why does this have a calming effect on those experiencing anxiety? Because when we breathe slowly, deeply and intentionally, we signal our central nervous system to calm down. Shallow chest breathing actually keeps your anxious fight or flight response activated and deep breathing slows that process down and sends the opposite signals to your brain and nervous system. Your brain then sends that message to the rest of your body, counteracting the physical response we’re having to our worries. So, while we may not be able to  control the circumstances that are causing the feelings of anxiety, we can condition our bodies on how to handle them. 

Why should I seek therapy for anxiety? 

Because working with a regular therapist, especially when it stems from trauma, can help you get to the root of the anxiety, and also teaches you the tools you need to deal it. When dealing with stressful situations, it can also be very helpful to have a therapist help you identify those situations and triggers and, how they’re affecting you, and help you come up with a plan to eliminate, or at least cope with, the situations to minimize the stressful impact they have on you. A therapist can also help you with goal setting and accountability, which are important tools for treating anxiety. 


Being apprehensive, nervous, or confused about starting therapy is normal and especially if you do experience anxiety that can be a part of it. Our team of local psychologists, counselors and marriage and family therapists are available in our Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL offices to help get you started. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps: 

  1. Contact Wellness Psychological Services 
  2. Meet with a caring therapist 
  3. Start getting the support and strategies to help with your anxiety that you deserve!


Wellness Psychological Services is proud to offer both in-person and online therapy for the residents of Florida. We also offer couples counseling, divorce discernment counseling, support through a divorce, and mediation for couples.

Other services offered include anxiety treatment, trauma therapy, depression counseling, OCD treatment, stress management, and testing and evaluation services for individuals as well! Additionally, we are happy to offer eating disorder treatmentPCIT therapy, DBT, child therapy, therapy for professionals, and health psychology. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog page or FAQ today!

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Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 563-1155

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