Healthy anxiety usually goes away on its own. Healthy anxiety is experienced by everyone, and is usually triggered by stressors. The good news is that healthy anxiety usually goes away on its own, when the stressor lifts.
Anxiety disorders are different, as they are chronic, affects your functioning, and does not go away on their own. In fact, untreated anxiety usually worsens, as the brain is “kindled,” and the anxiety just feeds itself to make more severe anxiety symptoms. The problem with anxiety is that your thoughts and behaviors have contributed to the kindling of the brain in response to a stressor. When a fearful stimulus is present, then you may have thoughts that the stressor is dangerous, that you may not be able to cope, and that you may be harmed. These thoughts in turn lead to anxiety and the physical sensations of anxiety. The brain then learns that this stimulus is dangerous and anxiety-provoking, so the next time this stimulus is present, it leads to automatic feelings of anxiety.
And because this feared stimulus leads to anxiety, then you try to avoid the stimulus, which makes the anxiety even worse. The anxiety worsens as your beliefs about the event never get tested, as you avoid it at all cost. But if you would just expose yourself to the stimulus, then the anxiety goes away naturally on its own, as you find out for yourself that your beliefs are exaggerated and are eventually proven false. And of course, if the beliefs are never tested, then the beliefs and thoughts about the event continue each time the stimulus is present, further adding fuel to this vicious cycle of anxiety…the brain is effectively kindled for anxiety.
So, untreated anxiety not only continues without treatment…it usually gets worse as the thoughts and behaviors fuel the anxiety in a vicious, negative cycle. In essence, the thoughts and behaviors fuel the anxiety in a brain that has been kindled. The brain essentially learns and feeds off of negative experiences. The good news is that you can unlearn these negative experiences.
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