Anxiety: Friend or Foe?

During an assessment session I often ask; ‘If you could wake up tomorrow and all your problems were gone, what would that look like?’. Time and time again clients depict a life completely void of any anxiety what so ever. This begets the question; is anxiety your friend or foe?

The truth about anxiety

There is no getting over the fact that high anxiety can be a truly horrible experience, and it is your natural reaction to fight against it. However, the problem lies in the fact that when fighting against anxiety, it is a battle you will never win. More importantly, it is a pointless battle we shouldn’t be fighting in the first place.

The fact of the mater is that anxiety is not your enemy, but a companion. It is essential to your survival, and if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be here today. By learning to live comfortably with it, accepting it as part of your life will resolve this constant battle between the mind and body.

If we look at anxiety as a friend, it is the friend that gets you up in the morning, pulls you back when you accidently step in front of a bus and protects you from potential physical threats. The problem with anxiety is when it kicks in in a moment of no threat, when the threat is merely in your mind, this is when anxiety becomes your foe.

Flight or Fight – a faulty system

The flight or fight system is a wonderful tool to get us out of real or perceived situations of danger. An example of this can be drawn from hearing an intruder downstairs late at night. You’re fight or flight system is instantly activated, causing a cocktail of reactions:

  1. Your body shuts down non essential systems, such as your digestive system (this is often why some individuals feel the need to defecate during an anxious period or experience IBS)
  2. Your heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up, rushing blood to your major muscle groups (causing a racing heart).
  3. Breathing becomes shallow as your lungs open up to receive more oxygen (finding it difficult to catch a breath)
  4. Adrenaline pumps to your muscles in order for quick movement
  5. Sight can be temporarily compromised as your pupils dilate to let in as much light as possible (causing blurred vision).


 As an anxiety suffer does this all sound familiar? Stomach pain, racing heart, shallow breathing, blurred vision? These are all NORMAL responses to physical threat, in which case your anxiety is your friend. Anxiety can turn to foe, when there is no physical threat, but a perceived mental threat.

An example of anxiety as a foe can be as simple as, you’re in a meeting at work and your boss asks you to give part of the presentation, as you stand up you have a fleeting thought that ‘everyone is going to think I’m incompetent’, this thought is enough to kick in your fight or flight mode. In turn, you’re standing in the meeting room, suddenly sweating, heart racing, with constricted breathing and it is terrifying.



How can CBT help?

 We have discussed the difference between anxiety your friend, and anxiety your foe. The difference in these two situations is that one is an actual threat and the other is a faulty threat sparked in the mind. How CBT relives anxiety, is that it targets these distorted thoughts and enables you, the client, to rationalise and reconstruct, resulting in reduced anxiety.                                

 For more information on how CBT can help you personally. Please request a call back through or drop us a message.

Have a lovely day.