To function in the world some level of tension, alertness and arousal is necessary, to motivate us to accomplish task and to provide a sense of urgency when we need to be active. The ability to plan ahead and to attend to goals and tasks related to work and personal responsibilities is necessary to be able to function effectively in the world.
We also need those systems in our brain to activate and alert us should there be some threat in the environment or the immediate future that we need to be aware of. These are protective systems that are designed to ensure our survival.
For reasons related to genetics, environmental influences, temperament, events in childhood and other factors these systems that are adaptive become hypersensitive or hyper vigilant in a maladaptive way. Sometimes persons obsessively ruminate about “what ifs” or unknowns in the future. They may develop irrational fears about the things like navigating their environment, social situations or health problems. These symptoms can escalate to the point where they feel immobilized, distressed, and unable to function. Often avoidance is used to cope but only serves to perpetuate and sometimes reinforces the fear. To compound the symptoms whether they are excessive or irrational worries, feelings of panic or fear of certain situations, the person becomes preoccupied and fearful of the symptoms, a kind of anxiety about anxiety developing a feedback loop that can have a snowballing effect.
Fortunately treatment has been shown to be effective with cognitive behavioral therapy combined with mindfulness meditative practices and with the application of clinical hypnosis. One of the first goals would be to offset the anxiety about anxiety or the feedback loop. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to become aware of faulty beliefs and patterns of thinking that contribute to the way the person responds or reacts to their inner world and the external environment. Clients can learn meditative techniques and self -hypnosis to learn to manage the physical and emotional manifestation of the anxiety. Consequently a person can achieve a feeling of control and mastery over symptoms that before treatment seemed unmanageable and overwhelming.