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The 4 Components of Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog, Jessica Richards | 0 comments

Often times you hear about the physical symptoms of anxiety however, there are actually four main components that make up and maintain anxiety. Our thoughts for example, cause us to behave in a certain way which can also contribute to how we feel emotionally about something, someone or a particular situation. When we begin to connect all three components, we also begin to physically feel sensations that relate back to our thoughts, behaviors and emotions. 

Let’s break down each of the four components below:

The physical component of anxiety involves symptoms and sensations such as:

  • • Increased heart rate; shortness of breath; tightness in chest
  • • Dizziness; weakness or tingling in your legs; feeling like you’re going to faint
  • • Muscle tension; tension in the face and head; headaches
  • • Lump in the throat
  • • Nausea or other discomfort in the stomach
  • • Feeling hot; sweating; sweaty palms; blushing

The cognitive component of anxiety involves thoughts and worries that often take the form of “What if …?” questions. These “What ifs” can be related to the anxiety-provoking situation:

  • • What if I fail?
  • • What if I embarrass myself?
  • • What if something bad happens to me or my partner/spouse/child?
  • • What if I don’t fit in and nobody like me?
  • • What if I have a panic attack?

The behavioral component of anxiety can involve:

Reduced performance due to the anxiety. If you’re focused on your worries or physiological symptoms, you might find yourself distracted, and so concerned with what’s going on in your mind and your body that you feel removed from the outside world. As a result, things that would be simple if it weren’t for your anxiety—such as a work-related task, or socializing—become much more difficult to perform.

Another behavioral feature of anxiety is avoidance. Avoiding what you’re anxious about usually makes the anxiety subside in the short-term. If you’re anxious about socializing, or flying, or public speaking, or leaving the house, then by avoiding those situations leads you can avoid feeling anxious for the time being.

However, avoidance winds up severely restricting what you can do and negatively affecting your day-to-day life. And when you do try to—or are forced to—face one of those situations, the anxiety returns stronger than ever

The emotional component of anxiety consists of:

Emotions typically associated with anxiety such as fear, dread, panic. Anxiety can also lead to other emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness and depression.


Jessica Richards Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern I am a dedicated, motivated and passionate counselor who prides myself in providing quality treatment for young adults struggling with anxiety. I have assisted my clients in gaining a peace of mind and sense of serenity. I specialize in helping college students and adolescents overcome low self-esteem, anxiety and panic disorders.

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