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Anxiety Is Not Dangerous

Many of us are anxious about being anxious.  If anxiety gets too strong, we assume, something terrible might happen.  Maybe it will kill us.  Or make us lose control.  Or induce a nervous breakdown.


But there is good news here.  There is no such thing, from a scientific perspective, as a nervous breakdown!  The most extreme anxiety possible is still just anxiety, not a stage or step toward something scarier.  And no anxious moment — no matter how strong — will make an otherwise-healthy person die, lose control, or go crazy.


As a thought experiment, take the worst anxiety you have ever experienced.  Now double it.  Now double it again.  Now multiply by 525.  So what are you dealing with now?  You are still just really anxious.  No craziness, no heart attack, no profound loss of control.  Anxiety is just anxiety, and it is just not dangerous.


For evidence, look no further than cognitive-behavioral therapy.  The most effective techniques in CBT are about facing anxiety head-on: about feeling it fully.  And we don’t see patients dropping like flies in the midst of treatment!


Anxiety is definitely unpleasant but won’t make anything terrible happen.  Evidence suggests that anxiety is a universal feeling, and evolution would not have made us all feel anxious if it was harmful.  When dealing with anxiety, then, have faith in nature’s wisdom.  Anxiety is not dangerous because we are built to bear it.


Dylan M. Kollman, PhD