Ask the Therapist: Why does anxiety lead you to obsess and then do things you wouldn’t normally do?



People who struggle with anxiety become overwhelmed when life throws them pretty much anything they didn’t anticipate. This is one reason why anxious people often obsess about events that have yet to occur. The anxious person believes that by focusing on events that ‘might’ happen, they can get a ‘leg up’ on the situation, ‘just in case’.

The reality is quite the contrary. When you are in a constant state of worry about events that have not yet happened, your mind and body will respond to the pretend situation with typical bodily reactions.

Homeostasis refers to the ability of the body to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in external conditions. The stability, or balance, that is attained is called a dynamic equilibrium; that is, as changes occur, the body works to maintain relatively uniform conditions.

The keywords here are changes in external conditions. But the reality is there hasn’t been a change in your external condition; the anxious person has imagined it! They are making their bodies work harder to balance this condition that doesn’t even exist. So the anxious person is using up coping resources that are needed for real events.

Unfortunately, when the real event comes, the body is worn out from constantly trying to reach dynamic equilibrium, and is now taxed. With the constant introduction of imagined tragedies the body has not been at rest or homeostasis for quite some time, so whether it happened or not, it does not matter. The person has been through it emotionally and physically, and is worn out as a result.


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