What causes anxiety?

What causes anxiety?

Claire Weekes, the 1960’s pioneer into anxiety and panic attacks, discovered that anxiety is 2 fold. First, the trigger that causes the chemical imbalance that produced the anxiety symptoms. Secondly, the fear produced when those symptoms are experienced. If the sufferer was not aware of the cause of the first fear they would often have increased secondary fears. This caused a viscous cycle that was often very hard for the sufferer to get out of.

In real life this looks like this. A person goes to get on a bus, but feels anxious. This is the first fear, the triggered response. But the feelings experienced at this point, create a secondary fear. The feelings/symptoms we experience are ones that are not pleasant. When we can’t get these feelings to stop straight away we then have an increase in the secondary fear. This reaction means the symptoms actually last longer, and what may have passed in minutes now goes on for a considerably longer time.

Understanding the first fear is key. As it allows a logically approach to what is happening. We don’t need at this point to understand why it is there. We just need to be aware that it is there and it’s doing a job. What causes anxiety? Well, Anxiety can be summed up by the following brief statement.

‘Anxiety happens when there is a conflict between two parts of your psyche’

This one line statement sums up perfectly what cause anxiety! Anxiety happens when the subconscious part of your brain believes you are some way in danger. This often goes against what you are experiencing from a conscious point of view.

Go back to the above bus example. You want to get on the bus, but an aspect of getting on the bus is triggering the subconscious into wrongly believing that this could be a threat to your survival. Your sub-conscious then creates symptoms in your body so you are aware of the threat. Those symptoms may then stop you from boarding the bus!

At the root of almost all mind related anxiety problems this conflict will be found. Let’s look closely at the different states of anxiety and how this applies.

The feeling of being pulled in two or more directions at once. Not aware of what choice to make, along with fear of making the wrong decision.

The conflict here is that we are anxious in making the wrong decisions and then often don’t make any decision at all. Consciously we want to make a decisions but a part of our psyche is saying ‘last time you made a decision it didn’t end well, so best if we don’t do anything’.

Work Load. Not having enough time to do everything and therefore working hastily and ineffectively.

The clash here being consciously you know you can only do what you can do in the time permitted. But believing you can.

Demands too great for the level of skill possessed or perceived to be possessed.

The difference here being that consciously we know we can only do what we can do. But believing that this is not good enough, regardless. This is often linked to self-confidence.

Excessively high expectations of self.

The contradiction here is that the psyche believes you should be achieving a higher level than you currently are. Consciously you are aware you have done your best. But the sub-conscious leaves you feeling like you have failed.


The disagreement here is that you don’t deserve what you have got. Often the guilt is out of proportion to the ‘crime’.

Any situation where you feel uncomfortable. The fight or flight is triggered.

Here your subconscious believes you are in danger. Your consciousness will say otherwise.

All these situations at the root have a fear behind them. It is this fear of rejection, pain, loss of integrity, looking foolish, being ‘caught out’, fear of punishment etc.

In context people can often see that the situation is ‘ok’. Because the sub-conscious wants to keep you safe it will always override your conscious thought. The sub-conscious needs to get its way because it believes you are in danger, which is incorrect. This can’t be changed easily though without intervention and we will talk about that later on.

The symptoms that can be felt can be linked to the situation that the sub-conscious is trying to get you to avoid. Below shows how clever it can be in work related issues.

You are about to give a talk – you lose your voice
The window cleaner gains a fear of heights
The house clearer develops a fear of spiders
The tube driver suffers claustrophobia

Sometimes it is not as obvious and may appear as part of an accident

The dancer sprains her ankle
You are about to give a talk and get a sore throat
A hand injury occurs before playing on stage with a band

Or it can be a response pattern that is continually repeated when in a situation.

Dry mouth
Rapid heart beat

This last group are closely link to the autonomic nervous system. They are started to allow maximum performance of the body if we were to face a threat.

Why is the subconscious mean to us!

The subconscious sounds like the bad guy in all of this but he isn’t. The subconscious is not a thinking part of the brain so it has not basis for believing or disbelieving. It behaves entirely from instinctual responses, a lot of which, are learned through the events of life. If the sub-conscious has learnt that something is bad and should be avoid, that is how it reacts. Even when that reaction is no longer valid in our life it will still be triggered.

When we are children we are extremely impressionable and this is also true of the sub-conscious. Unfortunately our adult life is shaped by what happens in the formative years. It is in these years that most conflicts are created. When they are created in our younger years they may well be valid. For instance, a child may avoid talking to a teacher that is constantly horrible to them. But this can translate into a fear of authority later on life.

The thing is, we forget consciously but our subconscious doesn’t. Because the subconscious doesn’t we are then governed by rules that were set from our childhood.

We know now why the first fear is triggered. A rule created, likely in childhood years is still having a say over us in adult life. The second fear is that we don’t like the way we are feeling. We know now those symptoms are purely there to get your attention. You don’t have to try and change these feeling, just acknowledge them and be aware why they are there.

Whatever issue you have right now try you know it will follow the below

‘Anxiety happens when there is a conflict between two parts of your psyche’

When we know the problem this also provides the solution. We are now aware that we have a conflict, so the solution is the opposite. Remove the conflict.


This is where the two types of treatment I specialise in come into their own let take a look at Hypnoanalysis first.


• Hypnoanalysis is a regression technique designed to allow the adult mind relieve the childhood memories and reframe them. By seeing the rules that you have applied to yourself from your formative years you are able to release these so they no longer apply to your adult life. Read more about Hypnoanalysis here


• BWRT understands that there is a conflict and you have a response that you would consciously not choose. Rather than looking for the original root cause of the issue like Hypnoanalysis it changes the emotional response. This means the conflict is nullified as the emotion response is now one that you want when the trigger is applied. Learn more about BWRT here

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