How and Why Does Anxiety Become Worse Over Time?

upset man

Most people have experienced some type of anxiety. That’s pretty normal.

For example, you may have felt anxious before you had to give a speech or when you were on a first date. These are normal forms of anxiety that most folks experience and it passes quickly.

However, maybe for you, anxiety isn’t just an occasional issue. Nor does it pass quickly. Quite the opposite, it's a problem that regularly interferes with many areas of your life.

Untreated anxiety like this does not just go away on its own. In fact, chances are that it will get worse over time.

Why and how does that happen?

Anxiety About Anxiety

One way that anxiety gets worse is that it becomes a pattern. And when you anticipate a trigger for this pattern, you get anxious just thinking about it. In other words, you get anxiety about the feeling that you might get anxiety.

For example, let’s say that you have a panic attack when driving to work one day. The next day, when you get into the car to drive to work, the panic returns because you're worried about what you experienced the last time. After all, you don't want to have another panic attack in the car.

Your brain and body are now anxious about the possibility of getting anxious.

Window of Tolerance

We all have a certain window of tolerance for situations. When we go outside of that window, we respond in specific ways. And one of those ways is that we get anxiety.

For example, everyone has a different window of tolerance for public speaking. Some people get a little bit nervous, but they are able to do it without much stress. Their window is open very wide—a lot of activities that fall into this window of “doable.”

In contrast, some people cannot even think about public speaking without getting panicky. They have a very small window—most activities related to public speaking fall outside of their window.

The problem with anxiety is that it decreases the window of tolerance. Fewer things seem “doable.”

If you aren’t able to regulate your body to get back inside of your window of tolerance, then more and more things will provoke anxiety. The longer you stay in an anxious state, the fewer things will be within your window of tolerance.

So, having anxiety can increase the number of situations that provoke more anxiety.

Anxiety Destroys Self-Esteem

Anxiety is a very common disorder. Nevertheless, there is still some stigma surrounding it. Therefore, you may feel shame, guilt, or “less than” if you have anxiety.

Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle. With anxiety, you may feel like you “should” be able to do something, and yet your body is saying that you can’t do it. As a result, you feel worse about yourself because you couldn’t do what you wanted to do.

The lower your self-esteem the more likely it is that you will have anxiety. After all, how can you feel confident going into a situation if you lack self-esteem?

Avoidant Behavior

More than anything, you may wish to avoid all of the things that trigger your anxiety. However, this actually can cause your brain to experience more anxiety through a process of negative reinforcement.

For example, you get anxiety when you have to drive. Therefore, you choose not to drive. When you avoid the action, you feel instant relief. However, your brain now associates driving with something you “don’t do” or “can’t do.” And that makes you more likely to try to avoid it in the future.

Then, when you do drive, your anxiety is usually worse.


The solution to anxiety is to deal with it head-on. Rapid Resolution Therapy is a short-term treatment that helps people with anxiety. Request a free 20 minute phone consultation to learn more about it today. Call 303-949-3654 and talk to Cathy about Anxiety Treatment.