People who suffer from extreme anxiety are often worried that something really weird is wrong with them, that they are unusual in some tragic way. They are anxious about being anxious. But it can be very reassuring to understand that some anxiety is just a natural phenomenon.
At the back of the brain (the earliest developed part, and the most "primitive" part) are two small, olive-like structures called the amygdala. Part of their function is to act as simple on-off switches. Whenever someone experiences a potential threat of any kind (a literal danger, or someone unknown approaching, or a task that you feel you cannot cope with, for example), the amygdala switch on and release a flood of chemicals into the body.
This is what is commonly known as the "fight-flight" response, where the body is prepared for attack or running away. Lots of physiological responses take place such as blood being pumped to the limbs and the heart rate increasing. And it is experienced as anxiety.
This response is automatic and a good one, and without it the human race would not have evolved. We would have been destroyed by predators. We exist because the fight-flight response (anxiety) got enough of use out of danger. However, although it has many benefits and is very well embedded in our biology, it can be very dysfunctional if it means that we fight or run everytime we perceive the slightest amount of danger.
Enter the front of the brain. Over the years we have evolved the front part of our brains - the pre-frontal cortex. This is where most of our reasoning takes place. And as a species we no longer run away at the slightest possibility of threat (which would be dysfunctional), but use our reasoning ability to evaluate the size of the threat, to make a judgement and to act accordingly. (See What are the chances)
Part of learning to manage our anxiety is learning to talk differently to ourselves. If our anxiety is out of proportion to the situation in hand, it is probably because we are listening to the back of our brains. We need to start using the front of our brains to start to talk truth to the back of our brains, and allow ourselves to start to believe that truth.
Of course, it is not as simple as this, but this is a starting point.
Just because we feel something to be true doesn't mean that it is actually true.
What do you think?