-- Question: Is stress likely to worsen my anxiety disorder?
Answer: Stress is the underlying issue for many anxiety states, and it accelerates all of it. What happens is when we feel stressed, part of our brain signals release of cortisol and epinephrine and norepinephrine, and then they react on the body. And, as a result, we can feel certain forms of stimulation, such as rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, etc., etc., and motor tremors, etc. So what happens is that this whole constellation of this stress response can, in fact, mimic medical problems. And if we have an anxiety condition, we notice this increased activation of what we call the sympathetic nervous system, the one that gears us up for flight or fight.
What happens is we can misperceive it, and with all of these symptoms, some people may feel as if they're having a heart attack, when, in fact, with an anxiety state, these symptoms can just be a signal to tell ourselves to relax, to take a deep breath and to use some of the other procedures we've talked about for treating anxiety state: mindfulness meditation, self-hypnosis, deep breathing, relaxation training, cognitive reframing, etc. So we have so many tools to help us to understand and grow.