Our brain responds identically to both real and unreal danger.
The response is the ‘fight of flight’ reaction, which is caused by a surge of adrenaline, to help you to choose whether to stay and deal with the situation (fight) or run away and leave the situation (flight).
Additionally our blood pressure and heart rate increases and all of our senses are heightened. Our brain then has to decide if the trigger is real (if it is, is it best to fight or flee from the situation?) or if the trigger is unreal/superficial, and is just anxiety, meaning there is no action required.
It is very difficult to distinguish between the two, however it normally becomes easier over time. This is not the case for sufferers of anxiety, the ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered more easily and frequently, and the brain has been altered to perceive things as more dangerous than they actually are.
As anxiety sufferers, it is up to us, to learn how to analyse if the situation needs a ‘fight or flight’ response and an appropriate action. It is important to have the ‘fight or flight’ response as it protects us from real danger, when we have a too much of this energy we have to learn techniques to rationalise our feelings.
For me, I realised that I would never overcome my fears by avoiding them. Trying to organise my life around my fears was hard work, both mentally and physically. I wasn’t letting myself feel the fear/anxiety. Consequently it would stay trapped inside of me.