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The relationship between anxiety, phobias and obsessions

The relationship between anxiety, phobias and obsessions

July 23, 2024

Anxiety is a psychological and physiological phenomenon that is the basis of many mental disorders. In this article we will see the relationship between anxiety and phobias, obsessions and panic attacks .

  • Related article: "The 7 types of anxiety (causes and symptoms)"

What do we understand by anxiety?

Today we hear the concepts "stress and anxiety" in many areas. But really ... what is stress, what is anxiety and what can they trigger if they are not adequately controlled?

In simple terms, stress can be understood as a reaction of a subject when faced with an unknown situation, perceived as tense or dangerous , object / person or unpleasant situation. It can appear as:

  • Answer : the individual has complete control over it, since it has internal origin.
  • Stimulus : its origin is external and the subject has no control over it.
  • Interaction : it is the relationship between the person and the context that they feel exceeds their resources and endangers their well-being.

Difference between state and anxious trait

When this "normal" stress is not controlled correctly it scales a degree and becomes anxiety; understanding this concept as a sense of alarm with high intensity, long duration, disruptive and disabling nature and origin, usually, in trivial things. It is a universal emotion and serves as an adaptive response of an organism in the face of stress.

The important thing is to differentiate between state and anxious trait. The first is based on being anxious at a certain moment, as a reaction to some particular circumstance . The second is the tendency to stay anxious for a long period of time and it is the usual way of dealing with the circumstances of the day to day.

When this anxiety focuses on specific objects or situations it is known as phobia ; when it occurs in episodic attacks, it is called panic; or it may be more irregular, as in the case of obsessions.

The anxious symptoms

The main symptoms of anxiety are divided into the following categories.


  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Dry mouth .
  • Nausea and dizziness.
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tension.
  • Sweating .
  • Tremors


  • Feelings of fear and threat.
  • Irritability.
  • Panic .
  • Intrinsic terror
  • Difficult to focus.
  • Insomnia.
  • Inability to relax.

Syndromes associated with the anxious component

The 3 main anxiety syndromes are the following.

1. Generalized anxiety disorder

It is a concern focused on day to day matters. The characteristic ideation components are matters of perosnal danger and physical damage .

  • Related article: "Generalized Anxiety Disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment"

2. Social anxiety and specific phobias

It is disproportionate fear of a specific situation, object or person. They can not be explained or reasoned, are not under the voluntary control of the person and fear leads to an avoidance of the dreaded situation. They can be both external and internal stimuli.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

3. Anxiety disorder

Share the symptoms of generalized anxiety, there is an extreme sense of fear and contains panic attacks ; these appear suddenly and the average duration is between 10 and 20 min, time in which the symptoms are at a very high intensity level.

It can be divided into two types: respiratory type (with pain and discomfort in the chest, search for air, paresthesias and sensation of being attracted) or non-respiratory.

Obsessions and compulsions

On the other hand, obsessions and compulsions they are thoughts, images, impulses, ruminations or fears and acts, rituals and behaviors , respectively. Something important to note is that the subject preserves his insight, knows that his obsessions are irrational, but still can not avoid them.

The main elements that constitute an obsessive-compulsive experience are:

  • The trigger that causes the obsession to start.
  • The obsession in itself.
  • Disconformity and guilt.
  • Compulsive urgency , need to carry out certain behavior.
  • Fears of a disaster happening.
  • Sense of responsibility exacerbated.
  • Behaviors with which you seek security.
  • Avoidance of stimuli or situations that could trigger obsessions or compulsions.
  • Interruption of social functioning.
  • Resistance.

In these cases, what can cause anxiety in these cases is the loss of time spent in these obsessions and compulsions, as well as the physiological discomfort that this state of activation causes. the fact of being bad before society and act in a different way than established or expected standards.


Having hobbies, extracurricular activities, relaxation time and time for oneself are measures to prevent the development of some pathology of anxiety.

Self-knowledge and self-observation are important to know how to react to stressful situations and the coping skills that we each have, in order to know if we still have areas of opportunity in which we can work or we have to develop new strategies because the ones we have are no longer efficient. Mental health has the same importance as physical health.

OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #29 (July 2024).

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