Do the physical twinges of anxiety make you even more anxious? For instance, for some people, even though the sweaty palms, racing heartbeat and shaky limbs are a result of exercise — and not an impending panic attack — they still experience intense anxiety about their anxiety.
This is called anxiety sensitivity. According to authors and clinical psychologists Margo C. Watt, Ph.D, and Sherry H. Stewart, Ph.D, in their excellent book Overcoming the Fear of Fear: How to Reduce Anxiety Sensitivity, anxiety sensitivity is “the tendency to respond fearfully to bodily sensations associated with fear and anxiety.” Put simply, it’s “the fear of fear.”
People who are prone to anxiety sensitivity tend to catastrophize, or automatically assume that the worst will happen. For instance, you might fear that your trembling might catch the attention of others or a racing heart might mean a heart attack.
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