A Psychiatrist on Why You Need to Have Some Anxiety

health anxiety


Anxiety gets a bad rap. Most people are looking for ways to reduce or even eliminate it from daily life. But contrary to what you may think, you shouldn’t try to completely banish anxiety, according to Dr. Daniel Emina, a psychiatrist at Amen Clinics. In fact, he says some anxiety can actually be good for you. Here’s why.



You shouldn’t try to completely banish anxiety, according to Dr. Daniel Emina, a psychiatrist at Amen Clinics. In fact, he says some anxiety can actually be good for you. Click To Tweet


Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Under this general umbrella, there are a variety of conditions that can create serious obstructions in daily life. Anxiety disorders include:

Left untreated, anxiety disorders can lead to a host of other issues, including:

They can also increase the risk of physical ailments like common colds.

We all have worries from time to time—they’re a normal part of life. Anxiousness is common, especially when we’re faced with stressful situations like a first date or a job interview. Anxiety disorders, though, can be more debilitating with physical symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, trembling, or a racing heartbeat. These can interfere with everyday tasks and make typical environments—work, school, or family life—feel difficult to cope with.

Like with many mental health conditions, anxiety symptoms may occur as a byproduct of nature or nurture or both. More than 30% of anxiety disorder patients show a genetic link. Upbringing can also factor in—as a result of childhood trauma, for example, or growing up with overly controlling parents. And there are many other risk factors that can arise throughout life, such as a traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, or a hormonal imbalance, to name a few.

When it comes to excessive anxiety, it’s a good idea to seek treatment. Natural solutions like meditation, mindfulness, a healthy diet, exercise, and supplements can be especially helpful. But for those of us who experience manageable levels of anxiety, here’s a radical thought: Be thankful for it—it’s actually helping to keep you alive!


Recently, Neels Visser, a young entrepreneur, appeared in an episode of Scan My Brain with Dr. Emina. Visser was seeking a brain SPECT scan specifically to understand his own symptoms of anxiety and stress. “It kind of circulates in my brain daily, and I wanted to find better ways to manage it and understand it,” he told Dr. Emina. “Over the past 6 years, I’ve had a very unique lifestyle, where I’ve pretty much lived on airplanes every 4 to 5 days, and that has created a disbalance.”

While most of us aren’t stressed out about jet-setting around the world, many Americans can relate to Visser’s feelings of anxiety, which he described as “a negative feedback loop” playing in his brain. But when Dr. Emina asked if there are any benefits to the loop, Visser admitted that it can aid him in preparing for life, such as by helping him avoid mistakes he’s made in the past.

Dr. Emina briefly described how neurophysiology works in that way. “We have a thought pattern that eventually leads to an emotion, eventually leads to behaviors and repetition…and just like any other habit that we form, good or bad, you can strengthen them,” he said. “There may be good things about being able to overthink about a situation—that allows you to prepare for something. The challenge is usually when you get to a situation where you feel like you can’t improve, or you can’t fix.”

Looking at Visser’s brain scan, Dr. Emina noted a lot of activity in the emotional brain, or the basal ganglia, which acts as the pleasure reward center and assists with fine motor movement. In addition, high activity in the caudate, which helps set anxiety levels, validated Visser’s reports of increased anxiety.

According to Dr. Emina, however, the extra brain activity here can turn into a positive when channeled into a productive activity. He suggests playing a musical instrument, doing calligraphy, or other hobbies that involve fine motor skills.

“We actually need anxiety,” Dr. Emina concluded. “Everybody thinks that anxiety is a bad thing, but you’re not supposed to try to completely avoid all anxiety. You’re supposed to see it as your brain is trying to tell you something.”

He says he gets concerned when people’s anxiety levels dip too low. Whether it’s due to taking anti-anxiety medications or from things like smoking weed or drinking alcohol, it can be a problem. When anxiety drops too low, it will eventually impact motivation.


As Dr. Emina noted, anxiety is not always an evil to be erased at all costs. Instead, we should be aware of the many ways it helps us in life. We’ve all heard phrases like “Don’t worry, be happy.” People who adopt this attitude, however, are more likely to die early from things like accidents or preventable illnesses.

Many people who come to Amen Clinics are surprised that it isn’t beneficial to eliminate all traces of anxiety. Without some level of worry, what would stop us all from making careless and downright dangerous choices, like driving too fast, eating junk food, or indulging in harmful drugs? In essence, a healthy dose of anxiety keeps us alive. We become more responsible citizens who exercise a fair amount of caution and conscientiousness.

Ultimately, the people who have some anxiety are living more consistent, longer, healthier lives. They avoid making potentially tragic mistakes. And like Visser, they’re better prepared for life’s demands. They’re showing up ready for a job interview, a test in school, or a challenging work assignment.

That enhanced mental preparation then works to lower anxiety levels because we’re better equipped to meet the situation and perform accordingly.

On the other hand, the various opposites of anxiety can easily lead to more serious issues:

  • Mass denial exists among people who don’t want to face our skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates. A healthy dose of anxiety would drive more people to action in preventing these issues.
  • Too-low anxiety levels can cause people to underestimate the risks of their behavior, leading to bad decisions.
  • Positive thinking can allow people to indulge in bad habits, ignore major red flags in key relationships, or fail to prepare for the future. When we insist, “Everything will be OK,” we can actually overlook important warning signs instead of addressing them head-on. Or we may bury emotions rather than process them in a healthy way.

Many people who visit Amen Clinics are surprised to hear that anxiety can help us, but they’re also relieved to know that their worries aren’t always working against them. Instead, try a dose of realism (versus blind optimism), and find healthy outlets for relieving stress. Rather than fearing anxiety’s effects, you can learn to embrace the many ways it can improve and lengthen your life.

Anxiety, panic disorders, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. excellent post!

    Comment by Douglas Morris — July 5, 2023 @ 4:22 PM

  2. Good information! I am going to share…

    Comment by Victoria Haag — August 7, 2023 @ 6:42 AM

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