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CBT for Anxiety: Anxiety & Excitement - Unmasking the Dual Nature of Emotions


Anxiety and Excitement are two sides of the same emotion. One is the anticipation of a negative situation, and one is the anticipation of a positive one. But why do they feel so far apart and so conflicting?


Emotions are complex, multifaceted, and integral to our everyday lives. Among them, anxiety and excitement often appear to be polar opposites – one associated with fear and apprehension, the other with joy and anticipation. However, recent research in psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) suggests that these two emotions might share a deeper connection than we initially thought. In this blog post, we'll explore how anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same emotional coin and along the way, we'll uncover how CBT can help manage anxiety effectively.

Anxiety and Excitement: The Shared Emotional Blueprint

At first glance, anxiety and excitement may appear to be at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Anxiety often carries a negative connotation, associated with unease, apprehension, and fear, while excitement is typically linked to joy, anticipation, and positivity. Recent studies have revealed that both anxiety and excitement share a common physiological response in our bodies. When we experience either emotion, our heart rate increases, our palms may get sweaty, and we become more alert. This heightened state of arousal is our body's way of preparing for a significant event, whether it's positive or negative.

However, recent research has uncovered a fascinating revelation: anxiety and excitement are not as distinct as they seem; they share a common emotional origin. Let's dive into the science behind this intriguing phenomenon.

CBT for anxiety surrey

Emotions as a Continuum

Emotions are complex, multifaceted experiences that originate from the brain and manifest in our bodies and behaviours. Traditionally, emotions have been viewed as discrete entities with specific labels, such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. However, contemporary psychological research suggests that emotions exist along a continuum, with overlapping features and physiological responses.

The Role of Arousal

One of the key factors that bridge the gap between anxiety and excitement is arousal. Arousal refers to the physiological and psychological state of heightened alertness and activation. When we experience arousal, our bodies undergo various changes, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and heightened sensory perception. These bodily responses are part of our evolutionary heritage, designed to prepare us for significant events, whether they are perceived as positive or negative.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law

The Yerkes-Dodson Law, a well-established principle in psychology, elucidates the relationship between arousal and performance. According to this law, there is an optimal level of arousal for each task. When arousal is too low, performance is subpar due to lack of motivation and focus. Conversely, when arousal is excessively high, performance can also suffer, as anxiety and stress interfere with cognitive functions.

In essence, both anxiety and excitement share a similar pattern of heightened arousal.


The key distinction lies in the individual's perception of the situation.

When we anticipate a negative outcome or perceive a threat, our heightened arousal is labelled as anxiety. Conversely, when we look forward to a positive experience or view a situation as an opportunity, the same physiological responses are interpreted as excitement.

For example, standing on the brink of a roller coaster ride may trigger rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, and heightened alertness. If we interpret this as a thrilling adventure, we experience excitement. On the other hand, if we interpret the same physiological responses as signs of danger, we experience anxiety.

How this translates in the workplace:

In the fast-paced world of the modern workplace, anxiety can often take centre stage. The pressure to meet deadlines, perform well, and navigate office politics can all contribute to workplace anxiety. Employees may experience anxiety when facing a challenging project, making a presentation, or even during routine meetings.

Surprisingly, what appears as workplace anxiety may actually be excitement in disguise. Employees who view their tasks as opportunities for growth and achievement can harness this emotional energy positively. By reframing their perspective through CBT techniques, individuals can channel their nervousness into motivation and enthusiasm. Through CBT for anxiety, employees can learn to manage their emotions, boost their confidence, and improve their overall job performance.

How this translates in sports performance e.g. competitive horse riding:

In the world of sports, anxiety is an emotion that every competitor encounters. The anticipation of a competition, the fear of making mistakes, and the responsibility of being in a team, or meeting PB’s can all trigger anxiety. However, this anxiety can be reframed as excitement, leading to improved sports performance.

For example, in the world orf horse riding, professional equestrians often use CBT techniques to manage their emotions. By viewing the adrenaline rush as a positive force that enhances their focus and reaction time, they can turn their anxiety into a competitive edge. CBT for anxiety helps riders build mental resilience, reduce performance anxiety, and unlock their full potential in the arena.

How CBT can help translate that anxiety into excitement

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a well-established approach in psychology that can be highly effective in managing anxiety. It operates on the principle that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected. By changing our thought patterns, we can influence our emotional responses and actions.

CBT for anxiety involves several key techniques, including:

· Cognitive Restructuring: This technique helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns, replacing them with more balanced and realistic ones.

· Exposure Therapy: Gradual exposure to anxiety-inducing situations allows individuals to desensitise themselves to the fear and anxiety, promoting a sense of control.

· Relaxation and Mindfulness: Learning relaxation techniques and practising mindfulness can help reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety and promote emotional regulation.



In conclusion, anxiety and excitement are not two entirely distinct emotions but rather two facets of the same emotional coin. They share a common physiological response characterised by heightened arousal. What distinguishes them is our perception and cognitive appraisal of the situation at hand. This insight can be empowering, as it suggests that we have the capacity to reframe anxiety as excitement by altering our thoughts and interpretations. Understanding this shared emotional blueprint can be especially beneficial in sectors like workplace anxiety and equestrian sports performance, where harnessing this emotional energy positively can lead to improved outcomes and enhanced well-being.

By understanding this connection, we can reframe anxiety as a source of potential and motivation rather than a hindrance. In sectors like the workplace and equestrian sports, CBT for anxiety can be a game-changer, helping individuals harness their emotions, boost performance, and lead more fulfilling lives. Embrace the power of CBT and unlock your full potential, whether you're facing a challenging project at work or gearing up for the ride of your life in the equestrian arena.


Need help overcoming anxiety or want to reframe your negative thoughts into more positive ones. Get in touch for an obligation free chat to see if CBT combined with hypnotherapy can help you whether it be for workplace, sports or other sources of anxietyCBT f.





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