How anxiety becomes a secondary emotion

Anxiety is a common secondary emotion. A secondary emotion is an emotion that is experienced in place of an emotion that is difficult for another person to feel or express. The main emotion is our initial reaction. For example, anxiety may be a secondary emotion of anger, jealousy, hurt, disappointment, embarrassment, and sadness. You can also experience two secondary emotions at the same time, such as anger and anxiety.

Understanding the primary and secondary emotions helps us understand ourselves and the source of our reactions more deeply.


In theory, this way of protecting ourselves with secondary emotions can protect us from dealing with more complex and difficult feelings. However, we are prone to make the mistake of thinking that a certain situation or event makes us feel anxious or angry, when in fact the true emotions are different.

For people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), this can become very complicated. I experience anxiety for most of my life, which is a feeling of relative expectation and familiarity.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People who suffer from uncontrollable chronic anxiety and worries that cause major life problems are usually diagnosed with GAD. People with GAD often have a tendency to experience the world in an anxious way, and most of their life experiences are seen through this lens.

Mental health symptoms

According to DSM-5, to be diagnosed with GAD, anxiety and worry must last at least six months.

Mental health signs and symptoms of GAD may include:

  • Push every choice in a certain situation to a possible negative conclusion
  • Difficulty concentrating, or feeling “blank” in the brain
  • Difficulty dealing with uncertainty or indecision
  • Distressed by decision making because of fear of making the wrong decision
  • Unable to relax, irritable, feeling tense or nervous
  • Continue to worry or obsess over concerns that are disproportionate to the impact of the event, large or small
  • Worrying too much

Physical health symptoms

The signs and symptoms of GAD may include:

  • Easily frightened
  • fatigue
  • Headache
  • irritability
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Trembling, feeling twitching
  • Trouble sleeping

Understand complex emotions

When trying to understand how you might feel under your anxiety (primary emotions), the first thing to do is to ask yourself this question. Let yourself be open to the possibility of injury, disappointment, or sadness, not anxiety.

Just considering the other feelings under your anxiety, you have made a huge leap in understanding yourself, have a higher emotional intelligence, and have the ability to work hard to improve your situation based on other potential feelings.

If you have some kind of fear, then your anxiety is probably in the right place. Give it a try and see if it can reduce your worries and help you change your life, so as to really alleviate your true negative emotions, instead of missing your experience and continuing to worry “for no reason”, like many people with GAD People are equally inclined to do it.


How anxiety becomes a secondary emotion
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