Anxiety cycle diagram (+PDF)

The current blogspot will be based on the question “what is an anxiety cycle diagram?”. We will explore the various aspects of the anxiety cycle diagram and discuss the implication of the anxiety cycle diagram in routine life.

What is an anxiety cycle diagram ?

Anxiety cycle diagram is a creation of cognitive school of thought in psychology and it is effectively used in cognitive behavior therapy. The diagram explains the cognitive behavior therapy approach to anxiety by highlighting the major reason that makes it difficult for a person to overcome the anxiety. The diagram suggests anxiety occurs in the form of a vicious cycle. 

The vicious cycle of anxiety in anxiety diagram consists of four different components that are : 

  • Physiological component
  • Cognitive Component
  • Behavioral Component
  • Emotional Component 

Behind these 4 components is a triggering event that provokes the four components in a cyclic manner. The anxiety cycle creates and maintains anxiety of a person in a repetitive fashion. 

The vicious cycle begins with a triggering event that activates the anxiety cycle in the form of a vicious cycle that sustains the anxious state of the person 

The triggering event that initiates the anxiety cycle can be any context or a situation that the person has associated his anxiety and apprehensions to based on past events or any other experience. The anxiety triggering situation can be any external event like a workplace conflict, a personal or official meeting, a social gathering or any other situation that has to happen in the future and the thought of which leaves the person worried. The anxiety triggering events can also be internal such as an unpleasant feeling, a thought about something that you are scared to get in touch with or a physiological condition that leaves you worrisome.

Following the triggering event are the four components of the anxiety cycle diagram that follow each other in a cyclic manner. A graphical representation of an anxiety cycle diagram is as below :

The physiological component

The physiological component of the anxiety diagram is based on the bodily complaints and somatic symptoms that arise as a response to the anxiety triggering event.  These includes the following physiological symptoms :

  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscular tension
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Numbness in muscles
  • Nausea
  • Rumbling stomach
  • Indigestion
  • High blood pressure
  • Occasional forgetfulness
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty breathing

The cognitive component

The cognitive component of an anxiety cycle diagram is based on the mental processes that involve perceptions, thinking patterns and judgments. The cognitive component most prominently includes :

  • A sense of worry
  • Apprehensions related to future life events
  • A sense of “what if ?” that continues throughout life actions and decisions.
  • Setting preconceived notions related to various events
  • Having a biased judgement and opinion related to various anxiety provoking events

The cognitive component of an anxiety cycle includes faulty perceptions that give rise to cognitive distortions in the brain and thus the individual reacts to situations through negative automatic thoughts that further strengthen their faulty perceptions that structure their negative schemas related to the self, to the world and other people.

The emotional component

The emotional component of the anxiety cycle diagram involves the various emotional conditions and unpleasant feelings that an individual feels due to the triggering situation. The emotional component includes :

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Feeling scared
  • Feeling something might go wrong
  • Panic
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Insecurity

In order to get over with the emotional component of the anxiety cycle, the person often commits behavioral responses that enable the person to feel relaxed as compared to the emotional component that was triggered by the initial situation.

The behavioral component

The behavioral component of the anxiety cycle diagram includes the responses to physiological component, emotional component and cognitive component of the anxiety cycle diagram, that are triggered in response to an activating event

The behavioral component of an anxiety cycle diagram includes decreased performance and an inability to perform routine activity tasks due to the scenarios provoked in response to the anxiety and are in accordance with the emotional component, physiological component and cognitive component. 

The behavioral responses that usually occur due to anxiety are as follows :

  • Impaired social functioning
  • Low socialization
  • Disturbed relations
  • Disturbed professional capacities
  • Inability to meet deadlines due to negative thinking
  • Inability to live a life upto your current potential 
  • Indecisiveness
  • Poor executive functioning
  • Decreased organization
  • Increased reactivity
  • Increased impulsivity
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Hyperreactivity to perceived events
  • Avoidance of situations that are known to provoke anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Biased judgement of neutral events
  • Escape from situations
  • Hyperventilation
  • Freezing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Low confidence

The behavioral components of the anxiety cycle diagram depict that due to the associated emotional component, cognitive component and physiological component, the life of the individual gets significantly impaired to the extent that he is unable to function well on a routine level and thus the individual faces difficulty in functioning at occupational, personal and social levels.


The current blogspot was based on the question”what is an anxiety cycle diagram?”. We learned the various components of an anxiety cycle diagram and also discussed each component in detail.

Frequently asked questions : anxiety cycle diagram

What is the cycle of anxiety?

The cycle of anxiety is a vicious cycle that represents the process of our anxiety in response to triggering situations and our responses in the form of cognitions, behaviors and emotions.

What is the cycle of anxiety symptoms?

The cycle of anxiety symptoms include various negative feelings of being inadequate, of being a failure, of being unsuccessful or unable to control a scenario that triggers the anxiety cycle and leads to cognitive, physiological and emotional changes. 

How do I break my anxiety cycle?

Inorder to break the anxiety cycle, we need to become aware of the cycle first. This includes being aware of your triggers, diffusing your thoughts, calming down your emotions and not following your schemas for limiting the behavioral responses.

What are the four parts of the cycle of anxiety?

The four parts of anxiety cycle are as follows :

  • The physiological component
  • The cognitive component
  • The emotional component
  • The behavioral component