Some people may be born with a more sensitive alarm system than others. Or, different life experiences may affect this system. For example, research indicates that people who suffer from certain anxiety disorders are more likely to have experienced stressful life events. The anxiety system may be likened to a smoke detector, with smoke being stress or danger. Like some smoke detectors, certain individuals may be prone to experiencing "false alarms."
Anxiety often serves an adaptive function. It influences us to avoid or prepare for dangerous situations. It can also be a motivating force which can result in creative and productive problem-solving. An evolutionary perspective may be taken in understanding the adaptive potential of anxiety. The caveman or cavewoman who was completely relaxed when confronted by a saber-toothed tiger was lunch. The one with an alarm system lived to pass on his or her fearful genes to the rest of us.
Unfortunately, anxiety can too often become maladaptive. Should an individual experience anxiety which significantly impairs his or her functioning, or causes great discomfort or distress, consultation with a physician or mental health professional may be in order.