Anxiety can be intense fear or worry about something general or specific. It can likewise be prompted by something general or specific. For example, some people just wake up anxious and remain that way throughout their day, whereas others only become anxious when their boss calls.
The first step in working with anxiety is to recognize it as a necessary and helpful emotion. We are designed to experience anxiety that is consistent with the threats presented to us. If a person is reporting a high degree of anxiety, we must first ask if the threat is serious. If it is, then the situation (not the response of anxiety) needs to be addressed.
For most clients, anxiety has become disproportionate to the threat. In some cases, the threat is not even immediately obvious. In others, the threat is in the past. Either way, whenever anxiety has overamplified or outstayed its purpose, we suffer in a number of ways. The good news is that therapy can help.
Therapy addresses anxiety in two basic ways. The first is that it offers a place where all the worrying, gnawing, and prevaricating can exist outside the client, in dialogue with another person. There are many things about this dynamic that help us re-evaluate whether the anxiety is realistic. Secondly, the therapeutic process, by focusing on emotions, is able to understand the background of the anxiety. This creates an opportunity for anxieties of the same cause to eventually be resolved. For example, if you experience anxiety when your boss calls, it may be related to a traumatic firing in the past. Or it may be related to an upbringing in which money was tight.
Whatever is prompting the anxiety -- in other words, whatever is encoding this thing as a threat -- is guaranteed to be working elsewhere in your life, too. By finding the cause, we can resolve many threats at once.