Using the thermometer in Table 1 as a metaphor for understanding normal versus pathologic anxiety, one might consider normal anxiety as that which keys the body and prompts us to action in a way that helps us function better in life. Pathologic anxiety would pre-vent someone from doing what she wishes to do or from feeling how she would like to feel. For example, an upcoming test or performance can motivate us to study or prepare for the challenge at hand.
However, when pathological, this anxiety might drift into obsessing on all of the details necessary to prepare for the test but never actually preparing. Writers, musicians, or students display this anxiety via procrastination, postponing aspects of their preparation out of a sense of fear.
This stalling can subsequently mushroom in time to a mental and physical paralysis, thus leaving them unable to perform in the originally desired fashion. All anxiety, pathologic or normal, serves as an important communication of a feeling which can be used to help us perceive more precisely what stimulus in our environments might trigger our fear. Paying close attention can help us better distinguish the nature of the fear, and thereby respond more appropriately (less pathologically).