Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, and depression can be a real mine field for people who suffer with them. Often times, the very things we want to do and feel an irresistible urge to do are the very worst things to do. That’s what is so insidious about these illnesses–they become a vicious cycle of self-defeating behaviors that only make them worse.
I’ve engaged in those self-defeating behaviors many times over the years. When I first began having the types of panic attacks that have dramatically impacted my life at age 19 (my history with panic attacks is complicated and goes much further back — you can read about it by clicking here), I had no idea what was going on, and I did everything you’re not supposed to do.
I ran. I convinced myself that everything was hopeless. I failed to recognize the need and reach out for help.
In short, I sabotaged myself before I ever knew what I was doing. That has continued for almost thirty years, and I’m only just now recognizing the mistakes I made.
I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did; so, to that end, here are…
3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do
1. Engage in avoidance coping.
Avoidance coping refers to refers to choosing your behavior based on trying to avoid or escape particular thoughts or feelings (Psychology Today). Often times, people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks choose to avoid potential triggers for their anxiety.
I am an absolute PRO at avoidance coping. When I am in what I refer to as a “malignant period” with my anxiety (a period of time where my anxiety and panic attacks prevent me from living my life fully), my go-to reaction is to avoid going anywhere or doing anything that might possibly cause anxiety or a panic attack.
However, while this may sound like good common sense, it is, in fact, a means of self-sabotage. Avoiding those triggers, or potential triggers, often causes people with anxiety and panic attacks to walk away from things (and sometimes people) that are important to them. This becomes a form of negative reinforcement. While avoiding those triggers can stave off unwanted feelings, it is self-perpetuating. In other words, once it starts it never stops.
It is vitally important for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to overcome avoidance coping and to face our fears in order to lead and full and happy life. You can read more about avoidance coping by clicking here.
2. Engaging in negative self-talk.
This one is HUGE for me!
Negative self-talk is the act of, consciously or sub-consciously, focusing on potential hazards or dangers and convincing oneself that every possible bad scenario will be what happens.
Studies have shown strong links between negative self-talk and anxiety. According to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Services, “Anxiety can easily and quickly be generated by repeatedly making statements to yourself that begin “what if”, which make you anticipate several scary scenarios that make you want to avoid the situation all together” (RMIT).
Oftentimes, I don’t even realize that I am engaging in this negative self-talk until I have “talked” myself into a panic attack. It very often occurs on a completely sub-conscious level. That is why it is so important to learn to recognize it and to replace the negative dialog with positive, self-affirming statements.
I will be addressing negative self-talk in more detail in a later post, but in the meantime, I encourage you to take a look at this PowerPoint put together by the RMIT Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Service.
3. Failing to recognize when it’s time to seek help.
When I first began having really bad panic attacks, I didn’t tell anyone. What would I have told them, anyway? I had no idea what was going on, and I was scared to death that I was either dying or going insane. I kept my problem hidden for years, until it finally boiled over in 2002. That was the first time I ever sought help for the problem, and by then, it had dramatically impacted my life and the lives of many people I cared for.
Recognizing when it is time to seek help, and then seeking that help is absolutely imperative in overcoming anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
According to Tammy Heilemann, LCSW, and Therapist at Memorial Care Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America – affecting close to 20 percent of the population.” That means that, chances are, either you or someone close to you suffers from one or more of the 11 recognized anxiety disorders (Heilemann/Memorial Care Center).
Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to mental health treatment, about 1/3 of people who suffer from these disorders never seek treatment. If you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety disorder, and especially if anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression are having an impact or your ability to cope with everyday life, seeking help is vital.
Some symptoms of anxiety disorder/panic attacks are:
Feelings of apprehension or dread
Feeling tense and jumpy
Restlessness or irritability
Anticipation that something bad is going to happen (looking for signs of danger)
Pounding or racing heart
Shortness of breath
Upset or tightness of the stomach
There are numerous avenues of assistance available. I have listed some of those resources below. If you are suffering, or if you know someone who is, please seek help immediately! There is help, and there is hope!
So, tell me what you think. I want to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts, questions, experiences, or words of encouragement in the comments section blow. Simply click on “Leave a Reply,” enter your name and email address (I promise I won’t spam you), and write away. Also, please remember to like and share this post!
Until next time…
Resources to Get Help!
I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression, there is hope and there is help! You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)
As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!
Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!
Are you, or someone love headed back to school? Be sure to check out…
5 (+1) Tips to Reduce Anxiety on the First Day of School
Written from an educator’s perspective, but these tips are helpful for teachers, students, and parents alike!
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Lessons from Star Wars–“You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned”: How Self-Perception Can Change Everything
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