3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do

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.

woman with worried look resting head in handAvoidance 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.

man with worried look with hands on sides of headWhen 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:

Emotional Symptoms:

Feelings of apprehension or dread
Feeling tense and jumpy
Restlessness or irritability
Trouble concentrating
Anticipation that something bad is going to happen (looking for signs of danger)

Physical Symptoms:

Pounding or racing heart
Shortness of breath
Upset or tightness of the stomach
Muscle tension

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…

Much love!
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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…

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Written from an educator’s perspective, but these tips are helpful for teachers, students, and parents alike!

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The way we see ourselves can have a dramatic impact on our reactions and responses, and especially on our relationships with others. Learning to change your perception can help relieve anxiety!

Better living through chemistry…or something like that.

A bit of history for my new readers. I started this blog back in 2009 in the middle of a pretty serious bout of anxiety and depression. I was, for all intents and purposes, housebound for a couple of months. The blog started as my way of recording my thoughts and feelings about everything that was going on and ended up being a therapeutic narrative which I shared with the world. It kept me connected to reality and allowed me to hear from people who made me realize I wasn’t alone.

I haven’t had a lot of issues with anxiety for the last few years other than an occasional attack here and there. That is until a few weeks ago. Due to a combination of several things, my anxiety really ramped up around the first of February. At first the attacks were pretty minor, but last week was really dreadful. I was in a state of panic really for the entire week. Just as I was coming down from one attach, something would happen which would trigger another one. It was a mess–I was a mess! Something had to be done.

I’ve had a prescription for Xanax for almost a year now, but until last Saturday I’d never taken one. I’m not really big on taking medication, and in the past I’d been able to get through my anxiety issues without it. But, last week was starting to make me physically ill, so I broke down and started taking it. Contrary to what I expected, it really did help. I didn’t get “high” or anything like that. The medicine just took the edge off my anxiety and made me not feel so bad. I knew I had a doctor’s appointment for today–nothing serious, just a physical–so I figured I’d talk to him about it.

As much as I don’t like taking medicine, I don’t like going to see the doctor even more. This is not new. I got nervous going to the doctor when I was a little kid. I fully expected to have an anxiety attack while I was there, and boy, did I ever! Blood pressure upon first exam– 180/120. Thank God for a calm nurse and an understanding doctor. Neither of them got overly excited. Both of them kept telling me that everything was going to be okay. The doctor did the exam as normal. He didn’t find anything wrong. My heart sounded good (even though it was beating too fast), my lungs sounded good, my gut sounded good. No masses or swollen glands…you know the drill. Basically, from what he could see on his exam, I’m fine physically. But, he wants to help with my anxiety.

Let me say that again, because it’s new for a doctor…he wants to HELP with my anxiety. He prescribed Zoloft. He wants me to take it for two weeks and then come back to see him. He kept telling me that we’d get this figured out and that everything would bezoloft okay. I can’t tell you how much that helped. I’ve had bad experiences with doctors in the past, but I trust him. I believed him. He wasn’t condescending or dismissive. He listened to me and let me listen to him. He didn’t talk fast or over my head. He told me exactly what the plan is, and even though I’m still really nervous about taking a new medicine, I’m going to do it because I believe him.

So, here we go! Better living through chemistry, or so they say. I guess we’re about to find out. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, to lighten the mood a bit, take a look at the video below–the great Cheri Oteri playing Colette Reardon, the drug lady. Enjoy!