How to Overcome Anxiety Problems and Disorders
These problems all involve heightened anxiety. In overcoming them, the goal is not to get rid of anxiety for it is normal, a part of being
human. An in-built instictual response that helps ready us for action, anxiety exists to protect us and help us to survive.
To overcome anxiety problems we need to understand why anxiety becomes so strong, change what it means to us and know how to reduce it and prevent it
spiralling out of control.
It is possible to experience anxiety without it leading to panic, obsessions, compulsions or despair; to experience it and yet still be calm.
In fact many people do experience anxiety like this frequently (eg. at job interviews, when dating, in performance situations, during sports and social occasions). They
may feel shaky on the inside but relatively calm on the outside, this is normal, this is part of anxiety, this is how it feels.
However, when we have low self-esteem, anxiety and panic problems, phobias, OCD or depression we believe that to have any anxiety is not
right and we start to associate it the first signs of it with something being wrong with us ... this is what makes it so strong.
If ten thousand people say you are good and you feel bad about yourself ... you will believe you are bad. Conversely
if ten thousand people say you are bad and you feel good about yourself ... you will believe that you are good. Our reality is shaped by what we feel and believe:
To change beliefs, we have to understand how and why they developed. We have to understand our experiences, the
people involved and more importantly, the conclusions we drew about our role in them, for it's not the experiences themselves that do the lasting damage, it's what
we make of them. We have to understand how we learnt to think and behave because of our experiences.
We all work the same way...
Ranging from shyness and low self-esteem to anxiety disorders and depression, each anxiety problem is unique to the individual. Expressions of social phobia vary
from person to person just as those of agoraphobia vary from panic disorder and GAD varies from OCD.
However, as unique to the individual these problems are and as different to each other they are, these problems develop for similar reasons and strengthen in a similar
way, a manner which reflects the way our mind and body works.
Our individual personalities probably develop from a mixture of genetic make up, experiences and learning. As such, how we behave depends on the knowledge
that we gain from past experience (derived from situational clues, knowledge at that time, assumptions and reasoning) and how we apply this to present situations.
Differences in, and complex interactions between, the above factors give rise to our individuality.
We are all different and yet, in one sense, we are all the same. We all have similar body structures, we have similar mind structures, all of us have the same five senses
and we receive and process information through these senses and structures in a similar manner.
Therefore, it is not surprising that we all tend to deal with certain situations in roughly the same way.
Problems involving anxiety and panic, obsessions, compulsions and despair work in basically the same way and reflect the ways that our mind and body have evolved
to deal with 'bad' experiences. Given your genetic make up, your past experiences, the knowledge you had in the past and the knowledge you have now ... your
mind and body are working PERFECTLY. However they are not working APPROPRIATELY.
Our mind and body are so interlinked that in some ways it is difficult to distinguish between them; thoughts generate
feelings and feelings generate thoughts. Anxiety leads to tension but also tension leads to anxiety.
Many people with long-term anxiety and depression problems exist in a higher than average state of tension and a tense body is already making associations with
anxiety, 'prepared' to spark off a worrying thought or image and start the ball rolling towards panic, obsessive thinking or despair.
Insight and understanding are essential to overcoming anxiety problems. However, from shyness to depression, something else is equally
important ... changing behaviour. We can't just think our way out of these problems, to change behaviour we have to do the behaviour (it isn't possible to learn to
ride a bike just by thinking about it!)
But changing behaviour alone will not help if we still feel bad about our self or still have unanswered questions about our problem. Any force over which we have
little understanding and even less control will always hold power over us, for it is unpredictable and could harm us and as such remains frightening.
Successfully overcoming anxiety problems requires BOTH insight and behaviour change.
We have to understand the problem (how it developed and why it effects us the way it does) to such an extent that the search for reasons and answers can be given
up. Only then is it really possible to reduce the automatic negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours and develop more positive ones.
It Can Be Done