Anxiety. What makes it worse?

Trying to avoid pain can sometimes backfire as we may be causing ourselves more suffering in the long run.

Most people spend their life trying not to feel bad. Quite often, these attempts to numb pain or discomfort tend to end up bringing more misery into their lives.

Feeling stress may prompt people to reach for their phone to mindlessly scroll through social media feeds, although these thoughtless activities provide some short term distraction from reality, they can significantly add to the already existing anxiety.

Other people try to feed their emptiness or boredom with food, substance abuse, pornography, shopping, dating, and the list goes on. Soon after they are done with the activities, a sense of emptiness returns, and they look for another 'numbing-pain substitute', regardless of the potential consequences associated to their choices.

These vicious cycles are sometimes hard to recognise, let alone break. But until we've managed to interrupt those disruptive patterns, we're going to remain stuck in a downward spiral of endless emotional turmoil.

Having times seeking for instant gratification or immediate relief from discomfort, in exchange for everlasting pain, is a rather common adjustment tactic. The problem arises when these become patterns or mindless go-to coping mechanisms that sabotage our own lives.

By deploying the tactics below, we may be generating bigger long-lasting problems for ourselves and those around us.

1. Attempting to Numb Pain

Drinking a glass of wine (or two) or binge-watching TV to unravel after a very stressful day, eating when feeling anxious, or scrolling through social media feeds when feeling lonely, are the most common ways in which people might be tempted to distract themselves from unpleasant emotions. Such tactics may temporarily help us delay undesirable feelings and they might often become emotional 'walking sticks' that help us get through those bad days or difficult times. But covering up emotions prevent us from learning, growing, or even healing. As a consequence, emotions are not getting regulated, therefore those unhealthy habits can also have detrimental effects in our mental and physical health.

2. Avoiding Discomfort altogether

Being able to step outside our comfort zone is normally distressing. Applying for a new job, meeting new people, taking a new class, taking unprecedented risks, all of these situations are likely to have us experiencing anxiety to some extent. We may find ourselves making mistakes, embarrassing ourselves, or even falling short of our initial goal. All that could be extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, we feel constantly tempted to play it safe, in an attempt to avoid immediate discomfort. Staying in our comfort zone, while remaining positive is often seen as an effective way to deal with anxiety, but the limitations of such choices are often part of the formula for depression.

3. Favouring Instant over delayed Gratification

Instant gratification tendencies manifest in different ways: binge-eating, sleeping for longer than needed, drinking more than what we should, overeating, spending countless hours on social media, and all sorts of over-indulgences and hedonistic vices.

Although surrendering to the attractiveness of such choices can provide temporary pleasure, by enhancing dopamine production, it has a potential to increase our susceptibility to addictions through repetition and reward. Constantly giving in to these pleasures could also deprive us form long-term fulfilment and self-realisation. Studies backed up by Walter Mischel and the Marshmallow Test and other relevant publications, have shown the harmful effect of these patterns over the development of self-control and self-motivation.

What to do instead? Working on strengthening our character

Learning how to manage our emotions in a healthy way is a crucial component of mental strength and character formation. The more strength we build, the easier it becomes to regulate our emotions. And the more we work on naturally coping with emotions, the stronger we tend to become.

Learning to deal with uncomfortable feelings is among the hardest-to-master skills. It takes practice and consistency, just like any other skill. But as we manage to build our character we gain more confidence in our ability to deal with unpleasant feelings. Maybe worth it to give a go to our Emotion Regulation Workshop to start with.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment for anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders and severe mental illness.

Numerous research studies suggest that Cognitive behavioural Therapy leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life.

In many studies, CBT has been proven to be as effective as, or even more effective than, other forms of psychological therapies or psychiatric medications and other forms of alternative therapies.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety

Why is CBT the most successful treatment for anxiety so far?

The success of CBT is also believed to be related to its natural and sustainable approach without side effects or dependencies.

CBT is an approach for which there is ample scientific evidence that the methods that have been developed, actually produce positive change. In this manner, CBT differs from many other forms of counselling or psychological treatments.

Other forms of Therapies for Anxiety that we use in myndpower include Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

What are the Symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety Test

To find out whether you suffer form unhealthy anxiety, or up to what extent your anxiety has developed you can take an anxiety test, and we will get back to you with the results from your input. Myndpower - Book a session today

To learn more about us and our approach, vision and values, as well as the best treatments for your particular case.


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