Anxiety is one of the most difficult burdens that people have to deal with on a daily basis. In my 30+ years of practice (Psychotherapist & Presently Life Coach) I have learned that there is Not one solution that will help everyone overcome the symptoms of anxiety. The most important determination is to formulate an individual treatment plan for each person suffering from the effects of anxiety. In addition, the person suffering needs to develop a support team to help them through this overwhelming time in their life.
Some causes of Anxiety: Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you are very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.
Additionally, when we Dwell on the future in a Fearful way, this can produce feelings of Fear, Worry and can Result in Anxiety. As well, if we Dwell on Past events this also can create many emotions like Fear, Anxiety and Guilt. We must Learn how to Control our Thoughts and Keep our Thoughts in the Present. This is where Happiness is and where Life can be Fulfilling. We never wait for Happiness, we just have to know where to look for it.
Call Dr. Mitch for a Free Consult so I may go over your life, your symptoms and TOGETHER we can develop a plan of action to help you through what you are experiencing.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is a normal emotion. It’s your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you of potential danger ahead.
Everyone feels anxious now and then. For example, you may worry when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.
Occasional anxiety is OK. But anxiety disorders are different. They’re a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. The excessive anxiety can make you avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms.
With treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can manage their feelings.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder. You feel excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason.
- Panic disorder. You feel sudden, intense fear that brings on a panic attack. During a panic attack you may break out in a sweat, have chest pain, and have a pounding heartbeat (palpitations). Sometimes you may feel like you’re choking or having a heart attack.
- Social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, this is when you feel overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. You obsessively worry about others judging you or being embarrassed or ridiculed.
- Specific phobias. You feel intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying. The fear goes beyond what’s appropriate and may cause you to avoid ordinary situations.
- Agoraphobia. You have an intense fear of being in a place where it seems hard to escape or get help if an emergency occurs. For example, you may panic or feel anxious when on an airplane, on public transportation, or standing in line with a crowd.
- Separation anxiety. Little kids aren’t the only ones who feel scared or anxious when a loved one leaves. Anyone can get separation anxiety disorder. If you do, you’ll feel very anxious or fearful when a person you’re close to leaves your sight. You’ll always worry that something bad may happen to your loved one.
- Selective mutism. This is a type of social anxiety in which young kids who talk normally with their family don’t speak in public, like at school.
- Medication-induced anxiety disorder. Use of certain medications or illegal drugs, or withdrawal from certain drugs, can trigger some symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
The main symptom of anxiety disorders is excessive fear or worry. Anxiety disorders can also make it hard to breathe, sleep, stay still, and concentrate. Your specific symptoms depend on the type of anxiety disorder you have.
Common symptoms are:
- Panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Feelings of panic, doom, or danger
- Sleep problems
- Not being able to stay calm and still
- Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing faster and more quickly than normal (hyperventilation)
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Tense muscles
- Thinking about a problem over and over again and unable to stop (rumination)
- Inability to concentrate
- Intensely or obsessively avoiding feared objects or places
Anxiety Disorder Causes and Risk Factors
Researchers don’t know exactly what brings on anxiety disorders. A complex mix of things play a role in who does and doesn’t get one.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
Some causes of anxiety disorders are:
- Genetics. Anxiety disorders can run in families.
- Brain chemistry. Some research suggests anxiety disorders may be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and emotions.
- Environmental stress. This refers to stressful events you have seen or lived through. Life events often linked to anxiety disorders include childhood abuse and neglect, a death of a loved one, or being attacked or seeing violence.
- Drug withdrawal or misuse. Certain drugs may be used to hide or decrease certain anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorder often goes hand in hand with alcohol and substance use.
- Medical conditions. Some heart, lung, and thyroid conditions can cause symptoms similar to anxiety disorders or make anxiety symptoms worse. It’s important to get a full physical exam to rule out other medical conditions when talking to your doctor about anxiety.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorder
Some things also make you more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors you can’t change, but others you can.
Risk factors for anxiety disorders include:
- History of mental health disorder. Having another mental health disorder, like depression, raises your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Childhood sexual abuse. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect during childhood is linked to anxiety disorders later in life.
- Trauma. Living through a traumatic event increases the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder(PTSD), which can cause panic attacks.
- Negative life events. Stressful or negative life events, like losing a parent in early childhood, increase your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Severe illness or chronic health condition. Constant worry about your health or the health of a loved one, or caring for someone who is sick, can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious.
- Substance abuse. The use of alcohol and illegal drugs makes you more likely to get an anxiety disorder. Some people also use these substances to hide or ease anxiety symptoms.
- Being shy as a child. Shyness and withdrawal from unfamiliar people and places during childhood is linked to social anxiety in teens and adults.
- Low self-esteem. Negative perceptions about yourself may lead to social anxiety disorder.
Does this sound familiar? “Monday I am going to start my diet and lose this weight to reach my goal!” Then Tuesday night rolls around and you binge on a pint of ice cream and a bag of chips. What happened there? Even though you know what to do to reach your goals, and have the best intentions, you find a way to sabotage your plans every time.
If you've been struggling with self-sabotage, you might be relieved to hear it's not your fault. Self-sabotage occurs when your logical, conscious mind (the part of you that wants to eat healthily and exercise) is at odds with your subconscious mind (the side of you that stress-eats chocolate). Why? Because for your brain, it's actually easier to master disappointment than to seek fulfillment. It's the reason we have destructive habits. It's easier to get really good at having a life that sucks, than it is to suck at a life that is rewarding, even if it's worth the outcome.
So why are we unconsciously mastering disappointment? The answer comes from a little area in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is part of your subconscious mind that controls emotions, survival instincts, and memory. The amygdala controls our subconscious mind so powerfully that it actually makes decisions for us. Even decisions we think we are making. Most people have no clue that unconscious fear is what is blocking their success. The fear prevents you from taking action; plus it diminishes the actions that you do take, leading to other sabotaging behaviors like procrastination and making bad decisions. Unfortunately, the result of self-sabotage is that we hold back instead of seizing new challenges. We forgo our dreams and goals.
So how can we stop self-limiting behaviors? Here are some steps you can take immediately to get out of your own way.
1. Understand self-sabotage. Many of us are engaged in self-destructive behaviors that have become habits. We allow these behaviors to continually undermine our success and happiness, but we may not even recognize that we’re doing it. Self-sabotage is when we do something that gets in the way of our intent, or of our bigger dreams and goals. We want something, but somehow we never accomplish it. Your subconscious views self-sabotage as self-preservation: Safeguard and defend yourself even if it’s no longer needed. Some of our self-sabotage is so subtle it’s easy to miss. We often don’t recognize how our actions are hurting us. We don’t realize our clutter distracts us, or how constantly overthinking all decisions leaves us paralyzed with inaction.
2. Notice your self-sabotaging habits. The first step to breaking the cycle of self-sabotage is becoming aware of these behaviors. Try looking at your behaviors as an outsider. What self-destructive habits, patterns, and mindsets are holding you back? Here are a few common self-sabotage habits to be aware of: Procrastination. Instead of tackling an important project in a timely manner, you allow yourself to wait till the last minute. You don’t give yourself time to fix mistakes or do your best work. - Remedy: Start setting mini-deadlines to work toward your objective. Negative self-talk/negative thinking. Your inner dialogue is super critical. Are you berating yourself for past mistakes? Are you always criticizing yourself? - Remedy: Be compassionate with yourself. Imagine you are talking to a best friend or child. How would you speak to them? Try talking to yourself in the same way. Perfectionism. You can’t take action until it’s the “right time,” or believe you need to work more on your skills before you can do something. Perfection is a sneaky sabotage that prevents you from moving forward. - Remedy: Tell yourself it's good enough for now. Nothing will ever be perfect.
3. Identify root causes. Many of us develop unhealthy ways of coping with stress. We repeatedly drop the ball on commitments, or fail to take adequate care of ourselves, or we take our relationships for granted. Sometimes these things are so subtle that we can’t see how self-sabotage is at the root of many of our problems. Self-destructive habits are usually rooted in our feelings of self-worth. Deep down you don’t feel like you deserve to be successful. You’re tormented with feelings of inadequacy. Work on identifying and acknowledging what is causing you to sabotage yourself, and then start making changes to stop those behaviors.
4. Self-reflect. It requires some major self-reflection to understand why you keep shooting yourself in the foot in the first place. Taking the time to peel back the layers you seem to be inflicting on yourself can lead to a deeper awareness, as well as give you insights into yourself and your underlying motivations and desires. The most successful people are those who take the time to think through their choices, decisions, and actions. Successful people learn from what worked or failed to work. They then adjust their course of action by taking a different approach. Only through self-reflection will you gain the necessary insight, perspective, and understanding to begin the process of transformation.
5. Become your inner cheerleader. It’s time to put away those harsh inner voices that say "I can’t" or "I’m a failure." That negative internal dialogue is a pattern of self-limiting thoughts. Start replacing that critical inner voice with positive, encouraging thoughts. Once you start seeing the areas and ways in which you are limiting yourself, you can start effectively countering that behavior. You can choose to not engage in self-sabotaging thoughts. You can start building a positive mindset and create an affirmative, confident inner voice to guide you.
6. Change your patterns. Changing our negative behaviors is imperative if we are to stop sabotaging ourselves. In every moment, our actions either move us toward or away from the person we want to be and the life we want to have. The behaviors you keep allowing yourself to do are the ones that are preventing you from getting what you desire. Consider how the actions you’re taking and the thoughts you’re thinking conflict with your happiness and hold you back from your true potential. Look for ways to replace old patterns with new ones that are more helpful in achieving your goals. Start by avoiding known triggers like certain people or circumstances that cause us to react in unfavorable ways. If there is a stressful situation that triggers you to react in a bad way, look for ways to avoid or deflect while you learn new ways of handling the situation.
7. Make micro-changes. Once you’ve identified the changes you want to make, pick just one thing that you want to start on. Don’t try to make drastic changes all at once. That’s not realistic, and those will be hard to maintain and first to be abandoned. Instead, begin with small micro-changes that you’ll slowly build to create larger transformations in your life. If you realize you’re sabotaging your weight loss by constantly missing workouts, not drinking enough water, or sneaking cheat foods, take a step back and look for one small, meaningful change you can make to keep you on a better path. If you’re not prepared, take five minutes every morning to pack your gym bag ahead of time and keep it in your car. If you’re eating junk food that others have brought to the office, bring a bag of healthy snacks like carrot sticks or almonds to have instead of that cookie or doughnut.