Why is anxiety so hard to overcome?
For many people anxiety can become a way of life. It tends to begin with worries about a certain thing or issue. Before long anxiety can seem all consuming. What once seemed simple to achieve now feels as hard as attempting to climb Mount Everest.
CTP see many clients in clinic who are reliant on medications such as Propranolol or Diazepam. They often believe they need these to function. Medication is often useful in the short term. For instance, it can be very helpful during an acute crisis. It is not intended or recommended for routine daily use. Clients often find that when they stop taking medication their anxiety returns. The good news is, it’s possible to break this pattern when you learn how to.
Anxiety – Why is it getting worse?
Why does anxiety become so disabling and how can get your life back? The simple answer is that when we feel anxious most of us are motivated to find a quick fix that will remove the unpleasant sensations. The quickest way to feel better is often to avoid a feared situation. When we ‘avoid’ we experience immediate relief.
The bad news is that avoidance usually results in an increased fear of the situation we avoided. This ramping up of fear makes the next attempt even harder. Worse still, anxiety also becomes attached to things, places and events associated with the original fear. It becomes easy to see how anxiety increases over time. In fact many clients say that they feel a prisoner to their anxiety.
The bottom line is, to experience less anxiety, it is necessary to face fears. To achieve success, this must be done in a safe and gradual manner. Remember we are speaking about anxiety not genuinely dangerous situations.
1. The best way to get rid of anxiety is to slowly confront your fears. This is referred to as a gradual exposure. You may do this alone, with a partner or friend or with a therapist.
2. To confront fears successfully, you must be able to gradually increase your tolerance of discomfort. Concentrating on your breathing will be helpful. Learning basic mindfulness strategies will also be useful. There are many self-help books or courses on the subject.
3. Remember that small amounts of felt discomfort do not mean there is danger present. Take a moment to reframe your thoughts. A reframed and helpful thought might be ‘small amounts of emotional discomfort are clear opportunities for navigating change’. Alternatively, you might say ‘I am feeling nervous about doing this, if I press on I am increasing my tolerance. It will become easier with practice’. Your growing tolerance of small amounts of discomfort mean you are on the way to conquering your fear.
4. Break your plan to overcome a specific anxiety into small manageable steps. It is crucial that the steps you design are small but still large enough to cause some mild discomfort. Steps should not be overwhelming. Most people who are unable to overcome their anxiety fail because they make the goals too high and become overwhelmed. Goals that are too big simply increase anxiety and make the process much harder.
5. If a step seems too huge break it down into a smaller step. Although this might make you feel impatient, it is the safest and quickest way to achieve your goal.
6. Practice each step before moving onto the next. You should be able to complete each step without feeling anxiety before moving to the next step.
7. Reward yourself when you have accomplished each step.
8. If you fail, regroup and try again. Failing is part of the success process.
9. If anxiety persists after working through this hierarchy, you may wish to consider professional help.
Written by Christine Tizzard Psychology, Chichester, West Sussex
CTP is an independent psychology provider based in Chichester, West Sussex.
We have clinics located in Portsmouth, Brighton and Harley Street. A full range of assessment and treatment services are available. All our chartered psychologists are registered with the HCPC and British Psychological Society.