Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Anxiety and unhelpful behaviours


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Anxiety and unhealthy behaviour


Suffering from anxiety or any emotional disorder doesn’t make you a bad person. The negative thoughts and emotions can lead us to engaging in unhelpful behaviours that end up maintaining the anxiety instead of diminishing it. Our unhealthy behaviour works as a coping strategy and although they may seem effective at first, they actually cause considerable damage over the longer term by maintaining our anxiety. Here are typical examples of unhelpful behaviours that are negative and self destructive. We are human and it can be tempting to self soothe with these unhelpful behaviours – can you identify any behaviours that you engage in?

Gambling, excessive shopping, avoiding others, withdrawing from life, ignoring responsibilities, not eating or sleeping regularly, ignoring problems, not attending to personal hygiene, procrastinating.

There are three main types of negative behaviors: avoidance behavior, mood lowering behavior and self-destructive behavior. Different behaviors happen for different reasons. For example if you’re suffering from anxiety, you may concentrate on avoidance behavior and mood lowering behavior.

Avoidance plays a major part in dealing with anxiety and those who sink into major anxiety are in the grasps of serious avoidance. For many, it can be tempting to effectively give up, and hide away from the world, but the truth is avoidance does nothing but fuel a life that is less enjoyable, less rewarding and more problematic. One of the major signs of avoidance is when people start to avoid the things they normally enjoy, or even loathe, for that matter. Sometimes, we overindulge in activities we enjoy as well, in order to block out the outside world, so it’s important to know when you are enjoying something and when you are relying on it as a blocker. Suffering from anxiety takes time to work through, but dealing with avoidance is one of the best ways to do it.

When suffering from anxiety, you use a lot of behaviour strategies like avoidance to cope. Avoidance effectively prevents ‘reality testing’ – we never get to test out what would really happen. As a result the threat remains unchallenged and we never get to test out our ability to cope, Our ability to cope is often higher than we anticipate and this is easy to see when you think about a time when you worried excessively about something, only to find that when the event occurred it easnt nearly as bad as you anticipated.

Very often, doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you usually do (ie, procrastinate, avoid etc) is the best way to overcome anxiety.

Get in the habit of facing your fears and reducing your unhelpful behaviours. This is the most effective approach for reducing anxiety.

Mandy X