Let's say you are not currently in therapy and you are trying to manage your anxiety based on what you have read about treatment for anxiety disorders. Research and self-help can be great, but sometimes the application is not as simple as it seems.
1. It is human nature to avoid what we fear and so often the very things that help us feel better in the moment end up perpetuating and exacerbating your anxiety. If you either do not know how to manage your anxiety or if you think you are doing the right things but your anxiety is negatively impacting you and not decreasing, it may be time to seek therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be especially helpful for the treatment of anxiety.
2. Engaging in what cognitive behavioral therapists call “safety behaviors” will perpetuate the problem. Let’s say you learn through trial and error or through some research or advice that if you do deep breathing, your anxiety will decrease. Another safety behavior would be fearing enclosed spaces like elevators but being able to manage them as long as you have your cell phone with you.
3. Avoidance through the use of substances. Plenty of people try to manage their anxiety through substance use like having a few drinks to manage an otherwise overwhelming social situation or using other substances like marijuana to calm down before a big event. Substance use to manage your anxiety, even if it isn’t excessive or problematic in and of itself, will only lead to more anxiety in the future because you never confront the situation and learn that you can get through it on your own.
4. White knuckling to get through a situation. Let’s say you have a fear of flying or public speaking and you understand that exposure is helpful in treating your anxiety so you just push through it. That should help, in theory, right? Actually, just forcing yourself to do something you are afraid of while not attending to your feelings or taking deliberate steps to ensure you aren’t doing any subtle things to avoid your anxiety.
5. Minimizing your anxiety and invalidating yourself. Often people decide that if they talk themselves through anxiety and somehow convince themselves that whatever they’re fearing is not a realistic fear, they will get over it. What you are doing, in essence, if you are minimizing or invalidating your own feelings is failing to acknowledge them. That itself will perpetuate your anxiety. It is also harmful to chronically invalidate yourself and demean your own feelings.