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Orlando Anxiety Specialist Shares: 5 Common Myths About Anxiety & Panic Attacks

1. By reducing stress you will make your Anxiety Disorder better

While it’s only natural to think that making an effort to eliminate stressors from your life will make your Anxiety Disorder better, the truth is just the opposite. Intentionally reducing stress can actually be counter productive. This creates reinforcement for avoidance behavior while simultaneously reinforcing fears instead of learning how to manage stress in a healthy way. Facing fears or stressors is the only way to start overcoming them. Once you start avoiding things, you end up avoiding more and more. 

2. Reassurance from loved ones is the best way to help someone who is anxious

Not rushing to a loved one’s aid when they’re seeking reassurance may seem counterintuitive, but providing constant reassurance only perpetuates the need and frequency that eventually leads to their dependency on receiving a never ending supply of validation. It is, in fact, a bit paradoxical, but the truth of the matter is that soothing or reassuring worries only gives the illusion that “everything is ok.” A better practice to reducing feelings of anxiousness is acceptance. Recognizing and accepting things we can’t control, or know, allows us to live with uncomfortable feelings that accompany a sense of doubt. It is impossible to know anything with absolute certainty. Learning to tolerate doubt with an understanding that it is a part of life is a much more efficient remedy to handling anxiety long term.

We all must realize we face doubt daily, and in a lot of instances, tolerate it without a thought. Consider this: You most likely have a car and use it regularly, if not daily. You don’t know if everything in your car is working correctly and yet you still drive. Whether you’re a driver or even just a passenger, you can’t be sure that everyone on the road will obey driving laws or that an accident won’t happen. Even with an inability to know if your car is in perfect working order or if you’ll make it from point A to point B safely, you probably still drive and will continue to do so. Take this example and equate it to the uncertainty you personally face in your daily life. Contemplate the ways in which you already cope in situations that are uncertain and apply that to the uncomfortable feelings of doubt or the unknown in an anxious situation.

3. It’s absolutely necessary to find the origin of someone’s depression and anxiety 

Even if your depression and anxiety is rooted in your childhood, it is not absolutely necessary to rehash those experiences in order to effectively work on your current symptoms. Your experiences from childhood years can certainly contribute to your current anxieties, but through CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) clients can collaborate with their therapist to examine the current issues rather than trace back to where the problems originated. In an effort like this, the focus is on what maintains anxiety and is less about what the previous causes for anxiety were in the past.

4. Thinking “positive thoughts” will eventually make negative/anxious thoughts go away

Forcing positive thinking doesn’t decrease negative thinking. In fact, fighting thoughts can be worse. It is possible to distract oneself forcibly, but the basis for distraction is an effort to create a temporary fix to a more long-standing problem. The way to defuse the power that your unwanted thoughts have is to make the thoughts not matter. We can allow thoughts to come and go as they choose without placing specific meaning or importance to each and every one of them.

5. You’re having a panic attack? Just relax. 

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ve probably received advice from someone, at least once in your life, who told you to “Just relax”. Or, possibly someone taught you a breathing technique to “stop” your anxiety. That’s the equivalent of operating a car that has a gas pedal, but no brakes and the person in the passenger seat is telling to you “stop!” simply put, it’s ineffective.

During a panic attack, the brain is firing off false alarm signals that trick your body into feeling like it’s in danger. This is why you can’t relax. You have to let panic attacks run their course. To do this, take your foot off the gas. The car might still not be equipped with a brake pedal but easing off of the gas will help diffuse and slow down the attack.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not in danger, it’s an adrenaline rush, but you’re not going out of control. Allow time to pass, sit with the anxiety, and the panic will fix itself. You’ve had times where you’ve felt calm before, and you will eventually get back to those feelings again.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we provide evidence-based treatment utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and specifically specialize in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Allow one of our therapists to help you overcome your anxiety and learn useful tools to manage and decrease your anxiety.

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