Avoiding Life Because of Anxiety


In the bustling world we live in today, anxiety may be caused by the demanding expectations we work so hard to live up to or the numerous obligations we need to manage. It can be easier to find a way to bypass these tasks altogether. Studies have shown that avoidance is a direct response to anxiousness. Avoidance of uncomfortable situations can affect choices, activities, and relationships. This response to anxiety can cause someone to avert these commitments entirely. It can become hard to confront everyday tasks such as a problem at work or attending a special occasion. Avoidance is sought as a solution to anxiety but only offers temporary relief. The person will ultimately return to the original state of anxiety which traps them in a painful cycle.

A study conducted by the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University called Evidence for avoidance tendencies linked to anxiety about specific types of thinking examined the correlation between anxiety and careers, activities, and courses based on different types of thinking. This research shows that anxiety can ultimately affect our choices and interests. Individuals can experience anxiety related to subjects such as mathematics. The result of feeling anxious about this type of thinking led them to avoid careers in fields such as science, technology, and engineering that require using a large amount of mathematical and technological advances. This has been true for skills related to creative thinking and spatial reasoning as well. Anxiety can cause people to show little interest in these careers and activities.

Avoidance is used to withdraw from a situation where anxiety occurs. For example, when someone is anxious about getting dental work they will avoid going to the dentist. Other ways avoidance can present itself include procrastination, denial, and distractions. This can result in postponing or rescheduling events that are uncomfortable.  When avoidance becomes a solution it can be hard to show up in life and reach your full potential.  

Learning a healthy way to cope

Avoidance is a maladaptive coping skill developed in response to anxiety. When coping skills are considered positive they are considered adaptive and when negative they are known as maladaptive. Coping skills are used to face disagreeable settings successfully. It is necessary to learn how to react to anxiety in a healthy way. The sources of stress can be changed or combatted to find a solution to the root cause of anxiousness. Emotions associated with a stressor are also important and can be managed. 

There are positive coping skills that can counter the recurrence of anxiety: 

  1. Evaluating the situation and reassuring yourself you are safe if there is no real danger or threat to you.
  2. Take the time to look around and perform a reality check. Is there something that you are worrying about that is not likely to happen?
  3. Try to understand what you can and cannot control and stop worrying about things that cannot be changed. 
  4. Try to challenge yourself by acting on the things that are concerning you and make a difference. 

Approach strategies are the best way to learn and implement healthy coping skills. Positive coping skills for anxiety are focused on relaxation and self-care. It is important to learn how to accept and love our most authentic selves. Try to take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that you cannot control everything. It can be hard to live up to your own or others’ expectations while forgetting your basic needs are important. Healthy coping skills can correct and bring about positive changes to meet the difficulties anxiety presents. It is possible to build a new relationship with ourselves that can lead to the discovery of our authentic self and freedom from the troubles anxiety causes.  

Luana Marques is the author of Bold Move, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and president-elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Marques spoke about the power of overcoming anxiety in her TedTalk titled “How to make anxiety your best friend.” Marques explains how it is possible to face your fears just as one of her patients fought to change her relationship with small spaces. Exposure to activities such as riding in a taxi and flying helped her gain confidence and acceptance.

Many therapists use the word “trigger” to define memories, objects, or places that can initiate feelings such as dizziness, nervousness, rapid heart rate, shaking, or anger. Two common triggers associated with anxiety include the breakup of a relationship or certain sights, sounds, or smells connected to trauma. If you can learn to become aware of triggers you can better handle the following cognitive response and emotional reactions. 

Seeking help for anxiety

There are nearly 40 million Americans dealing with clinical anxiety every year. Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people seek out therapy. There are many different ways to make adjustments and learn new techniques you can learn in therapy that can relieve anxiety. A therapist can assist with understanding how to identify and manage anxiety. The root cause of the stressors and the triggers can be hard to pinpoint. Together with a therapist, it can be easier to identify the problems and find a solution. Trained professionals will be able to help you uncover these thoughts or emotions that create worry and nervousness. They can offer new techniques to bring comfort back to your life.

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