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Sneaky Anxiety: How Anxiety Creeps Up

Anxiety has a way of creeping up.

In the beginning, anxiety might be felt as nerves – for example, you may feel nerves in social situations, prior to a uni exam or for an interview.

After all, it’s completely normal to experience anxiety from time to time.

However, if you take these nerves seriously and start to make changes to the way you behave, anxiety has a way of creeping up. By creeping up, I mean:

Your anxiety becomes a problem and affects your daily functioning.

Fortunately, by knowing what makes anxiety worse, you can stop anxiety from creeping up.

What makes anxiety worse?

Avoidance. This may start as a simple excuse to bail on something you’re nervous about. For example, you may be dreading an upcoming work party or date, and excuse yourself due to a “clash” or “feeling sick”. However, opting out of social events can quickly become a new normal. And unfortunately, the more you avoid feared situations or things, the worse anxiety gets. In this unsuspecting way, the comforting nature of avoidance behaviours means anxiety can quickly creep up.

Checking/reassurance-seeking behaviours. Checking or reassurance-seeking behaviours temporarily reduce anxiety. Some examples of reassurance-seeking behaviours include; searching on the internet for comfort about a health concern, seeking assurance from loved ones around various worries, or reading excessively about feared topics on the internet to attempt to reassure oneself. Examples of checking behaviours can include checking the door is locked despite already having checked, or frequently checking parts of your body you fear are “fat” or “ugly”. Just like avoidance behaviours, the more you engage in checking/reassurance-seeking behaviours, the worst anxiety gets. And while these behaviours are comforting at the time, gradually they make anxiety a whole lot worse.

Listening to superstitious thoughts. A common feature of anxiety disorders is to experience superstitious thoughts. For example, you may be extra hyper-vigilant with your infection control processes during the COVID-19 pandemic, because you believe getting coronavirus would be “just your luck” or you may push yourself with exercise, because you believe in some sort of consequence. However, the more you let these superstitious thoughts lead your behaviours, the worse anxiety gets.

Worry and rumination. A common feature of anxiety is to experience chronic worry and rumination. People who worry excessively tend to believe their worry is helpful in that it prevents problems from arising. However, worry in actual fact is an unhelpful was of coping with fears, as it short circuits healthy ways of emotional processing. Given worry tends to feel helpful, individuals with anxiety are often preoccupied with rumination of anxious thoughts, which in turn perpetuates anxiety.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with anxiety?

We are a team of warm and professional Melbourne-based psychologists, who are experienced and trained in helping individuals overcome anxiety. We use CBT therapies (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety) among other types of evidence-based therapies for anxiety treatment of social anxiety, generalised anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, workplace anxiety, panic attacks and sleep problems. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.