“I wish I could”, you think to yourself.
Anxiety is an issue common to many people and can manifest in different ways. For some, it may be quite specific; say fear of speaking in front of a group of people. For others, it may a general sense of unease, or perhaps an ongoing tendency to over-think situations and worry. You may be well aware that what you are worried about is something minor, insignificant, or irrelevant – “I know it’s nothing… I’m probably just over-thinking…” – but no matter how much you try to dismiss the thoughts or the worry, sooner or later it re-appears, like an uninvited guest constantly knocking at your door.
We all experience a feeling of worry or anxiety at some point. Does the phrase “what if….” sound familiar? “What if I can’t perform well on this task?” or “What if I embarrass myself?”
These are all examples of questions you may recall asking yourself at one point in time, and although they are often accompanied by a feeling of discomfort, they are usually temporary and completely normal. In fact, feeling moderately anxious is – generally speaking – an adaptive response and can be beneficial as it motivates us to take action. For example, worrying about an upcoming exam can motivate you to study, or worrying about your health may motivate you to quit unhealthy habits.
When it becomes problematic, however, is when this anxiety becomes so intense or so persistent that it interferes with our day-to-day lives. We may, in turn, systematically avoid certain situations and/or draw unconfirmed conclusions about ourselves, the world or the future based on what could happen.
Let’s take an example of someone invited for a job interview:
“What if this interview doesn’t go well? They will ask me so many questions. What if I can’t answer the questions and I freeze? I will look so stupid. It’s probably best if I don’t go rather than make a fool of myself. I wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway, I’m not smart enough.”
The thought of going for a job interview makes many of us understandably nervous. However, in this example, we can see how the thought of not being able to answer questions in the interview leads the individual to make assumptions about their self-worth and avoid the situation completely. Although avoidance can offer short-term relief, it does not resolve the underlying anxiety and prevents the individuals’ predictions from being disconfirmed (perhaps the interview would’ve gone really well?). This can then lead to a vicious, overwhelming cycle in which we not only experience anxiety but may also blame ourselves for having anxiety or worrying so much.
It is important to remember that nobody chooses to have anxiety or over-think, and it is not simply a matter of ‘snapping out of it’. However, there are a number of options available to help individuals who are dealing with such problems. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one such option and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for anxiety, with a strong evidence base supporting its effectiveness.
At Online Therapy Company we have a number of highly qualified online psychologists who can work with you to identify unhelpful patterns of thinking and help you understand how these relate to emotions and behaviours. These patterns can then be transformed based on goals set by you, at your own pace.