Dealing with anxiety on your own can be tough.
I know this from experience – I struggled with crippling anxiety for years. I hated my anxiety, and I hated that it got in the way of my life.
But I didn’t know how to fix it.
We humans aren’t born with the innate knowledge about how to properly deal with anxiety, and we’re certainly not taught it in school either. So what do we do? Well, many of us (including my younger self) often develop certain behaviours in an attempt to lessen, avoid, or help us cope with our anxiety.
The problem is, most of the time the behaviours we develop just end up making our anxiety even worse. These are called destructive behaviours. And if you want to truly overcome your anxiety, you need to learn to recognize these destructive behaviours so you can cut them out of your life (or at least, reduce them).
In this post, I’m going to be explaining 6 common destructive behaviours that many of us with anxiety have.
Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice. My goal is to empower people struggling with anxiety in non-traditional ways that they can do alongside professional help.
There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, there’s a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!
1) Avoiding anything that scares you
This is probably one of the most common destructive behaviours around. If we just avoid everything that *might* trigger our anxiety, then we’ll be safe and happy – right?
You can’t go through life trying to avoid everything that could hurt you. Think about it – there are so many possible triggers out there, and you have NO idea where they all are. Trying to avoid them 24/7 would be EXHAUSTING!
Even if you did know exactly where every trigger was, this still wouldn’t truly heal you. Your anxiety would still be there in the background – lurking, watching, waiting.
You must get used to the idea of risk and slowly teach yourself that doing the things you are afraid of isn’t actually as bad as you thought it would be.
2) Indulging in escapist behaviours
When the going gets tough, it may seem like a quick-fix solution to just hide away from the world for a while.
But quick fix solutions rarely work. Escaping reality as a way of managing your anxiety is no exception.
Now I’m not saying you can’t spend a couple hours on your couch watching Lord of the Rings and dreaming of running away to Rivendell. But the trouble comes when your escapist behaviours turn into unhealthy, long-lasting behaviours (such as overeating, sleeping for hours on end, or watching TV all day long).
You can’t escape your problems forever. Just like Frodo had to deal with the ring, so too must you deal with your anxious feelings.
3) Refusing to get help
Whether it’s physically going to therapy or reading self-help books at home, it’s critical for those of us who struggle with anxiety to get the help we need for it. Remember, we’re not born with the knowledge of how to properly deal with anxiety. It’s so helpful to get an outer perspective (especially from someone who really knows how the mind works)
For many of us though, accepting help (or even just accepting the fact that we need help) is unthinkable. We think, “if I accept help, then I have to confront my anxiety, and this is something I can’t do”.
I understand how difficult it is. I know how debilitating panic attacks are and how you probably don’t want to even TALK about anything RELATED to them. But to truly overcome your anxiety, you must acknowledge that there’s a problem, and you must be strong enough to ask for help.
4) Performing compulsive behaviours
Compulsive behaviours are things we do repeatedly because we feel compelled to do them. We often perform these behaviours in an attempt to get rid of our anxiety and to subdue our anxious thoughts. This is something more common to OCD, but it also can be a trait of anxiety too (with anxiety, they’re just not to the same extent as OCD).
Some examples of compulsive behaviours include:
- Washing your hands excessively
- Checking over and over to make sure you locked the door
- Constantly checking in on loved ones
- Finding ways to check that your friends still like you
- Double checking your work TONS of times for mistakes
The thing is, while we may think that doing these actions will get rid of our anxiety (“if I just wash my hands ONE last time, I’ll be good from now on…”), they actually just add fuel to the flame. Why? Because they give your anxiety an immense amount of power.
You can’t get rid of something by feeding it. You can’t defeat your anxiety by caving into its requests.
Related Article: How to Let Go of Things You Can’t Control to Live Anxiety-Free
5) Letting your anxiety define you
I’ve mentioned this a lot, but the best mentality to have is one that knows that you CAN improve your mental health.
I used to think that because I had anxiety/OCD that it was ok if I gave into my compulsions or stayed home from events that made me anxious. I ended up using anxiety as an excuse to stay in my old behaviours and to avoid anything that made me uncomfortable.
I liked my identity. I know that’s weird to say, but it made me feel different and I liked that. Even though it was horrible. I think it was a way for me to cope with it.
But it wasn’t really until I decided that I didn’t want to feel that way anymore – and that I wasn’t going to let myself be defined by my anxiety – that my anxiety finally went away.
6) Neglecting yourself and your life
When we go through difficult times, many of us may find that we begin to neglect certain aspects of our lives. Maybe we stop taking care of of appearance. Perhaps we isolate ourselves from our friends and family. Or maybe we stop putting effort into things we used to enjoy doing.
This is a dangerous because this is actually neglected some big factors of our overall wellness. You need to put effort into your physical health, your friendships and support system, and your hobbies to truly feel well.
And take it from me, I know that when you feel mentally low that you don’t want to do ANYTHING. But even just doing one small thing for yourself, like cooking something healthy, going for a walk, reaching out to a friend will make a world of difference and drastically change your mental state.