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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anxiety Disorder or Panic Attacks? Three Thinking Patterns That Worsen Symptoms

by Dr. Craig April, Director of The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Whether you have an anxiety disorder or are struggling with panic attacks, there are thinking patterns that serve to increase and maintain suffering.

I touched on a few in a recent post on OCD and anxiety thinking patterns.

Here are a few more. Do you engage in any of these?:

1.) Personalization:

This type of thinking involves taking people's responses personally. Although people's responses can feel personal, they never really are. Personalizing tends to block this reality.

For example, a neighbor is rude to you. When personalizing, we take offense and tell ourselves a story about how horrible this person is. Meanwhile, this individual might have just received terrible news an hour ago. Or they are not feeling well. Or they hate their job which is causing them stress. Or . . . There are a multitude of possibilities. Their "rudeness" has nothing to do with you.

Yet, when anxious, everything can feel personal.

2.) Catastrophizing:

You're catastrophizing when you create an emergency out of a small, very non-lethal situation. We all can do this from time to time, but when struggling with anxiety it is much more frequent. One example of anxiety-based catastrophizing is, "I'm having an anxious feeling. This is the worst day ever!"

3.) Overgeneralization:

This type of anxiety thinking occurs when you take one event and crown it the defining moment. For example, you mispronounce one word during a speech and determine you are inarticulate.

These patterns of thinking are a strong area of focus during anxiety treatment for a couple of reasons. One, because they continue to encourage anxiety. Two, because they're false and CBT empowers one to focus on reality and drop illusion. In order to reduce symptoms of an anxiety disorder, one must change the style of thinking that helped create it. This is the "cognitive" part of anxiety treatment in CBT.

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of a great quote by Shakespeare. Here it is: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so". It's all about perspective. Unfortunately, we are a society that frames just about everything in "good" or "bad" terms rather than working with the present moment without judgment.

The above and other long ingrained thinking patterns are not easy to change alone. To correct these cognitive errors, one needs to learn and practice specific strategies and tools.

Follow this link for help with changing thinking patterns of anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

All the best,


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