Health anxiety is overwhelming
Health anxiety makes you feel overwhelmed with symptoms and thoughts associated with them. Life becomes burdensome and deprived of joy, as you get annoyed by literally everything, as overcoming health anxiety seems like an impossible task.
However, desperation makes you vulnerable and ready to do anything just to soothe the discomfort. You try distracting yourself, avoiding anxiety, suppressing anxious thoughts and for a moment these coping techniques may work.
However, problem with distraction, avoidance and suppression is that you will fully attribute your "success" with anxiety to the behavior (let’s say breathing) not to yourself. This is crucial. So next time you feel overwhelmed, guess what you will do? The same exact behavior that helped you feel "better" last time.
Coping techniques as a solution
As you keep relying on that behavior as a solution however, anxiety will adapt to that coping technique. As long as you will rely on coping techniques to overcome health anxiety - anxiety will always return.
Let's say your coping technique is breathing. Anxiety could tell you something like “Why am I feeling lightheaded?” You may even not realize that it's due to your shallow breathing. In other words, anxiety will always find a way to sneak in.
Once your coping technique loses it's effectiveness, you start looking for another one and another one and another one... And you do it until anxiety gets you again, and so on and so forth. Does it mean that you should not do anything then? Yes and no. Here is why.
Intent of your actions
The intent of you action is crucial when it comes to overcoming health anxiety symptoms. If you do something to stop the symptoms and start relying on this action as a solution, then anxiety will come to test that solution. If you don’t have a firm belief in effectiveness of your solution – anxiety will eventually break you.
You may try to have a number of solutions, like walking, breathing or splashing water on your face at the same time, but anxiety is a master strategist, so it will simply capitalize on “divide and conquer” where smaller solutions are easier to break. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you do a lot or little. As long as your intent is to stop anxiety through coping techniques – you will inevitably be disappointed.
What is the solution?
Just sit with your anxiety and take no action at all. No matter how tempting it may be to do something to ease the discomfort, stay with it for as long as you can. When it’s time to do something, do it not because you want to stop anxiety or the discomfort, but because you have responsibilities.
Anxiety cannot tolerate indifference. It will try hard to get you back. But the moment you take responsibility in your own hands, instead of relying on temporary "solutions," you will eventually break free from health anxiety because you will be empowering yourself.
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