Anxiety is like an addiction

Anxiety is like an addiction

I’ve never done drugs or been an alcoholic, but I imagine anxiety as an addiction. If you struggle with anxiety, you may be familiar with what I am saying, but for everyone else, hang on. I am not claiming that every aspect of anxiety or drug or alcohol addiction are the same.

Like many that struggle with drug addictions, I can’t control my thoughts or the resulting anxiety just like they can not control their need for the substance. I can’t get away from anxiety fully. With practice, controlling your thoughts is attainable. It will forever be something I battle because I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Here’s the definition the Anxiety and Depression Association of America gives,

“Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern.”

Anxiety gives me debilitating symptoms. Not necessarily physically debilitating, but more mentally debilitating. I find that when I am very anxious my mind does not work the way it should. I may have a long list of things to do, but as soon as I start an item on that list, anxious feelings overwhelm my brain and it becomes clouded. A simple, small task can stop me in my tracks. As soon as I hit a wall- more like the size of a threshold in a door- I can’t handle it.

My husband has even noted on multiple occasions that he knows when I am having a good week because of how productive I am at home. And I am happy to say that is more and more the case.

What's your problem?!

When a person with an anxiety disorder is presented with a situation, person, or thought that may be insignificant to the average brain, it can set off a chain of thoughts and events that triggers a severe, uncontrollable reaction. Perhaps an average person would feel anxiety about a highly stressful event, but as soon as the event has passed they experience relief. A person with an anxiety disorder will continue to feel the negative effects even after all is well.

Here’s an example…

One thing that I have identified as an issue for me is adding task to my list. This would evoke such overwhelming feelings and my physical symptoms of anxiety would increase.

This is the succession of adding a task to my list:

  • Given a new task or goal to add to my to do list.
  • Identify this task as more important than all of the other tasks (that were at one point just as important). What if I can not finish it in time? Especially with all the other things I have to do.
  • So, I start working on this task immediately with the idea that the deadline is short and it must be completed quickly. Though, I was never given a deadline.
  • Become overwhelmed and put the task off.
  • Become more anxious because I continue to neglect to get the task completed, but still put it off along with the many other once important tasks.

Stop the cycle. Here's How to Do It.

I have since been able to stop that severe reaction by doing one thing. I stop the cycle of thoughts that generally occur.

When I get a task, if it has a deadline, I put that deadline on my calendar and set the task aside. I do not allow myself to touch the task for at least a full day. In a way, I am practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by stopping all those old, overpowering thoughts before they start.

What this process does is tells my brain, this is not vital to complete immediately. I do allow myself to revisit and complete tasks before their deadline, but only if all other tasks that came before are complete and I have nothing else to do.

Otherwise, I give myself a schedule with appropriate amount of time to complete the task. I use my digital planner to plan out the steps needed and assign specific days and/or times to do this.

The Result of This Practice

As I write this, I realize my practice has worked. I’m applying to my local community college for the physical therapist assistant program. The application was due April 16th. Typically, I would work to get the application done as quickly as possible, but I have intentionally made myself slow down. Though I pushed my personal deadline by several weeks and turned it in on March 18th, I felt no anxiety during the process.

Before I set this practice in place, I would look at the deadline and think:

What if:

  • ….I can’t get my observation hours?
  • ….I can’t figure out what they want and do it wrong?
  • ….they don’t like the way I wrote my name? (Yes, sometimes the thoughts can be that silly.)

Anxiety will be something I have to stave off forever, but it will become easier and easier to do and eventually less work as my mind is retrained to do it without my conscious effort.

Do you experience anxiety when it comes to compleing tasks at work or home?

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