According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders. The group of mental illnesses categorized as anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia. Negative thinking is common in those suffering from anxiety disorders and actually helps fuel the anxiety, causing it to flare up in an acute attack of anxiety or panic. Changing negative thinking with cognitive therapy, which aims to change negative thoughts into positive ones to cure the cycle of negativity and anxiety, can be effective in battling mental disorders.
People suffering from anxiety disorders tend to believe that nothing will ever change for them. By believing that nothing can change, they are ruling out psychiatric help, the benefits of medicine and family support. Coming out of a mental illness is a slow process, but it is still possible. By holding on to their diagnosis of "anxiety disorder," they are giving the problem permanent residence in their lives and not allowing anything to change by refusing the hope of change.
It is very common for those with anxiety disorders to hold on to their terrifying experiences. Because they do this, there is less of a chance for them to change their thinking patterns. Instead of telling themselves that their anxieties or fears could have been a 1-time experience, people begin a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, and begin to project anxiety into their futures and keep the disorder as a permanent fixture in their lives. Holding on to those memories is what makes anxiety disorders so powerful; they are constantly being thought about. Those who worry about fear are trying adamantly to prevent the anxiety-provoking situation and can see no possible way to avoid the situation and stop thinking about it. It's a fine line between holding on to a memory to obsessing over a memory.
Because people with an anxiety disorder often worry about it obsessively, it can be hard for them to see things logically. Each time they think about their experience with anxiety and panic, it tends to become more and more dramatic, causing great difficulty in their lives and ability to take care of themselves. At some point, it usually reaches a level of towering proportion and sufferers might believe there is no escape. They may begin to avoid certain situations that cause anxiety and limit their lives.
It is common for those with anxiety disorders to fear the fear they are projecting into the future instead of concentrating on the now. As they fear the scary sensations they experience, each brush with a situation that may bring on an anxiety or panic attack is avoided. It is no longer the disease or symptoms they fear, it is the fear generated from the symptoms. Even when the symptoms are treated, the fear of feeling afraid and helpless may remain, and in many cases, can trigger new panic or anxiety that may make their situations even worse.
Black and White Thinking
People with anxiety generally have black-and-white thinking patterns that revolve around two extreme outcomes. They often think they will definitely have a panic attack or they will definitely not have one. Part of successful treatment is realizing that symptoms of fear and anxiety will be present, but just because they are experienced doesn't mean they will trigger a full panic attack. Once people begin to co-exist with their symptoms and accept the full spectrum of anxious feelings, treatment generally becomes more successful.
Treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication and support groups are available. The best treatment for anxiety disorders is early intervention, but that should not discourage people from seeking help at any stage of their disorder. A better life is possible.