Therapy for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Do You Worry Too Much? Sticky thinking is the culprit
Sometimes we indulge in a moment or two of worry or feel a little down. At other times, we might discover that negative thinking has a grip on us or that we’re really uptight or even panicky, our minds restless and disturbed. Maybe we realize that we don’t seem able to stop worrying or that we’re gripped with fear.
Active worry, bouts of self-blaming, obsession, and brooding rumination. . . all these can be sticky thinking (ST) – bursts of negative, repetitive, complicated, unproductive thought that are tough to stop once they’ve begun. Even worse – the more we try to control ST, the more anxious, down, or riled up we’re likely to become. Sticky thinking can govern our bad moods and draw us down into anxiety and depression. Perhaps therapy for anxiety and panic attacks is the answer for you.
But we can learn to gain the upper hand over sticky thinking and move it out of our way?
How do I know It’s a “sticky thinking problem”?
a. The more we think it, the crummier we feel. – the more uptight, angrier, sadder, or down we get.
b. It’s irrational. Worrying frantically about paying bills doesn’t help straighten out the finances. Worrying about being unable to sleep never helps us fall asleep.
c. It obscures our awareness of the immediate present. How many times – caught up in worry or preoccupation – have you missed the look of joy or disappointment, excitement or hurt on your spouse’s, child’s, or friend’s face?
d. It suppresses our lively, vibrant emotions. – Are you too preoccupied with sticky thinking to burst into laughter or tears or get excited?
e. In the long run, it’s demoralizing – ST is very hard, may lead to little progress, and can lessen our self-esteem
More than meets the eye: Sticky thinking is a core process of of emotional distress.
Sticky thinking occurs naturally for many of us who have a tendency to get over-emotional and negative. It resembles useful, healthy thinking, like reasoning with ourselves, introspecting, or reflecting. . . until negative feelings get too caught up in the mix, ramp up, and tangle our thoughts and distress together. Yet even when we notice the worry machine cranking up, we may hesitate to put ST in check. Because we can’t be sure. . . Isn’t this just me being highly responsible? After all, so much is uncertain. Am I not just trying extra-hard to be safe rather than sorry in order to preempt bad things happening?
The answer is a resounding “NO!” There’s no benefit in overworry or dwelling in order to achieve responsibility or be caring about the safety of those around you. Even rumination can appear to be just a helpful way of grasping the meanings of things, cultivating self-understanding, or gaining insight, rather than what it often is – a black hole where you’re caught up thinking disturbing thoughts over and over. When we develop a pattern of dwelling on our vital concerns and struggling with ourselves, our ST is likely to pretend it’s been granted permanent residence in our hearts and minds, and it can even become the core of emotional disorders like generalized anxiety disorder – GAD – or major depression.
Relief and Release from Sticky thinking
You’re not at the mercy of sticky thinking.
Try to detect it as soon as it starts and acknowledge that it’s there. Eventually, you will know it’s not true, even though it might still be lingering nearby, like an unwelcome guest who’s getting ready to knock on the door again. Perhaps you should consider seeking therapy for anxiety and panic attacks.
Three types of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help.
Cognitive Reappraisal and emotional exposure – might be for you if you’re anxious or depressed, or if you simply worry too much – if you’ve realized your thinking at emotional times is sticky and unworkable and want to take action – to learn effective, scientifically proven techniques to counteract it. Utilizing Attention Training Techniques, you can develop the capability to shift away from negative trains of thought and toward the immediate environment or incompatible mental processes that counteract the brain mechanisms that sustain your sticky thinking. Mindfulness techniques – like concentration on the breath and insight meditation – provide training for shifting to states of mind where you can abide with negative feelings without getting stuck on a train of thought or caught up in a grim story. Mindfulness techniques can be honed to effectively counteract sticky thinking.
The bottom line: Sticky thinking need not turn you into a grump or a worrier, ruled by your moods, becoming demoralized. You can gain the upper hand over anxiety and worry. You can become kinder to yourself. Perhaps you can liberate yourself. To get better, you may need therapy with a clinician skilled in helping people overcome over-worry, rumination, or obsessiveness. I provide emotional awareness-based CBT, which utilizes all three types of CBT to enable men and women with disturbing anxiety and depression to overcome sticky thinking problems.