Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Can Anxiety Coping Mechanisms Be Unhealthy?

I like so many other anxiety sufferers have developed coping mechanisms. What do we do though when these become part of the problem?

The Best Version Of Kelly Eastbourne Beach


Coping mechanisms for anxiety tend to be created by the sufferer themselves. They aren’t cures and they will have varying levels of success. Some can be greatly helpful such as getting enough sleep however some are unhealthy coping mechanisms and can make the problem worse. I have several for my different types of anxiety. I never consciously decided to create coping mechanisms they just happened.

My anxiety affects many areas of my life, both large and small. The level at which I suffer varies greatly and episodes seem to be triggered mainly by stress and tiredness. The sources of my anxiety are wide and have varied throughout my life and therefore so have the mechanisms used.

(I thought some relaxing pictures from my weekend by the sea would be good for this post.)

Waves on the Eastbourne pebble beach


For example, I have always had a huge fear of spiders and at times this has spiralled into an irrational form of anxious behaviour. This was particularly bad during my early twenties. I could not use a toilet anywhere without doing a thorough spider search first. I also couldn’t go to sleep without doing the same. My searches helped me ‘cope’. Whenever I thought of a spider, which was frequent, I would ‘cope’ by touching wood with the piece of skin between my thumb and forefinger (what’s that called?!) It had to be wood and had to be that part of my hand that touched it or I was convinced a spider would appear.

This behaviour stopped me panicking and as such was a coping mechanism. But was it really helping or was it just adding to the problem? Granted it did it me no harm to touch wood and search for spiders but it wasn’t tackling the issue. If anything, the behaviour had spiralled me further into despair and I couldn’t escape my rituals.

Playing on Eastbourne Beach


Thankfully I have largely overcome this particular area of my anxiety. I eventually recognised the problem and I was brave enough on occasion to go without my rituals and spiders did not appear. The more I did that the easier it became to not do them and the less severe my anxiety became.

I still hate spiders, you would never get me to Australia, I still search public toilets and if I am having a bad day I will still touch wood in that way. I’m so much better than I was though and I am relieved for that.

Of course, I still suffer with anxiety, that was just one area I have tackled. New sources of anxiety seem to appear all the time and thus so do the unhealthy coping mechanisms.

We all have them, whether its avoiding certain situations, sticking to a routine, always having water nearby or whatever. They appear to help but really, they are part of the problem.

The difficulty is identifying them and then finding the courage to stop them.

Eastbourne Pier and Beach


I have used a somewhat trivial example which may not best get my point across but I wanted to use an example that I had a positive ending for.

I will talk much more about my anxiety in future posts and hope for now this has given you something to think about. It’s very true that realising something is a problem is the first step to solving it.

What are your anxiety coping mechanisms? Can you see some of them are part of your problem?


Kelly x

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1 comment

  1. Hi Kelly, I have arachnophobia too and still suffer from it to this day but not half as bad as it was in my teens. I honestly didn't think I'd ever be able to live alone because I couldn't handle being alone in a house with a spider!

    But as you say, coping mechanisms don't treat the root cause and unless you face the issue head on, it's never gonna go away. I went to psychotherapy and it worked in reducing my levels of panic, enabled me to leave my parents house! The thing is, you have to actually face a spider in order for it to work. I did do that with very small ones but never went as far as a big house spider, so never fully overcame it.

    It's the same with anxiety. If you don't work on the underlying issue, it won't go away. I personally have never used coping mechanisms for anxiety. I just went straight to eradicating it. That's what works and that's why I don't have anxiety any more :)

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