Anxiety

5 Unique Problems Anxious People Face

Anxiety manifests in many different ways. Understanding them can help you cope.

Posted Oct 11, 2019

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Understanding your anxiety on a deep level is key to managing it. These five life problems are (reasonably) specific to people who have anxious tendencies. I provide some strategies and solutions at the end of the post.

1. It's sometimes hard to distinguish anxiety symptoms from physical illness or side effects from medications.

When you're anxious you might find yourself wondering if your tight chest, light-headedness, diarrhea, etc. are signs of anxiety or of another underlying problem. 

Any new health issue (including even minor ones), or starting a new medication can be stressful for anxious people because it tends to make them hyper-aware of their body.

     The trap: Whenever you start paying close attention to your physical symptoms, the worse they tend to get, and you might find yourself feeling health anxiety, and worrying a lot about having or getting a serious disease.

2. Reassurance, and other people's optimism, in situations without a guaranteed positive outcome can make you feel worse.  

Anxious people often manage their anxiety through defensive pessimism. They prefer not to get their hopes up and to be pleasantly surprised by a good outcome, rather than crushed by a bad one. This can lead to clashes with naturally optimistic people and those who believe that the best way to approach anxiety-provoking situations is to "think positive."

     The trap: If other people being optimistic stresses you out, your reactions to well-intentioned support can seem off or ungrateful. 

3. Waiting for other people to resolve issues can be distressing.

In the past few months I've had several medical billing errors to resolve. I like to pay bills straight away, to get them off my mind. However, each time, the billing errors have taken weeks to a month to resolve. The resolutions haven't required a lot of effort from me, but have required waiting on other people's processes.

     The trap: You might find yourself making poor decisions just because you don't want to tolerate having unresolved issues on your mind. For instance, you might pay a bill you don't owe. (I didn't do this, but I can recall a couple of times in the past when I've paid bills I could've disputed because I didn't want to deal with the uncertainty of how the issue would be resolved or in what time frame.)

4. You might sometimes feel a compulsive need to get your own way on small issues.

Anxious people are often stressed by things that aren't being done the way they'd like. For instance, they like to leave early, have extra copies, have plans and backup plans, etc. Other people might have a style of waiting to deal with problems until they occur rather than having lots of preemptive plans. Others might be fine with arriving on time, but an anxious person might feel much more relaxed if they're on target to be a few minutes early.

     The trap: Wanting to be extra diligent can annoy others. Sometimes there might be a precaution you want to take that seems excessive or premature to others, and you end up getting demanding about that, because not doing it stresses you out so much. You might come across like an overbearing control freak when other people get in the way of you using the strategies you like to use to manage your anxiety.

5. You might put off dealing with to-do's until you have the psychological bandwidth to cope with the anxiety involved.

If you've got a list of anxiety-provoking issues to deal with, you may find you need to pace yourself in dealing with them. This isn't quite the same as total avoidance, because you are dealing with things, just not all at once. You might feel like handling one or two situations a day that spike your anxiety is all you can manage.

     The trap:  If you're anxious by nature, you might find that so many things spike your anxiety that even when you deal with some of them, you're letting other stuff fall through the cracks or go undealt with for too long.

Solutions

  • The better you understand your anxiety patterns, the easier it is to spot them when they occur and develop go-to strategies. To do this, you need a sophisticated understanding of your triggers, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. You might be able to learn the basics of how anxiety works by reading about it, but understanding how you work in an in-depth way is an ongoing process of growing your self-awareness.
  • When it comes to your most important relationships, such as with your spouse or partner, it's useful if you can both understand when your behavior patterns are anxiety-related and if you can accept some input from other people about these. For instance, you can let your partner call you on it when you're being excessive, but they can also sometimes let you have your way just because it helps you feel calmer (e.g., they'll leave a bit early to arrive in plenty of time). 
  • It's OK to stand up for yourself; you can let people know if defensive pessimism is a strategy that works for you so that they don't try to cheer you up with lots of optimism if that's not helpful. On the other hand, when you better understand yourself you can be more tolerant and accepting of the fact that other people have styles of thinking and handling situations that work for them and that are different from your preferences and inclinations.
  • When it comes to managing situations that provoke anxiety, like starting new medications or waiting on other people to resolve mistakes, it can be helpful if you can relate those situations to past occurrences. For example, keep a mental list of specific situations in which the best thing to do was to be patient and to cognitively manage your sense of urgency about resolving an uncertain situation straight away. 

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