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How to Deal With Anxiety Setbacks

Anxiety is a profoundly curable condition. As difficult as living with anxiety may seem, there are many extremely effective options for curing it. Many of them are time consuming and none of them occur magically, but if you're willing to seek out the help, there is almost always a treatment available for you.

But one of the problems that all treatments have is setbacks. There are often setbacks as you try to cure your anxiety, and unfortunately many people respond to those setbacks in a way that sets them back even further on their road to recovery.

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Why All Anxiety Treatments Have Setbacks

The reality is that no anxiety treatment is 100% perfect. That's because anxiety itself is natural, forged from years of experiences, and in some cases genetic. You can nearly always fight and possibly cure anxiety, but expecting it to disappear and never come back is wishful thinking.

Start with my free anxiety test first to get an idea of what we're referring to about anxiety severity and outcomes. The key thing to remember is that setbacks will occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Thinking About Anxiety Causes Anxiety When you struggle with something like anxiety and panic attacks, you'll often find that thinking about it too much actually causes more of it, and unfortunately as you're fighting it off you may often find yourself thinking about it for no particular reason.
  • Fear of a Setback Another somewhat ironic reason is that many people start to fear setbacks. In a way, the idea of a setback becomes their phobia. They start to monitor themselves for evidence of a setback, which can trigger its own anxiety and cause a setback to occur. You have to go into any treatment with the knowledge that setbacks happen.
  • Anxiety is Natural Anxiety is also a very natural condition, and that means it can occur for somewhat regular reasons at various times in your life. For example, if you're under stress at work you may start to have anxiety, and if you're not careful or not expecting it that anxiety can feel just like it did when you had an anxiety disorder, and all of your progress may be lost.
  • Anxiety Can Surprise You Once you've reduce your anxiety levels dramatically, that same anxiety can actually shock you to such a degree that you experience fairly extreme anxiety. It's not uncommon for some people that struggled with panic attacks to be so surprised when something resembling a panic attack occurs that they start to have a severe one from the shock. One of the "problems" with curing anxiety is that eventually you'll feel too good, and so if you're not prepared for any recurrences you may find yourself in complete shock when one occurs.

These are just some of the reasons that you may suffer from a setback. Indeed, sometimes setbacks simply happen. Don't forget that your brain is incredibly complex. When something causes stress, your body can react in some strange ways.

Important Things to Remember About Setbacks

There are also some very important things to remember about setbacks before you can get to preventing them.

First not everyone tries treatments that are actually effective. In fact, studies have shown that less than 20% of those living with anxiety are in "minimally effective treatment." That means that somewhere between 30% and 80% of the country is using treatments that are not known to work.

Many people fall for marketing tactics or placebo treatments, and find some relief only to find their anxiety come back. So it is possible that the treatment you chose wasn't adequate.

However, it's also important to remember that anxiety makes you think negative things about yourself and your treatments. Even the most effective treatments available can have setbacks, and that doesn't mean that it wasn't effective. Yet anxiety will make you feel like it must not have been effective or your anxiety is hopeless. Setbacks do happen even with the best treatments.

Tips to Respond to Anxiety Setbacks

So how do you respond to setbacks? You make sure that you don't let your anxiety take control. Consider the following:

  • Immediate Lifestyle Changes Make sure that you immediately get back into any lifestyle changes you made to help cure your anxiety. You should be exercising, eating healthier, sleeping well, and so on. The faster you get back to the behaviors the easier a time you'll have reducing your anxiety.
  • Go Back to Your Treatment Remember, setbacks occur even when you've chosen an extremely effective treatment option. You should try it again, going back to the beginning and pretending as though you never cured your anxiety.
  • Stay Busy There is a tendency to withdraw when you have anxiety, but staying busy is very important for overcoming stressing anxiety. You need to make sure you are not and cannot focus only on your anxiety symptoms, so even if it's as simple as talking to someone on the phone while walking around your kitchen, make sure you're talking to someone.

If you have decided that the treatment option isn't right for you or isn't working for you, you also need to make sure that you do not wait to find a new treatment. The faster you're enrolled in an effective treatment again, the more likely you'll have a positive outcome to your anxiety.

You also need to continue to remind yourself that setbacks happen, and not worry too much about what it feels like to have anxiety again. Anxiety will always make you feel like you're hopeless, but nearly every single person that has ever had anxiety has had setbacks. It's a natural part of overcoming such a difficult condition.

Make sure you also take my anxiety test now. It'll give you an idea of how severe your anxiety is and some of the potential next steps you can take to improve your long term treatment outcomes.

Start the test here.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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