Help & Advice

Here is Why Your Anxiety Is Getting Worse

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated September 3, 2022

Here is Why Your Anxiety Is Getting Worse

Many people make mistakes with their anxiety. In fact, one of the problems with anxiety is that anxiety itself can make mistakes more likely to happen - because anxiety changes thought processes and feelings in a way that can lead to you to making decisions that are counterproductive for curing anxiety.

Alcohol abuse is a great example. People turn to alcohol to reduce anxiety because it can dull anxiety symptoms.However, in reality, it makes anxiety worse because it replaces your mind's ability to cope with stress. That may be an extreme example but there are more common mistakes that nearly everyone makes that cause anxiety to be worse.

The Most Common Anxiety Mistakes

There are so many mistakes that people make with their anxiety. Consuming caffeine can be one way to make anxiety symptoms more severe. Not breathing correctly, which can contribute to hyperventilation. Or allowing yourself to become hyper-focused on something such as did you turn something off or remember to do something before you left the house or office.

Another common mistake that people make with anxiety is moping. In this case, moping is the idea that you need to "be alone." The idea that you need to go home after a tough day at work, do nothing but sit and think, and that this will ease your stress and anxiety.

The Problem With Moping

Moping - or some form of moping - is incredibly common. By moping, we do not mean taking a short time to recharge. Everyone needs some alone time once in a while. Spending a few hours to unwind at the end of a rough day is a great way to reduce stress.

No, in this case, "moping" is this idea that doing nothing is a solution to anxiety. It is the act of intentionally avoiding any life changes, feeling bad for yourself, and hoping that anxiety will go away.

Feeling like you need to sit and do nothing and that you will somehow feel better is a function of anxiety. Anxiety completely drains the body. It makes it hard to want to do much of anything. Anxiety makes you feel like you want to be alone, and that that the best strategy to get rid of it is to "veg out" until you feel better.

Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that has the potential to make your anxiety much worse. Ideally, you need to stay active. You need to be surrounded by friends and try your best to get out there. You need to exercise and have new experiences. Avoiding those experiences because you want to cope with your anxiety alone causes several issues that make anxiety worse:

  • Inactivity — Easily the biggest problem is inactivity. Exercise and staying physically active and moving are essential for not only physical health but mental health as well. Movement and exercise improve hormone function and neurotransmitter production as well as drains the body of excess energy that would otherwise cause the mind and body to become more stressed. Moving and staying active in general is crucial to anxiety management, and inactivity from moping makes that much more difficult.
  • Uncontrolled Thoughts — Anxiety changes the way you think, and unfortunately that often means that your thoughts are your worst enemy. Many people don't realize that anxiety and anxiety attacks are often caused by letting yourself sit and think because the mind eventually starts thinking about negative things. Staying active gives your mind distractions, and distractions provide you with a mental break that can reduce future anxiety symptoms.
  • Social Needs — Humans are naturally social creatures. Being around people that you like and who make you happy is an important tool for combating anxiety. In general, if you can spend time with people and talk to others then you are more likely to find life more enjoyable. The more you enjoy your life the easier it will be to manage your anxiety.
  • Lack of Goals — Finally, anxiety makes you focus too much on the “what if’s?” in life. One of the strategies to help reduce anxiety is goal setting, specifically because it gives you something to look forward to in the future. Staying active with enjoyable activities provides hope, and hope is important for committing to anxiety treatments.

How you react to anxiety does matter. It can be hard to control, but it matters. Those that push themselves through and try to stay active and distract their mind from the negative thoughts aren't going to cure their anxiety because anxiety is not that simple to solve. But, they may find that when they finally commit to an anxiety treatment that they are more likely to see the results because they've put themselves in a position where their anxiety isn't able to fully control them.

Moping behaviors are not the only mistake people make with anxiety, and it may not even be the worst. But it is a widespread reaction to anxiety and stress and one that needs to be stopped in order to manage your anxiety.

Does Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse?

Moping is a mistake that is easy to ignore and that also makes anxiety worse. But it is not the only one. For example, many people find that they feel "calmer" and more relaxed when they drink alcohol. But alcohol only numbs you to anxiety in the moment rather than providing any type of cure.

While alcohol may numb your anxiety, it also weakens your ability to cope with stress. Your mind expects alcohol to be the tool you use to take it away, and you become less likely to be able to reduce anxiety without it. Because alcohol also causes illness, dehydration, poor decision making and sleeplessness, it ends up creating more anxiety than it helped.

Does Coffee Make Anxiety Worse?

Caffeine can go either way for people who experience anxiety. For some people caffeine, such as drinking a cup of coffee, can actually make them feel less anxious because it releases a “feel good” chemical in the brain called dopamine.

For others though, they find that coffee leads to a faster heartbeat which is a panic attack trigger. Some may find themselves dehydrated, because coffee is a diuretic, and they do not drink enough water as a result. And others stay up too late because they drink coffee late at night and then fail to get an adequate amount of sleep.

The coffee itself was not the mistake. But not recognizing how coffee - or any behavior - can contribute to anxiety is a mistake. A little bit of personal awareness and the willingness to change can make it easier to control your anxiety symptoms.

Other Anxiety Mistakes

Anxiety mistakes occur nearly every day. It can be hard enough to manage anxiety even with the most effective treatment, so when mistakes occur, it can make it challenging to reduce your anxiety - especially without any help. Examples of other common anxiety mistakes include:

  • Listening to negative/moping music, rather than upbeat, happy or relaxing music.
  • Purposely subjecting yourself to anxious and stressful situations, like horror movies or even the nightly news.
  • Spending time with people that are frequently negative.
  • Taking medications without combining them with a long-term treatment such as therapy.
  • Quitting an anxiety reduction strategy when it doesn't work right away.

The list of anxiety mistakes is incredibly long because anxiety causes people to focus on negative feelings and emotions that get in the way of better decision making. But, by becoming aware of the mistakes you make in relation to your anxiety symptoms you begin down the road to managing it more effectively.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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