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Anxiety and Inhibitions: The Clear Relationship

Anxiety is a disorder of fear. It's not always that the person experiences fear itself - rather, the person experiences a quick triggering fear response even in the absence of any fear-producing stimuli. Anxiety is the activation of a response to fear, even if you're not necessarily afraid of anything.

Inhibitions are directly related to fear (although they are technically different issues). Inhibitions are actions that you hold yourself back from pursuing. Anxiety plays a big role in the development of inhibitions, and not all of its role is what you might think.

Inhibitions = Anxiety?

Inhibitions can have many causes, and their exact origin isn't known. Some inhibitions are healthy too, like not being reckless. But if you feel like your inhibitions are holding you back, take my free 7-minute anxiety test to find out how to control your inhibitory responses and start living without anxiety.

Start the test here.

Causes of Inhibitions

Since inhibitions are the unwillingness to engage in specific actions, some inhibitions are healthy. It's inhibitions that prevent us from stripping off our clothes and singing when we're around our family. It's inhibitions that cause us to avoid dangerous, dark alleys at night. Not all inhibitions are bad.

But you also can't feel like your inhibitions are holding you back. That's where anxiety can become a real problem, and why you should make sure you take my free 7-minute anxiety test before moving forward. Anxiety can cause inhibitions in many ways:

  • Shyness Some of the most common involve shyness. For example, you may not be confident talking in front of strangers. Those are inhibitions that can hold you back from socializing or meeting new people.
  • Fear of Death Anxiety can be caused by the fear of dying, and in some cases, some forms of anxiety can actually create a fear of death. Those with this type of fear tend to be inhibited from a lot of potential behaviors that they may associate with death or injury. For example, they may not take essential medications because they're afraid of the side effects.
  • Fear of Symptoms Another common issue that leads to inhibitions is simply the fear of anxiety symptoms. The symptoms of anxiety can become so problematic to those that struggle with it that ultimately they become afraid to do anything that has the potential to trigger any anxiety, like an amusement park ride, going to a concert, or even leaving home.

There may also be issues that occur on a chemical level. Those with anxiety may be more prone to misinterpreting information because anxiety affects neurotransmitter levels, and when those levels are altered, it changes the way the mind processes thoughts. You may have a chemical tendency to experience more inhibitions.

Can Anxiety Cause Disinhibition?

An interesting question is whether anxiety can lead to the opposite - a lack of inhibition, where a person does things they wouldn't normally do as a result of their anxiety.

The answer to this is mostly "no." Those with anxiety appear to have more shyness, fear, and avoidance behaviors. But certainly, there are some ways where a person can feel a loss of inhibition that is anxiety related. For example, some people with anxiety are more prone to "snapping" at others because of irritation - even shy people.

But this is only tangentially disinhibition, and more of a reaction to anxiety, not necessarily anxiety related.

Methods to Reduce Inhibition

So the question becomes: is there a way to reduce inhibition? Is there a way to not feel that you're not holding yourself back?

The most important thing is to simply decrease your anxiety. The less anxiety you have, the less likely you are to be inhibited by that anxiety. Yet the following are some of the ways that a person can start to fight their inhibited tendencies.

  • Never Waiting The most important thing you can do for your inhibition is just to do whatever it is you want to do right away without holding back. Inhibition is a feeling that grows the longer you don't do the action that your mind wants to avoid. If you simply do it immediately, not only will your inhibitive feelings be less likely to hold you back, but you'll also experience fewer avoidance feelings in the future.
  • Get Great Friends An unusual way to improve your spontaneity and bravery is to find friends that are incredibly supportive. Studies have shown that those with great friends are more confident and happier to engage in life's experiences. So if possible, try to connect with supportive, positive, and complimentary friends. The better they make you feel, the more you'll feel confident about potential actions.
  • Attack the Feeling Figure out what it is that is holding you back, and address those specific fears directly. For example, let's say embarrassment is what keeps you from branching out. You can try treating that shame fear by embarrassing yourself on purpose. Go out in public and do something silly for hours on end until you're not afraid of it anymore. Do that, and anything you were inhibited from because of embarrassment won't bother you as much.

You'll still need to fight your anxiety, because only by stopping these feelings of anxiety can you reduce any inhibitions caused by anxiety.

Take my free 7-minute anxiety test to find out more how to control your anxiety and your inhibitions. Start the test here.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 29, 2017.

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