People who have anxiety disorders tend to have certain specific patterns of thinking and being that are both contributing factors to and manifestations of their anxiety. 6 common tendencies of people with anxiety are people pleasing, self-absorption, minimalization of compliments and of one’s positive attributes, magnification of failures and critiques, catastrophising, over-valuing others opinions. Below, I will discuss each of these 6 tendencies.
Those with anxiety disorders often worry about how they will be perceived and how others will respond if they say “no” to them. Often, those with anxiety have a strong desire to avoid conflict. In order to avoid the anticipated reaction, often they will say “yes” even when they don’t want or need to.
Although they may be very empathetic and caring toward others, people with anxiety disorders often become unintentionally self-absorbed. This involves worrying about and focusing on a multitude of things including their appearance, their health, their job, how they are perceived, their future, etc.
Minimalization of Compliments and of One’s Positive Attributes
This is way of distorted thinking that has been identified by cognitive behavioral therapists to be common amongst those with anxiety and depressive disorders. It involves downplaying and doubting positive things said or thought about yourself. It can also involve making excuses for why you believe a complement isn’t really true.
Magnification of Failures and Critiques
This is another type of thought distortion discovered by CBT therapists. This involves overly focusing on, even obsessing about one’s failures or perceived failures. It can even come in the form of a need to self-punish through multiple methods including shaming or harming one’s self. In the mind of those with anxiety disorders, critisms and short-comings are viewed as intolerable. Those with perfectionistic attitudes often exhibit this distorted way of thinking.
Most of us have heard the saying “making a mountain out of a molehill” and it is a good way of explaining catastrophising. It starts with a small event and thinking about the negative possibilities of what could occur after that event. Before long, a small thing has triggered a worse case scenario in the person’s mind and now they are terrified about a catastrophic although extremely unlikely outcome that could occur. For example, a student who typically earns good grades, gets an F on one exam. Then they think, what if I fail more exams, what if I fail this class, what if my GPA tanks because of this, what if I can’t even get into college because of the GPA, what if I am unable to get a job due to not getting into college and become an embarrassment to myself and my family!?!
Over–Valuing Others Opinions
If you have ever been told that you care too much what others think then you can understand this thought distortion. To a point, the majority of people care what others think about them.
However, those with anxiety often feel a very strong need for approval from others and feel awful about themselves and become quite distraught when they don’t get this approval. They tend to take snide comments of disapproval very personally rather than viewing them as the simple opinion of a finicky person. They may obsess about these for hours or even several days.
I hope that today’s discussion helps both those with anxiety disorders and those who know people with these disorders have a better understanding of the ways those affected by anxiety tend to think.