Do you have behavioural habits that you know you are repeating over and over, and want to learn how to stop them continuing?
Our behaviour is such a challenging thing to change because the mind and our thought patterns and chemistry are so complex- and so individually unique. Once we begin certain behaviours and repeat them over and over, they become automatic and our brain continues to act in the same way unless we take control and change it. This is to do with the way the brain processes hormones such as adrenaline and the memory of previous behavioural patterns.
So, how can we change negative or destructive behaviour patterns that can perpetuate illnesses such as anxiety disorders? (Please note this is similar in other disorders e.g. addictions but this article will focus on anxiety disorders).
The most important thing if you have an anxiety disorder (e.g. generalised anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety) is that you can change your habits but it will take work, perseverance and support.
I have suffered from social anxiety in the past, coupled with depression. This made it extremely difficult for me to go out to occasions where there were lots of people, for fear of negative judgement, such as at weddings and on public transport. The psychotherapists I worked with taught me that these thoughts were ‘irrational’ and I had various courses of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) to unpack my negative thoughts and limiting beliefs on paper.
However, what really helped me to change my habits surrounding going out and socialising was something I call exposure therapy. By going out with a few friends and then on the tube, around more people I slowly desensitised myself to new surroundings. I then found that I actually wanted to go out more, and it didn’t feel quite as frightening as when I stayed indoors and cancelled my plans. I didn’t want to hide away.
For those of us with anxiety disorders, we can be triggered by anything in the subconscious and our body chemicals (cortisol and adrenaline). I still have bad days and I know you will too. Yet, you can get better and feel stronger, if you take charge.
If exposure therapy sounds too big an idea, break it down. As mentioned, I had CBT and psychotherapy but there are so many therapies out there that can help too and everyone will have unique symptoms and triggers. Talk with a qualified therapist or your GP to see what therapy plan is best for you.
You may find that Mindfulness CDs work for you to help you stay present and do deep breathing or meditation, art therapy, hypnotherapy or in depth talking therapies. CBT can also be beneficial in changing behaviour patterns but this will depend on the individual.
If you need help changing your negative behavioural patterns, get in touch with Jessica Valentine, therapist at Brighton Wellness Centre.