The Anxiety Cycle and How to Break It

by Dr. R.E. Freedman

You may be quite familiar with the Anxiety Cycle and yet never heard it called by name. In essence, it describes the looping of anxiety symptoms, continuing one after another, in a consecutive fashion. One symptom reconciles and another pops up to take its place. After a while you realize you have not experienced on day of the year free of some anxiety symptom.

Here’s a good example of the Anxiety Cycle. You struggle with one intrusive symptom, such as dizziness or nervous stomach. You think about it constantly. It interferes with your quality of life. It’s always there and is always at the forefront of your thoughts. You despise it and feel as if it will never leave but somehow, sometime, it actually does. The symptom is reconciled by an effectively coping method, or maybe you’ve become involved in something interesting in life, pulling you out of the loop. You breathe a sigh of relief, happy to finally be over this intrusive behavior and settle back down into normal living again. All seems well with the world UNTIL…out of nowhere (it seems) another symptom, completely different from the original, pops up and causes the same concern, same worries and same obsessive fears as the first one. THIS IS THE ANXIETY CYCLE IN ACTION.

This looping of symptoms is frustrating and continues on UNTIL it is recognized, acknowledged, understood and resolved.

Recognition: Recognition is noticing how this continuous habit of intrusive symptoms seems to always take center stage in your life, encompassing all your thoughts and time. No matter what the day, month or year, a symptom begs for your attention, demands your attention and keeps an otherwise peaceful mind on guard, anxious and upset. One looks back over weeks or months and finds it easy to recognize this cycle. The pattern is strong and and very noticeable. Symptoms occur in consecutive order, one taking the place of another. One just as intense as the symptom before. You wish you could shake your head and break up this pattern, freeing yourself from this loop, experiencing even a week of being symptom free.

Acknowledgement: Acknowledging this is a habit, and nothing more, is also essential. Acknowledging that this behavior is serving a purpose, to distract, is also another step out of the loop. Acknowledging that this habit is fooling you is also a step in the right direction. It will lead you to the truth about these symptoms. They are merely there to distract.

Understanding: Understanding is everything when it comes to breaking the cycle or loop of anxiety symptoms. When one symptom closely follows a reconciled symptom it is because the symptoms are not only serving a purpose but distracting you from something larger, occurring in your life, such as an unresolved issue or emotion. How could you possibly look at something more painful than these symptoms when you are completely distracted by them in the most intrusive way? How could you possibly look at a strong overlooked emotion or unresolved issue when these symptoms feel all encompassing? The truth of the matter is that these symptoms are your brain’s way of covering up and distracting from more painful emotions and issues.

Resolution: Resolving this issue is not difficult. It involves LOCATING THE EMOTION. When one is caught up in the Anxiety Cycle it is because there is a strong emotion such as fear, anger or sadness that the brain deems overwhelming. In order to distract from this painful emotion, the brain presents instances of continuing anxiety and sometimes physical symptoms in an effort to distract from the initial issue. This is why the symptoms feel so strong and upsetting. They are WORKING! They are doing their job of distracting you from the more painful emotion. They are effectively blocking you from facing your unpleasant or painful emotions or issues. When you locate the emotion and face it full on, you will find this serves to interrupt the cycle of anxiety, the constant looping of symptoms.

The next time you notice a looping of symptoms, STOP, and take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:

– What is going on in your life that might be creating an emotional response?
– Are you angry, sad, fearful or frustrated over a situation, event or person in your life?
– Do you hold back emotions in order to “keep the peace,” put things off or maintain status quo?

It is clear, if you answer yes to the above questions, that your mind is creating looping symptoms to effectively distract you from a larger emotion that is too painful to address or because you are not comfortable stepping out of your comfort zone.

The Bottom Line Solution is to identify your emotions, examine them thoroughly and choose ways to express yourself in a safe and comfortable manner.

Once you embark on this journey of excavating your emotions and locating the true issues, you will be well on your way to shattering the cycle of anxiety and moving forward in your life.

If, in the future, you find a symptom sneaks in, followed by another one after reconciliation, be aware of this cycle. Understand you have the power to break through this loop and get back on track. Always, slow down, find your issue, locate your emotion and deal with it effectively. There will be no need for distraction (symptoms) to blur the issues/emotions if properly and expediently addressed.

Once you apply these steps, you will have successfully proved that the Anxiety Cycle can be effectively broken as you take back control of your life again. You have the power to achieve this and it is not difficult when approached correctly.

For further information concerning the Anxiety Cycle and other anxiety issues, feel free to contact me at 215-635-4700, 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM (EST). We will be glad to speak to you and welcome your calls.

Anxiety Busters, Inc.
Anxiety Busters
Office Phone: 215-635-4700
Office Hours: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM (EST)

Previous post:

Next post: