The key element behind anxiety and worry is an intolerance of uncertainty. Over time, our excessive worry becomes persistent, repetitive and uncontrollable. We rush around trying to find solutions, yet we never end up finding any sort of relief.
When we worry, we tend to predict that bad things will happen to themselves or other people. These fears may even be based on real events. We try to figure out one or more solutions to what we fear will happen. However, since the “bad” event still hasn’t actually happened yet, we never end up being able to use our solution. As a result, we still continue to feel uncertain and anxious.
So why are some people able to go about their lives without being overwhelmed with anxiety and uncertainty? People without an anxiety disorder may not like uncertainty, but they generally tolerate it. They generally believe that if bad things happen, they’ll be able to cope.
Those of us who struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are different. We believe that it is unacceptable to be uncertain or to have any ambiguity. We are afraid that this uncertainty or ambiguity will lead to something bad happening or cause even more problems. In fact, we might feel it is irresponsible if we don’t try to fix the uncertainty.
So let’s look at some of the myths surrounding Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- It’s not that other people have uncomplicated lives. We all have things that pull us in all directions, and no one lives life without complications.
- It’s not just personality. While some people are more easy going and content, there are tons of people who still struggle.
- It’s not luck. These are skills that can be taught and learned, and no one is born with these abilities.
What makes someone be able to survive anxiety is that they are able to tolerate uncertainty and feel that they are capable of tackling things that are thrown at them. In fact, this intolerance of uncertainty is believed to predispose people to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and maintain it once it develops.
Poor Strategies for Uncertainty
The problem in dealing with anxiety is that we often chose the wrong strategy. Those struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to use these primary unhelpful strategies:
- The most common strategy is worry
- Avoiding situations
- Seeking reassurance from others
- Gathering excessive amounts of information
- Repeatedly checking or verifying information with people or situations
Our Unrealistic Beliefs about Worry
Sometimes, one of the reasons this type of anxiety continues to have a grip on is that that we have some very bizarre beliefs about worry. We might think that worrying will help prepare us for danger. Or we might think that worry is uncontrollable and potentially dangerous. The problem here is not that one or the other is incorrect; the issue is in the extreme points of view that we have.