"Hello, I'm anxiety here to ruin your day with thoughts you can't control."
For those of those who suffer from anxiety disorders, thoughts are often the root of the problem. Whether it be reliving negative experiences or memories, the worst case scenario, or simply worrying about what other people think of you, these thoughts normally seem perfectly logical to you at the moment.
Even if you recognize they aren't, it can be hard to roll back those thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. This list contains common thoughts among anxiety suffers as well as my own thoughts and how I have learned to combat them.
I am not a professional. I am simply writing from my own experience with generalized anxiety disorder. I cannot speak to other disorders and am simply trying to share the ways that help me cope in the hopes they can help someone else.
1. "You're a bad person."
To combat this thought I actively try to do good things. I tell myself that I am certainly not as bad as [insert objectively bad person here]. I distract myself with media and games I like.
2. "Nobody likes you."
To combat this thought I start by telling myself it isn't true. I tell myself I like myself (this works wonders if it isn't true). I reach out to friends and talk to/ hang out with them as normal to concretely show myself this isn't true.
3. "You aren't as smart as everyone here."
To combat this thought I do one of two things (depending upon my mood and overall mental health at the time).
First, I pose a challenge to myself to become as smart as the other people in the room and actively listen and participate to do so.
Second, I go back through past accomplishments to prove that I am smart and just because I didn't get or understand something immediately doesn't mean I'm less smart than anyone else.
4. "I'm going crazy."
This is a common thought of anxiety. To combat this one, I look up the symptoms of anxiety and screenshot it to prove to myself that it's just my anxiety and that I am in fact not going crazy.
5. "What if..."
"What if this headache is really a brain tumor?"
"What if I go to the doctor and they think I'm crazy/ faking it?"
"What if my friends are just pretending to like me?"
"What if I'm really just a fraud?"
Whoa, whoa, whoa — stop. As you can tell, this thought process can get out of control quickly. The best way I've found to combat this one is to turn the what-ifs into positives. "What if I get a promotion?" "What if I just have really awesome friends?"
I'm still extremely bad at this, so I typically just have to ride these thoughts out. I often talk to someone without anxiety to see if my thoughts seem logical to them. If they don't, normally it helps to differentiate my anxiety talking vs. my actual thoughts.
"They probably hate me."
Whether your friend hasn't texted you back for hours or your recent Tinder match seems to be ghosting you, this is almost certainly not true. The best way to combat this is to realize that you are projecting your thoughts onto someone else and that you can't read that person's thoughts. You have no idea what they truly think, therefore, it could be the complete opposite.
While it isn't always comforting to "not know," in this instance, allowing yourself to recognize that your own thoughts are blurring onto your projection of someone else, it can help ease the worry a bit.
7. "Why can't I just calm down? What is wrong with me?"
Ah, the old, having anxiety about your anxiety. These thoughts are in fact the reason you can't calm down. The best thing to do is to self-calm as much as possible. Take multiple deep breaths. Close your eyes and meditate for a few moments. Distract yourself, if the moment calls for it.
8. "What if I die?"
This thought can come in many forms. "What if the plane crashes?" "What if I slip on icy roads?" It can also lead to worries about family (both for their safety and leaving them behind), etc. Honestly, I've noticed many things work for this one. If you're on a plane or something similar, statistics can help. Knowing that planes crash very rarely can help you understand that it's very unlikely.
Other things are to accept the prospect of death. This isn't nearly as dark as it sounds. Recognizing you have no control over when you die can help you calm yourself knowing you have no other control over the situation. If all else fails, rely on calming exercises and distraction.
9. "Are they upset with me?"
Again, projecting your worries onto another person can be a dangerous cycle. However, if all else fails, ask the person if they actually upset with you. If it is obvious that they are not upset with you based on other factors, try to tell yourself that you can't read minds and that you are simply projecting your worries about them becoming upset with you onto the person.
10. "I don't deserve to be here/ loved."
This one can usually be defeated with some logic. "I was invited here, I do deserve to be here." "Everyone deserves love, including me." "Lots of people love me and they aren't wrong to." However, this can be extremely hard to believe, but even if you don't believe the thoughts, if you keep telling them to yourself and actively work to believe them, you will.
11. "I'm going to get stuck here."
Whether your phone is about to die at night in the city, you're in a rickety elevator, or the subway seems to be moving slower than normal, the best way to combat this is just to stay alert and take precautions to avoid the situation. (Turn your phone on low power or airplane mode, take deep breaths, and stay alert). Also, using calming techniques can help until the situation is over.