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Anxiety disorders are common and a high proportion of those affected experience that it is difficult to get rid of the anxiety. In this post, psychologist Fredrik Lian shares his five best pieces of advice for a life without inhibiting anxiety. 

Photo: by Makenna Entrikin on Unsplash

Fredrik Lian, who works as a psychologist on a daily basis Lian & Fjell Psychologist services in Oslo, writes the following in his guest post: 

Anxiety is a common term for a harmless experience of irrational fear. It is related to situations or objects, or appears as a more constant state characterized by unrest and worries. According to the National Institute of Public Health's report over 1/4 will have anxiety during their lifetime, and a high proportion find it difficult to get rid of it.

Fortunately, there is good treatment for anxiety, and there are some rules of thumb you can bring with you to help yourself get better.

Here are 5 of my top tips for living without anxiety:


1. Approach what you are afraid of

Fear is a very uncomfortable feeling that arises in situations that are dangerous to you. At the same time, it is desirable that it is unpleasant, as the discomfort motivates us to avoid the source of it.

When we avoid the danger and come to safety, the fear is also reduced. In this way, the brain mainly learns two things: 1) what you did in the situation (to avoid) helped you to safety, and 2) if you had been in the situation, it would not have gone well.

But the fear system can also be triggered in situations that are harmless to us. Then we call it anxiety. The uncomfortable feeling will naturally also motivate you to avoid the situation that triggers it (no one wants to feel discomfort). Here, too, the brain learns that avoidance helps, and that staying in the situation would lead to the consequences we fear.

In this way, avoidance contributes to the fact that you do not get any real experience of how dangerous what you fear actually is. Anxiety will repeatedly be activated in the same situation(s).

By seeking out what you fear over time, you give yourself an opportunity to gain a more realistic experience of how dangerous it is. You will learn how to handle it, how good control you actually have or that you can also cope with not having control.


2. Do more than exposure

There are many misconceptions when it comes to anxiety exposure and how to get rid of anxiety. One of them is that it is sufficient to merely expose yourself to what you are afraid of, until you are no longer afraid. This is not true.

Many people with anxiety do often expose themselves to what they are afraid of, unfortunately without gaining a reduction in their anxiety.

One of the most common reasons for this is that in the actual anxiety situation you make assurances that what you are afraid of will not happen. For example, a flight phobia will not be reduced if you (1) always check the weather in advance and only fly in good weather; (2) never fly abroad; (3) only fly with what is perceived as safe and experienced pilots (e.g. pilots with half-gray hair); and (4) only fly with flight companies with the best reputation.

Despite the fact that you have flown often, and have experience that the plane lands safely every time, the brain will not accept that the plane itself is safe. The brain interprets the safe landings largely as a consequence of all the insurance you have taken out.

The problem with this is that you create your own limitations. But perhaps worst of all: you maintain the anxiety.

What if the weather changes? What if the pilot suddenly turns out to be from another country, or being younger that you wished, when the plane is taxing? What if the company has to book a foreign company to cover the trip?

With strict rules, new uncertainties arise, which ultimately perpetuate anxiety regardless of how many times you expose yourself to what you are afraid of.


3. Seek support and not reassurance

It is natural when we are anxious to seek reassurance from others, as it is anxiety-reducing. At the same time, it is important to distinguish between support and anxiety reduction.

Reassurance from others often serves as another assurance we make to experience control over something going well. Repeatedly asking your partner, family, friends if something is dangerous can perpetuate the anxiety.

The same applies if you have to bring someone you are confident with in situations you are afraid of.

When working with anxiety, it is best to have a "cheerleader" who supports you in the heavy job of seeking out anxiety-provoking situations. If you are in anxiety treatment, it is important that you inform your loved ones about the treatment itself, and include them as part of supporting this.


4. End inactive treatment

Many have gone a long way with anxiety, and worked hard to get rid of the anxiety over time. Some have also undergone treatment without any particular effect.

It is important to emphasize that if the treatment does not work, it is the treatment that is wrong, and not you.

Therefore, dare to change therapist or form of treatment if you experience that it has no effect on you.


5. Imagine a life without anxiety

This can be a challenging and painful task for many.

With anxiety over a long period of time, many may begin to lose faith in recovery, and stop daring to envision a life without anxiety. Fear of relapse and disappointment also limits your faith in the future and hope.

This also reduces the motivation to work actively with the anxiety problem. But we know very well that anxiety treatment works, even for people who initially did not think it was possible to help them.

Take time to specify what you are missing in your life and what anxiety is preventing you from doing. Dare to imagine a life without the anxiety disorder, and not least, dare to believe that you will manage it.

Do you struggle with anxiety and want to talk to a psychologist in Oslo (Norway)? Feel free to contact us here: 

Read more about psychologist Fredrik Lian here:

lian and mountain psychologist services

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