Intrusive Thoughts in Panic Disorder: The Chaos You Face in Extreme Anxiety

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In almost all cases of Panic Disorder‚ the driving factor fuelling the sensations is anxious thinking. 

Without addressing these specific intrusive thoughts in panic disorder‚ there can be little success in eliminating the root of the anxiety.

People who experience anxiety and panic attacks frequently have to deal with the negative side–effects of unwanted thoughts that creep into their minds. 

These thoughts can range from worries about health‚ concern over loved ones‚ or even fears that do not make any rational sense at all but continue to linger in the mind.

Sometimes‚ the unwanted intrusive thoughts come from previous experiences; other times they are simply bizarre‚ leaving the person worried as to why such strange thoughts are occurring.

In all these cases‚ the person is upset by the anxious thoughts because they are causing distress and worry. I will guide you through a simple two–step process that is in part related to the One Move which I teach but tailored specifically to dealing with anxious thinking.

In all these cases‚ the person is upset by the anxious thoughts because they are causing distress and worry. I will guide you through a simple two–step process that is in part related to the One Move which I teach but tailored specifically to dealing with anxious thinking.

Anxious Intrusive Thoughts in Panic Disorder

Tackling anxious intrusive thinking effectively requires a two–pronged approach. To eliminate the negative thinking patterns‚ there needs to be a shift in attitude along with specific visualization tools.

The Attitude Shift is going to be the First Step

It is not the intrusive thoughts in themselves that cause you distress. It is how you are responding to those thoughts. It is the reaction you are having to the thoughts that enable them to have influence and power over you. In order to better understand how unwanted thoughts come about‚, it helps to paint a playful visual picture of how this happens. This is a fictional example and will help you better understand how to deal with the issue.

Imagine,

You are standing on a street and all around you thoughts are floating lazily by. Some of the thoughts are your own‚ other thoughts are from outside sources you access such as newspapers‚ TV‚ magazines‚ etc. You notice that when you pay attention to a thought it gravitates nearer. The thoughts you ignore float on by.

When you focus and examine a thought up closely‚ you notice how it connects to another similar thought‚ and you find yourself jumping from one thought to the next. Sometimes these are practical‚ day–to–day thoughts such as bills‚ chores‚ etc.‚ or the thoughts can theme by the past or a fantasy/daydream.

In our imagined scenario‚

You unexpectedly notice a thought hovering in front of you that scares you. This thought is called “Fear X.” X could be panic attacks‚ ill health‚ or something bizarre. You find it impossible not to look at the thought‚ and as you give it your full attention‚ this causes it to come closer and closer. When you examine the thought‚ you begin to react with fear as you do not like what you see. You further notice how that initial scary thought is connected to more worrying “what if” thoughts that you also examine in detail. The more you try to escape from the thought by pushing it away‚ the more it seems to follow you around as if it were stuck to you. You try to focus on more pleasant thoughts‚ but you find yourself continuously coming back to the fearful thought.

Intrusive Thoughts in Panic Disorder: The anticipation of Anxiety

There is an expression of “thoughts sticking like glue.”

The very act of reacting emotionally to the thought glues the thought all the more to you‚ and the more time you spend worrying and obsessing about the thought‚ the more that glue becomes hardened over time. The thought and all its associated connected thoughts are there in the morning when you wake and there at night when you are trying to get some sleep.

The thought becomes stuck because your emotional reaction to it is its sticking power! 

Thoughts are a form of energy‚ neither good nor bad. It is how we judge those thoughts that determines how much impact they have on our lives. Thoughts need firstly to be fed by attention‚ but what they really love is a good strong emotional reaction to make them stick!

Thoughts that stay with us are first attracted to us by the attention we pay them and then stuck firmly in place by the level of emotional reaction we have to them.

This is an important point

A thought–even negative intrusive thoughts–can only have an influence on you if you allow it to. The emotional reaction from us is a thought’s energy source. What’s interesting is that either a positive or a negative emotional reaction is fine for the thought. Energy and attention are what it is attracted to. Once you are having an emotional reaction to a thought‚ you will be regularly drawn to that thought until the emotional reaction has lost its energy and faded away.

For example‚

If someone you know pays you a very positive compliment‚ you may find yourself unintentionally drawn to that thought anytime you have a spare moment. You probably find it improves your overall level of confidence and mood throughout the day.

Sadly, however, we tend to focus less on the positive and more on the negative. We seem to forget those positive compliments all too easily and are drawn more frequently to what might upset us.

Taking the opposite example‚ if someone you know insults you‚ I am sure that you find the emotional reaction to that thought much more intense and probably very long–lasting.

So what has to be the best way to eliminate Intrusive Thoughts in Panic Disorder?

If you are not engaged in an activity or task‚ your mind will tend to wander to any thoughts that you are having a strong emotional reaction to. In general‚ as they are the ones that you are probably reacting most strongly to‚ angry or fearful thoughts seem to surface quickly.

Suppressing the Thoughts won’t help!

What I am suggesting is that suppressing the Intrusive thoughts in panic disorder is the most ineffective way to get rid of them.

Thought suppression studies‚ (Wegner‚ Schneider‚ Carter‚ & White‚ 1987) have proven that the very act of trying to suppress a thought‚ only results in a higher frequency of unwanted intrusive thoughts occurring.

This reoccurrence of the thought has been termed the ‘rebound effect’.

Simply put: The more you try suppressing a thought‚ the more the unwanted thought keeps popping up (rebounding).

Next readHow To Eliminate Intrusive Thoughts If You Suffer Panic Disorder

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