People with panic disorder tend to be negative thinkers with self-defeating beliefs. This is especially the case during a panic attack when your inner voice may amplify your fears and anxiety. For example, when panic takes a hold, you may believe that you really are going to stop breathing or that you are truly going crazy.
Listed below are some irrational thoughts that are common among people with anxiety disorders. In order to change your thinking, you must first become aware of these thought patterns that are an underlying part of your panic.
When you are forecasting, you are predicting a future event that has not happened. People with panic disorder typical forecast that the worst will happen. For example, if you’re afraid of flying, while on a plane you might think to yourself, “This turbulence feels scary, I know something is wrong with the plane.” Or if you have agoraphobia and fear leaving your home, you might think “If I leave I just know I will have a panic attack.”
The problem with forecasting is that it only feeds your anxiety, causing you to feel more afraid. As feelings of panic grow, your thought pattern only spirals worse out-of-control. Your outlook may escalate to beliefs such as “I just know this plane is going to crash” or “If I have a panic attack in public I will go crazy and have to be committed.”
Shoulds, Oughts, and Musts
Anxiety and panic prone people tend to use these words when describing themselves and their situation. You hold beliefs such as, “I should be calm on planes,” “I ought to be comfortable in public,” or “I must be a failure.” Such harsh self-judgments are obviously not helpful in reducing you anxiety.
Instead, you become overwhelmed with self-defeating thoughts. You may begin to blame yourself for having panic disorder, believing that it is some sort of flaw on your part. You may also use name-calling, such as telling yourself that you are “pathetic” or “weak.” This can even lead to overgeneralizations in which you think that you “will never feel okay in public” or you “will always feel uneasy.” All of these destructive thoughts add to feelings of helplessness, making panic disorder even more overwhelming.
Nervousness is often magnified when we believe that we are being judged by others. Those with panic disorder often feel that others disapprove of them, further fueling feelings of guilt and worry. Even if there is no proof that others are critically evaluating you, you still believe that others have an aversion to you. You may be a people-pleaser, wanting to be liked and seen as perfect by others. You may also feel inferior to others, thinking that you just don’t measure up.
When you mind-read, you have thoughts such as “I can tell by the flight attendant’s face that there is a serious problem with the plane” or while out in public you think, “That person can tell that I’m nervous. He thinks that I’m neurotic. As you can see, these inner statements only make your apprehension grow.
In summary, these destructive thought processes are contributing to your experience with panic disorder. Do you recognize your thought patterns in any of these belief systems? In order to change the way you think, you must first recognize your typical cognitions. To begin to change, keep a notebook and pen with you. Throughout the day try to jot down every harmful thought you notice. At the end of the day, you may be surprised by how many times you had negative thoughts similar to the ones listed here.
Now that you have them down on paper, spend some time writing down a more constructive statement. For example, let’s say you wrote down a negative thought, such as “I should be less of a worrier and get a grip.” Try replacing that thought with a statement like, “Some days are better than others, but I know I am doing my best to overcome anxiety and panic.” While out in public you might think, “I know she just looked at me and thinks I am pitiful.” Replace that with, “She just glanced at me because I entered the store. I am sure that she was thinking about her own life.” The more you become aware of your thought process, the easier it will become to change it. Over time, your views about yourself and the world around you will transform into a more optimistic picture.
Bourne, E. J. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. 4th ed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2005.
Burns, D. D. When Panic Attacks. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2006.
Ellis, A. The Myth of Self-esteem: How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2006.
Overcome Your Negative Thinking
10 Cognitive Distortions That Contribute to Panic
Negative thinking is an issue that often plagues many people with panic disorder. Some theories of psychotherapy would argue that panic attacks, anxiety, and depression are mostly a result of the way in which we think. In theory, we are what we think we are. Our thoughts guide our feelings, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
Cognitive therapy is one form of psychotherapy that is largely based on this theory. Persistent negative thinking contribute to feelings of fear, hopelessness, and lowered self-esteem. These types of habitual and faulty thinking patterns are known as cognitive distortions.
The first step toward overcoming your negative thinking is to become aware of when you are experiencing cognitive distortions. Once you have become more conscious of these thoughts, you can then replace them with more realistic ones. This can be challenging to do because negative thinking often becomes so habitual that it can be difficult to even notice when you are doing it. However, with practice you will be able to overcome your negative thinking.
See if you recognize any of your negative thinking patterns in these 10 most common cognitive distortions among people with panic disorder:
When we are falling into this cognitive trap, we are only able to see things in black or white extremes. We see in absolute terms with very little, if any, gray area. Our world becomes divided into two absolute conditions. We think that we are either successful or we are complete failures. When engaging in this type of faulty thinking, we often use unconditional terms, such as nothing or never, to describe ourselves and our experiences.
When making overgeneralizations, we’ll find ourselves using terms like always and never to describe our life events. We view any negative situation that occurs as being an unlimited pattern of setbacks and defeat. When using this cognitive distortion, we may take one mistake, bad experience, or personal flaw and make broad generalizations about our lives.
By using a mental filter, we focus only on the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. We chose to only see the negative, even when receiving compliments or good news. By continually viewing the glass as half empty, we view the world through fear and negativity.
When we discount the positive, we overlook our personal achievements and disregard our positive attributes. Anything good that happens to us we discount by suggesting it was “just luck” or we deny it by ignoring it. This type of negative thinking doesn’t allow us to experience our successes and prevents us from believing that we deserve the best in life.
This cognitive distortions occurs in two ways: We “mind-read” by thinking that others are negatively evaluating us or we “fortune-tell” by predicting a negative future outcome.
Either way, we come to negative assumptions based on few, if any, facts. When we jump to conclusions, we expect the worse to happen and believe that others are judging despite a lack of evidence.
When we are using this cognitive distortion, we are either blowing things out of proportion or lessening their importance. Our problems become larger than life, while the positive aspects of our lives are ignored. We magnify our small mistakes or imperfections and minimize our admirable traits and achievements.
When overcome by this type of faulty thinking, we are interpreting our situation through our feelings. We feel anxious and then believe that we must be in danger. Emotional reasoning is a prominent distortion for people with panic disorder, as feelings of nervousness can quickly escalate into panic.
We use terms such as “should,” “ought,” and “must” as a way to put ourselves down or negatively describe our lives. Should statements typically only make you feel more hopeless about your situation and further diminish your sense of self-worth.
When we misuse labeling, we believe one of our weaknesses dictates who we are as a person. We may think, “I did this wrong, therefore I am stupid.” Many people with panic and anxiety issues negatively label themselves as “crazy,” “neurotic,” or “emotional.”
Blaming is a common cognitive distortion that is used to avoid facing our problems. When we blame ourselves or others, we are not dealing with our personal issues head on. We use self-blame when it comes to our fears and anxieties or we may blame others for our causing our difficulties.
Burns, D. D. “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” Avon Books: New York, 1999.
Burns, D.D. “When Panic Attacks: The New Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life” Broadway Books: New York, 2006.
Determine and Change Your Self-Defeating Beliefs
Mistaken Beliefs Associated with Panic and Anxiety
Cognitive therapy is one form of psychotherapy that is modeled after the idea that our thoughts and beliefs contribute to our mental health. Cognitive therapy aims to shift negative thinking patterns and beliefs that contribute to personal unhappiness. It has been theorized that both mood and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and depression, are greatly influenced by one’s negative thoughts and faulty beliefs.
Your personal values, perceptions, and attitudes make up your belief system. Self-defeating thoughts are any negative views you hold about yourself and the world around you. Also known as mistaken or faulty beliefs, these views impact your self-esteem, the feelings you carry about your personal abilities, and your relationships with others.
Self-defeating beliefs are categorized as either being negative views you have about yourself or beliefs you hold about your relationships with others. Either of these types of self-defeating beliefs may be contributing to your anxiety and panic symptoms. The following describes a summary of self-defeating beliefs that are common among those who struggle with panic disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia:
Often thought of as a positive attribute, perfectionism can actually set you up for procrastination and failure. Perfectionism describes the belief that one is never quite good enough. For example, you may believe that any little mistake you make or imperfection you have makes you a less worthy person. You may put off completing tasks, fearing that you will never be able to complete them as well as you would like to. People who hold the self-defeating belief of perfectionism often think that others will not accept them for who they truly are.Perfectionism can affect your entire belief system and is often revealed through your personal self-talk and thinking. For instance, “should statements” are a type of negative thinking pattern that is often associated with perfectionism. One example would be thinking that you “should be able to control your anxiety.” Perfectionism also often takes on the form of negative self-labeling, such as believing that you “must be crazy” for having panic attacks. Such self-criticism only tears down your self-worth and can derail your attempts at coping with your condition.
The mistaken belief of perfectionism can greatly impact one’s relationships and decision to tell others about their panic disorder. For instance, perfectionism may make you believe that others would be unaccepting of your condition. Perfectionism can also affect you at the workplace, as you may believe that your coworkers would discredit your work or avoid you if you showed any amount of anxiety or vulnerability. Such beliefs can add to the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are so common for people with panic disorder.
A Need To Achieve
Many people have personal goals that they hope to achieve. These goals typically revolve around the themes of health, relationships, or career.Accomplishing your goals should provide you with a degree of pride and fulfillment. However, many people with anxiety and/or depression falsely believe that their accomplishments make up their self-worth. You may believe that your personal value can only be attained through your wealth, status, intelligence, or achievements. People who fall into this self-defeating belief system are rarely ever satisfied with themselves or fulfilled in life.
Constant Need for Approval
Most people want to be liked by others. However, this desire can become self-defeating when one’s self-esteem is tied to the approval of others. A constant need for approval from others can leave one feeling hurt, anxious, or angry. The truth is that no matter who you are, not everyone is going to like you. Remember that you are a worthwhile person whether everyone agrees with or approves of you.Those who measure their worth by how much they are liked by others will easily become upset over any form of criticism or difference in opinion. Simple suggestions by others can lead them to feel hostile and defensive. Ironically, wanting constant approval by others can push people away. If you struggle with the need for approval, keep in mind that others may approve of you as a person and are only offering advice and other ideas to be helpful or to engage in conversation. Try to be open to the suggestions of others and continue to build upon your support network.
Overcoming Self-Defeating Beliefs
Our belief system is always with us, shaping our opinions and attitudes about our selves and the world around us. Sometimes we fall into self-defeating beliefs that negatively impact our lives. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome negative thinking and mistaken beliefs.Changing our self-defeating belief system begins by recognizing its role in our lives. Review this list of mistaken beliefs and start noticing when they pop up in your life. Once you have begun to identify your typical faulty beliefs, you will start to notice what situations seem to trigger you the most. This knowledge gives you the opportunity to change your belief system.
Begin to test out your typical self-defeating thoughts by examining if there is much truth in your views. For instance, do people reject you for your imperfections? Do most of your loved ones still care about you if you don’t get promoted at work, reach your desired weight, or make a certain amount of money? Is someone offering you advice because they don’t approve of you or is it because they care about your well-being? By continually confronting your mistaken beliefs, you can begin to develop new ones that are potentially more realistic and less anxiety-provoking.
Burns, D. D. (2006). When panic attacks: The new drug-free anxiety therapy that can change your life. NY: Broadway Books.
Self-Defeating Beliefs About Relationships
Faulty Beliefs and Panic Disorder
Cognitive therapy is based off the concept that one’s negative thoughts and beliefs influence the way one feels. As a form of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy works to help shift one’s belief system as a way to create more realistic and positive thoughts. According to the theory of cognitive therapy, self-defeating beliefs greatly contribute to mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and panic disorder.
Self-defeating beliefs fall into one of two categories: individual or interpersonal. Individual self-defeating beliefs involve the way in which we measure our personal value. These types of beliefs typically involve aspects of perfectionism and the need for achievement and approval. Interpersonal self-defeating beliefs, on the other hand, deal with our beliefs about our relationships with others. These include our ideas about how our social connections should be, such as how we believe others should treat us.
Having panic disorder can greatly impact our relationships. Self-defeating beliefs about our connections with others can add to this problem. The following describes interpersonal self-defeating beliefs that are common among those with panic disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. Notice whether you recognize your own belief system in any of these faulty beliefs and learn ways to get past them.
People with panic disorder are prone to negative thinking, which often includes some form of self-blame. For instance, you may blame yourself for your panic symptoms, thinking that if you were more in control of yourself, then you wouldn’t be struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.Self-defeating beliefs about blame can also impact our relationships with others. For example, perhaps you are experiencing some conflict with another person. Are you quick to blame them for the differences you are having or are you able to see how you may have contributed to the disagreement?
Most relationships are faced with some conflict, and at times, other people will let us down. However, problems in a relationship typically involve both parties. Think about your own relationships and decide if you blame others when your connections are not what you want them to be. Resolve to let go of this self-defeating belief and start recognizing your role and responsibilities in relationships. Blame will only drag you down and certainly won’t end any differences you may be having with others.
Submissive Towards Others
Being overly submissive can stem from the mistaken belief that you must submit to others in order to be loved. When falling into this self-defeating belief, you always put others’ wants and needs before your own. While you may enjoy being helpful towards others, behaving overly submissive means that you always give in to what others expect, yet you feel unhappy as your own wants are not being addressed.Submissiveness may also involve a fear of being alone. Many people with panic disorder and agoraphobia are subject to feelings of loneliness and isolation. For example, you may avoid social interactions due to being worried about how others will react if they knew about your condition. However, it is important to keep in mind that despite your symptoms, you are a worthwhile person. You deserve friendship and love without having to always be submissive towards others.
Fear of Conflict
Many people dislike conflict because it can bring up many uncomfortable emotions. It is true that conflict in our relationships can lead to feelings of anger, distress, and fear. However, this can become a self-defeating belief when conflict is avoided out of fear of rejection from others. Avoiding conflict will most likely not lead to any type of resolution. It may actually contribute to additional feelings of stress and anxiety. Conflict avoidance may be a quick solution, but in the long run it can potentially make things worse.
Overcome Interpersonal Self-Defeating Beliefs
In order to overcome negative thinking and self-defeating beliefs, you need to recognize when they occur in your life. Begin noticing if you have any self-defeating beliefs that are preventing you from having and maintaining healthy relationships. Ask yourself if you are frequently blaming others, being too submissive with others, or avoiding conflict at all costs.By recognizing your interpersonal self-defeating beliefs, you can begin to make changes in your belief system. For instance, instead of blaming the other person, try considering what role you play in the relationship. Stop sacrificing who you are in order to make others happy and you may be surprised by how much better you feel. Conflict doesn’t have to mean insults or arguments. Instead of burying your head in the sand, face conflict with integrity, maturity, and mutual respect.
Make it a habit to question and rethink your negative thoughts and beliefs. By continually readjusting your self-defeating beliefs, you can shift your views to more positive and realistic ones. Over time, you may find that you are no longer holding onto self-defeating beliefs and have overcome your negative thinking.
Burns, D. D. (2006). When panic attacks: The new drug-free anxiety therapy that can change your life. NY: Broadway Books.
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