Anxiety Myth #8: You can completely overcome anxiety disorder with self-help materials alone
Another common myth is that you can completely overcome anxiety disorder using a self-help approach alone
Many programs and methods suggest that anxiety self-help materials alone can lead to meaningful and lasting success over problematic anxiety. This can be true, but only for those who experience mild forms of anxiety. For those who experience moderate severity anxiety and above, it’s more difficult, and we believe, unrealistic to expect to gain lasting success without professional help. Here’s why:
Anxiety is caused by behavior – the ways we think and act. See the Anxiety 101 section for more information about the cause of anxiety. Unless a person makes significant behavioral change, anxiety will reoccur. Those who experience mild forms of anxiety generally don’t have many anxiety producing behaviors. And those they have typically aren’t too unhealthy. This is why they experience mild anxiety. Good self-help information can assist a person in making sufficient change when their anxiety is consistently in the mild range.
Moderate severity degrees of anxiety unwellness and above, however, occur for more complex reasons. This generally means people who experience moderate and above degrees of anxiety have many more anxiety producing behaviors and these behaviors are more complex and deep-seated. Making healthy change at this level almost always requires the help of an experienced anxiety disorder professional, and for many reasons. For example:
- Behaviors that cause moderate and above anxiety are often invisible to the sufferer. If the anxiety sufferer isn’t aware of her anxiety producing behaviors, she won’t realize where the problems lie. You can’t fix a problem until you know one exists.
- If the anxiety sufferer isn’t aware of his problematic behaviors, he also won’t know how to correct them. Making healthy change requires correctly identifying the problems AND knowing how to correctly address them.
- Making healthy behavioral change almost always requires monitoring to ensure that the behaviors that are being addressed are addressed in the right way. If the sufferer doesn’t know what healthy behavior looks like, it’s easy to head in the wrong direction and not even know it.
- Making healthy behavioral change almost always requires ongoing support through to lasting success. Making healthy behavioral change isn’t easy and there are many pitfalls that can stall and even misdirect recovery. Professional support ensures the correct approach is reinforced and maintained until lasting success is achieved.
There are many more reasons why professional help is required for meaningful and lasting success.
Unless you are professionally trained in resolving difficult anxiety issues, it’s unrealistic to think you can self-help yourself to lasting success. Ongoing professional support is an important ingredient to lasting success over problematic anxiety.
How can believing you can completely overcome anxiety disorder using self-help materials alone hamper recovery?
In a survey we did some years ago:
- 32 percent of respondents said they had purchased self-help materials.
- 80 percent of respondents who purchased self-help materials said they found them helpful.
- 75 percent of respondents said they’ve been using self-help materials for more than a year, with 36 percent of this percentage saying they’ve been working at their recovery using self-help materials alone for more than five years.
- But, only .8 percent of respondents said self-help materials alone brought complete relief.
Since self-help materials alone almost never produce lasting success, believing you can overcome problematic anxiety using self-help materials alone can not only hamper your recovery but completely stall and even derail it. There are many reasons for this. Some of the most common include:
- Self-help materials cannot provide the depth of information required to overcome moderate severity anxiety and above.
- Since problematic anxiety occurs for specific reasons, which are unique to each person, self-help materials aren’t specific to each person’s struggle. Generic information can only provide generic and nonspecific help. This type of help, while beneficial to a certain degree, isn’t sufficient to produce meaningful and lasting results.
- Some self-help information isn’t very good, and some is just plain wrong. If you don’t know the difference between good, mediocre, or wrong self-help information, you could spin your wheels for years and not know why.
Not knowing what your specific anxiety issues are or how to address them could cause a struggle with problematic anxiety to persist, and even for years. Some people struggle with problematic anxiety their entire lives because they didn’t seek professional help. Unfortunately, we see this scenario regularly.
A couple of sayings ring true with regard to anxiety disorder recovery:
- You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.
- You can’t fix what you don’t know how to fix.
Not truly understanding anxiety or truly knowing how to bring about healthy behavioral change is one of the most common reasons why people struggle with problematic anxiety long-term.
If you’ve been trying to self-help yourself out of a struggle with problematic anxiety, yet you find yourself still struggling with it, most likely one, or all of the above reasons apply.
How can this myth make things worse?
If you believe self-help materials alone is sufficient to overcome anxiety unwellness, yet you’ve tried them and continue to struggle with problematic anxiety, you may become discouraged and give up. Or worse, you might conclude that you are the exception and can’t recover. Both mindsets can lead to further needless struggle with problematic anxiety.
Research has shown that the most effective way to overcome problematic anxiety is with the combination of good self-help information, professional assistance, and ongoing support. Our personal and professional experiences with anxiety concur.
While self-help materials can be a ‘part’ of the overall recovery plan, self-help materials are seldom the ‘only’ solution. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, counselor, or coach is the best way – and often the ONLY way - to gain meaningful and lasting anxiety disorder recovery success, especially if you experience moderate and above degrees of severity.
Anxiety isn’t about something that’s ‘gone wrong’ and that you can’t correct. Anxiety is about behavior that all of us can change and control when we know how. Working with an experienced anxiety therapist, coach, or counsellor can teach you those important skills.
All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced problematic anxiety and know how out of control it can seem. But we also know that there are many ways we can gain control over it. Getting the right information, help, and support, as well as making the appropriate behavioral changes, is all that is required to successfully treat anxiety unwellness.
There are many reasons to be optimistic. Anyone can learn and adopt less anxious ways of approaching life. Consequently, no one needs to suffer with anxiety unwellness. Life can be great again…and without the burden of problematic anxiety!
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated September 2016.