- Understanding Panic Attacks
- What is a panic attack?
- What is Panic Disorder?
- When should you seek help?
- Is It a Panic Attack or the Coronavirus?
- Anxiety versus a panic attack
- Anxiety, panic attack or COVID-19 symptoms?
- Do you have other symptoms?
- Do you typically experience anxiety and/or panic attacks?
- Do you have shortness of breath, but don’t feel particularly anxious?
- Is anything helping your shortness of breath?
- Use the ‘head-to-toe’ method to assess your anxiety and symptoms
- When should you seek medical attention?
- Don’t ignore your mental health
- Anxious People Jump to Emotional Conclusions
- How the study was conducted
- The study’s results
- Highly anxious adults jump to emotional conclusions
- What do you think?
- Jumping to Conclusions | Breaking the Bond of Assumptions
- 5 Ways to Stop Yourself From Jumping to Conclusions
- Social Anxiety, Jumping to Conclusions, and Peace of Mind
- Jumping to Conclusions Ignites Social Anxiety
- Mind-Reading Is Similar to Jumping to Conclusions
- Fortune Telling
- Social Anxiety and Peace of Mind
- 6 Ways Your Anxious Thoughts Are Screwing With Reality
- Polarized thinking
- Attribution errors
- Simple steps to challenge cognitive distortions
- The Benefits of Not Jumping to Conclusions
- Related Articles
Understanding Panic Attacks
When panic attacks, you may not know what’s happening. If you don’t know what’s going on or how to deal with it, it can be very scary. Understanding panic can help you deal with it.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that comes on fast, reaches a peak within minutes, and includes at least four of these symptoms:
- pounding or racing heart, heart palpitations
- trembling or shaking
- shortness of breath or smothering sensations
- feelings of choking
- chest pain or discomfort
- nausea or abdominal distress
- feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
- chills or heat sensations
- numbness or tingling
- feelings of unreality or detachment
- fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- fear of dying
A panic attack is a fear false alarm – your body is doing the right thing (e.g., preparing you to freeze, fight or flee from danger), just at the wrong time.
If you ran into something dangerous (e.g., a bear in the woods) before the feelings started, you probably wouldn’t be afraid of them. You wouldn’t be worried about your racing heart – you’d be scared of the bear. You would guess that your body is feeling differently because of the external danger (e.g., the bear) instead of some internal danger coming from your body.
But if there was no bear and the feelings came the blue, they might surprise and scare you.
If you have never heard of panic attacks or don’t know what they feel , you may find yourself confused and making guesses about what is happening. Some people may guess that it’s a fear false alarm.
But other people may jump to the conclusion that something really bad is happening (e.g., they are having a heart attack).
A panic attack IS real and uncomfortable. However, a panic attack is NOT harmful.
Unfortunately, when you’re having your first panic attack – you do not know it is not harmful.
To learn more about the physiology of fear click here.
Once people consult with a medical professional to rule out other causes and are told that they experienced a panic attack, that panic attacks are not harmful, and they have nothing to worry about – it’s not a problem, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
While most people are relieved to hear the news that they do not have a life-threatening condition, some people have trouble believing that such intense, uncomfortable symptoms can be harmless. The meaning that people give to their panic attack symptoms can make it more or less ly that they go on to have problems.
What is Panic Disorder?
People who experience panic attacks sometimes develop panic disorder. People with panic disorder experience unexpected and repeated panic attacks.
They worry a lot about having more attacks and worry that something bad will happen because of a panic attack. Common worries include fainting, going “crazy”, having a heart attack, dying, humiliating themselves.
The disorder can cause a lot of distress and it can get in the way of life activities.
Not everyone who experiences panic attacks has Panic Disorder. Panic attacks can occur in people with other anxiety disorders.
But the difference is that people with Panic Disorder are afraid of panic, whereas in other cases the person is afraid of something triggering the panic (e.g.
, a person with a phobia of snakes and experiences a panic attack would be afraid of the snake, not the panic experience).
When should you seek help?
Because panic attack symptoms can resemble other serious health problems, it is a good idea to talk to your health care provider if you have the symptoms.
Once other medical conditions have been ruled out, it’s time to seek help if a panic attack has been followed by a month or more of persistent worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences (e.g.
, having a heart attack, developing dementia) and a problematic change in behaviour related to panic attacks (e.g., avoiding places, people, things or experiences).
Trained mental health professionals can assess and treat Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder using evidence-based treatments including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
On your own or with the help of a trained professional, learning more can help you manage your anxiety when panic attacks. Anxiety Canada has lots of free resources to help you learn about panic, including a step-by-step guide to creating an Anxiety Canada MAP (My Anxiety Plan) for panic.
Disclaimer: Tips provided in this blog post are not meant to replace evidence-based psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy for anxiety disorders. If panic attacks are causing you a lot of distress or interfering with your life, consult with a trained health care provider.
Is It a Panic Attack or the Coronavirus?
For the past several days, I’ve been experiencing periods of shortness of breath, fatigue and general soreness. On any normal occasion, I’d dismiss this as part of my generalized anxiety disorder.
But now, in our current hellscape, where the symptoms of COVID-19—shortness of breath, in particular—have been drilled into our heads, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions.
If you’ve dealt with anxiety yourself, then you know that this is what leads to a spiral: getting fixated on something and becoming increasingly worked up about it, all while assuming the worst possible outcome is about to happen.
Is that shortness of breath an anxiety attack, or the onset of the virus? Is the fatigue a result of not being able to sleep for the past several nights because of my anxiety, or something worse? And is this soreness because I’m constantly clenching every muscle in my body in perpetual fight-or-flight mode, or another type of symptom? If it was just one symptom of coronavirus that would be one thing, but three?
I’m a rational human being who has been writing about mental health and the coronavirus for weeks at this point; surely I’m able to tell the difference between an anxiety disorder I’ve lived with since childhood and a global pandemic.
But that’s the thing about anxiety—it makes you question everything, while your brain repeatedly sends your body the message that it’s in imminent danger. And if I have this question, other people probably do too.
So, as a public service (and thinly-veiled attempt to calm myself down), I spoke with three psychiatrists about how to tell the difference between the symptoms of a panic attack, general anxiety and COVID-19, and when you should seek medical attention.
If the COVID-19 outbreak has got you checking the news a little more often—or asking yourself…
Anxiety versus a panic attack
Before we bring in the coronavirus, let’s talk about what a panic attack actually is. “Panic attacks can occur without warning. They are sudden and can happen at any time or place,” Dr.
Zlatin Ivanov, a psychiatrist practicing in New York City tells Lifehacker. “Panic attacks are a result of intense fear, which triggers a physical reaction in the body when no real danger is present.
” According to the Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling that you might be choking
- Chills or overheating
- Fear that you’re dying or losing control of your mind
- A feeling that what’s happening around you isn’t real
So what’s the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack? As the Cleveland Clinic puts it: “Anxiety attacks aren’t technically a thing, at least not according to medical terminology. It’s a layperson’s term for a panic attack.” (If you’re experiencing a panic attack, we have a helpful video on how to get through it.)
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Panic attacks can be scary, especially in the moment that you realize that you’re having one and…
If you’ve ruled out a panic attack, what about symptoms that don’t necessarily peak and then go away, but slowly crush you under the weight of fear and despair? That’s anxiety, and it comes with its own set of symptoms, including shortness of breath; tightening of the chest; a rapid, pounding heart rate; sweating; occasional chills or hot flashes; headache and shaking, Ivanov explains.
In addition, generalized anxiety can also cause difficulty sleeping, fatigue, muscle soreness and in some cases, gastrointestinal issues. Un panic attacks, the symptoms of anxiety can stick around for extended periods of time. For example, sometimes I’ll have a rough few hours thanks to heightened anxiety.
Other times, it’s a constant, gnawing feeling that can last for weeks or months at a time.
Anxiety, panic attack or COVID-19 symptoms?
OK, let’s break this down. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the common symptoms of COVID-19 are shortness of breath, fever and cough.
The emergency warning symptoms—meaning you should seek immediate medical attention—include trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to be woken up, and bluish lips or face, the CDC reports. If you’re hearing some overlap with anxiety and panic attack symptoms, you’re not wrong.
“Shortness of breath from COVID-19 and a [panic] attack can present exactly the same,” Dr. Dion Metzger, a psychiatrist practicing in Atlanta, Georgia tells Lifehacker. “This is what makes it tricky.”
Here are a few other factors that will help you figure out what to do next.
Do you have other symptoms?
Though shortness of breath is one of the most-talked-about symptoms of COVID-19, Ivanov points out that it’s important to pay attention to whether you have other symptoms too. “Besides the shortness of breath, coronavirus symptoms are also severe cough and fever,” he explains. “They may appear anywhere between two and 14 days after exposure.”
If someone is experiencing shortness of breath or tightness in the chest—even for prolonged periods of time—but there is no cough along with those symptoms, then this is ly anxiety as a result of high stress levels, Ivanov says. “Whereas the COVID-19 symptoms should also include severe dry cough and fever. The virus affects the lungs and respiratory ways. The anxiety has an effect on the whole body.” (More on that in a minute.)
Do you typically experience anxiety and/or panic attacks?
If you’re an old pro at dealing with periods of anxiety or panic attacks, then Dr. W.
Nate Upshaw, a psychiatrist and medical director of NeuroSpa TMS says that you should know how these symptoms feel and already have a plan to deal with them.
“If your symptoms are feeling typical, and you don’t have any other medical symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or feelings of fatigue, it is probably anxiety and should resolve with your normal interventions,” he tells Lifehacker.
Do you have shortness of breath, but don’t feel particularly anxious?
People who have shortness of breath because of acute medical problems often lack the common symptoms of a panic attack, and sometimes don’t feel severe anxiety at all, Upshaw explains.
“They are obviously concerned that their breathing is impaired, but they lack some of the psychological symptoms of panic attacks such as feelings of anxiety, dissociation and catastrophic fears of death,” he says.
“Believe it or not, most people with shortness of breath from a medical condition won’t be focused on anxiety. Most people with shortness of breath due to anxiety will tell you they are anxious.”
When a symptom is medically caused, there wouldn’t be much relief seen with anxiety-reducing techniques.
Is anything helping your shortness of breath?
If you’re experiencing shortness of breath or a tightness in your chest, Metzger says to pay attention to what—if anything—helps to relieve it. “For example, if deep breathing helps you to lessen your shortness of breath associated with anxiety, it should be effective continuously,” she explains.
“When a symptom is medically caused as with the shortness of breath with COVID-19, there wouldn’t be much relief seen with anxiety-reducing techniques such as going into an open space or utilizing breathing techniques.
” So the key here, Metzger says, is not how the shortness of breath presents itself, but whether it can be relieved.
We’re living in a time of high anxiety. There is more than enough to worry about pertaining to our…
Use the ‘head-to-toe’ method to assess your anxiety and symptoms
Anxiety symptoms have definitely been on the rise since the COVID-19 precautions have begun, Metzger says. To help educate her patients about the possible physical symptoms of anxiety, she uses her “head to toe” method:
“Anxiety can affect us from head-to-toe—meaning we can have headaches, shoulder tension, stomach upset down to tingling in our toes,” she explains. “Do not be alarmed if you see these symptoms, as this anxious response is expected as it’s our human reaction to a pandemic.”
When should you seek medical attention?
The first time I had a full-blown panic attack, I went to an emergency clinic because I thought I was having a heart attack and dying. But now, given the incredible strain on hospitals and other medical facilities thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s not that simple (or safe).
“It is important to rule out any shortness of breath due to anxiety prior to going to the ER, as you don’t want to have unnecessary exposure to the virus,” Metzger explains. “The ER is one of the most high-risk places you can go to during this pandemic. I urge all patients to only go to the ER if absolutely necessary, and this goes for children too.
” You also don’t want to take beds or space away from other patients who need them more.
However, if someone is experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety (whether or not they have an official diagnosis) including shortness of breath, and they are worried it may be related to a medical problem such as COVID-19, Upshaw recommends getting a medical evaluation. “That is the only way to know for sure,” he says.
“Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 epidemic, going to seek medical attention carries the risk of exposure, so the patient may want to see if they can get an evaluation with a doctor by telemedicine. Their primary care doctor should let them know if this is possible.
If they feel they are having a medical emergency, they should go to the ER or call 911.”
Don’t ignore your mental health
But just because these symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks may not be signs of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate health concerns worthy of your attention right now.
“I urge everyone to use this time to reach out to their doctor if the anxiety symptoms become so severe that they’re unable to work, sleep or eat,” Metzger says. “There are medications that can help relieve this anxiety for this uncertain time we’re in right now.
This is the time to hit the emergency button and reach out to your doctor for some relief.” Again, telehealth options here are preferable.
Everything is hard out there right now. And if you’re someone experiencing more anxiety or depression than normal, know that you definitely are not alone.
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Anxious People Jump to Emotional Conclusions
A recent study has found that highly anxious adults can perceive changes in facial expressions much faster than adults who are not anxious.
But they jump to emotional conclusions a quick glance of the facial expression of others.
And highly anxious adults may make more errors in judgement and perpetuate a cycle of conflict and misunderstanding in their relationships.
Co-author R. Chris Fraley, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois said,
[H]ighly anxious individuals — people who are very insecure about their relationships — are more vigilant in monitoring the facial cues of others, but also make more mistakes in interpreting the emotional states behind facial expressions.
How the study was conducted
Fraley and his collaborators asked participants to view movies of faces in which the expression gradually changed from emotional to neutral, or vice versa. This was to investigate the relationship between emotional reaction and perception of facial cues. The participants were instructed to stop the movie at the point at which the expression had changed.
The study’s results
We found that highly anxious people tended to judge the change in facial expressions faster than less-anxious people. Importantly, highly anxious individuals also tended to make more perceptual errors than less-anxious individuals.
Highly anxious adults jump to emotional conclusions
Highly anxious adults were more sensitive and much more ly to jump to emotional conclusions, thus undermining their ability to perceive emotions accurately.
However, when highly anxious adults were forced to take the same amount of time as everybody else, they were able to judge emotional states more accurately than less-anxious adults.
This “hair trigger” style of perceptual sensitivity may be one reason why highly anxious people experience greater conflict in their relationships.
The irony is that they have the ability to make their judgments more accurately than less-anxious people, but, because they are so quick to make judgments about others’ emotions, they tend to mistakenly infer other people’s emotional states and intentions.
With Fraley, the paper’s co-authors are psychologist Paula M. Niedenthal at the National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France, and Illinois graduate students Michael Marks, Claudia Brumbaugh and Amanda Vicary. The researchers reported their findings in the August, 2006 issue of the Journal of Personality.
What do you think?
I can think of many scenarios in my life where my jumping to emotional conclusions precipitated “undesired results.” How much emotional strife and bickering could be avoided if we just acknowledged that we jump to conclusions half-perceived facial expressions!
- Have you had experiences where someone jumped to conclusions your facial expression?
- What do you think of science that only “proves” what everybody knew all along?
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Resources used in this post:
Kloeppel, James E. (2006, July 17). Anxious adults judge facial cues faster, but less accurately. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Web site: http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/06/0717anxious.html
Nauert, Rick. (2006, July 18). Anxious Adults Quick to Judgment. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from Psych Central Web site: http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/18/anxious-adults-quick-to-judgement/104.html
Jumping to Conclusions | Breaking the Bond of Assumptions
Do you ever wish you knew what others were thinking? Most of the time there is no way of truly knowing what someone is thinking, unless we ask. Trusting our own intuition about others’ intentions is important, although sometimes our thoughts can deceive us.
It’s a normal human phenomena to make conclusions about situations occurring around us. Often, our conclusions about events occurring around us are skewed or off base. This is the first blog in a series where we will explore the distortion referred to “jumping to conclusions”. According to Dr.
Burns “Feeling Good Handbook (1989)”, “Jumping to Conclusions is a distorted belief where one attempts to read people’s minds, often leading to negative interpretation.
” This negative thought pattern includes two subcategories; mind reading defined as the assumption people are always thinking negatively about them and fortune telling, defined as the automatic assumption that the outcome of events will be bad.
Cultivating false assumptions about others’ thoughts is the foundation of mind reading. These negative thoughts have no evidence bound to them and often have no logical basis or proof.
Yet, this distortion tricks a person into thinking that these negative assumptions are true.
This version of jumping to conclusions, mind reading, therefore causes one’s assumptions to be the driving force of their actions. Common examples include:
- Assuming that someone will definitely turn you down, before you even try asking them out.
- Assuming that a client doesn’t want to work with you, before you even send an offer.
- Assuming nobody will an article you just wrote anyway.
- Assuming that people are focused only on that one imperfection you have with your body or performance.
- Assuming that a group of people don’t you and they make fun of you.
Assumptions also fuel the distortion of fortune telling. The constant belief that everything will have a negative outcome can eventually influence how things unfold. When fortune telling, a person is their own prisoner torturing themselves with false assumptions. Some examples include:
- Applying to college and having the thought that you know that you will not get in.
- Assuming, “I’ll never get another job if I lose this one.”
- Assuming, “No one will ever love me if I leave this relationship.”
In order to set yourself free, working with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can help provide effective techniques to steer your mind away from negative thoughts. Here are also a few ways to help you stop jumping to conclusions on your own:
Check the Facts
- The best method to help begin ending this thought pattern is to check the facts and see if reality matches the negative perception.
- In CBT sessions as well as on your own, practicing life experiments will give you a great way to manage insecurities and see uncertainty from a logical viewpoint.
Remind Yourself of Past Positive Outcomes
- Find examples when your mind created false negative thoughts. Remind yourself that past outcomes may be positive or neutral. Consider the possibility that things can go differently.
Practice Trusting Yourself and Life
- You must believe in your personal power that there is always a step forward you can make, there is always an alternative path to your goal, and there is a positive narrative to find in every negative situation
Jumping to conclusions prevents an individual from seeing the world from a neutral point of view. Remembering that these distortions exist can help you distinguish when a distortion is clouding your mindset. You are in control of your mind and CBT can help give you the tools to keep your thoughts rooted in reality.
Written by: Rudairo Segbeaya recently received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of San Francisco. She’s working as an administrative assistant and social media coordinator at Pacific CBT while deciding the area of psychology she would to study in graduate school. It was co-written by John Montopoli, LMFT, LPCC, Pacific CBT’s founder.
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5 Ways to Stop Yourself From Jumping to Conclusions
You see your partner walking through the door with a shopping bag that seems too small to hold what you asked for from the supermarket. Immediately, you accuse your partner of failing to follow through on this simple chore.
As it turns out, though, you were the one who made the error. The bag actually does contain everything you requested, but it was so well-packed, it seemed inadequate for the job.
Now you’ve got to apologize, but the lack of trust you created with your suspicion has caused a tiny dent in your relationship.
People jump to conclusions all the time, whether in romantic relationships or in ordinary, day-to-day interactions. You see a stranger apparently cutting in front of you on the sidewalk, and so you become instantly annoyed.
A more careful look makes it clear that the person wasn’t being rude at all, but was just trying to hold the hand of her child, who was in danger of being lost in the crowd. The subject line of an email from a friend of yours appears to be canceling the dinner you two were planning. You’re aggravated and a little bit hurt.
However, after you open the email, you realize that he simply wanted to confirm. It’s a good thing you didn’t shut the email in disgust and not show up at the appointed time.
As it turns out, jumping to conclusions can not only interfere with your relationships, but if it is a severe enough pattern, it can also be harmful to an individual’s mental health.
You might be surprised to learn that the cognitive tendency of jumping to conclusions, abbreviated as “JTC,” is implicated in social anxiety and delusional disorders in what researchers call the “Threat Anticipation Model.
” In new research by University of East Anglia (UK)’s James Hurley and colleagues (2018), JTC interpretation bias is tested as a process that leads people to assume, wrongly, that a situation presents them with physical, social, or psychological harm.
In other words, you’re confronted with an emotionally ambiguous situation and automatically conclude that the situation will come out badly for you, because other people are out to hurt you. Putting this everyday tendency into a clinical context, then, you can see that if you perceive people who mean you no harm as having evil intent, your mental health (if not relationships) will be negatively impacted.
There is a standard test used to measure JTC, and it involves presenting you with a series of probabilistic choices to make (judging which of two jars a colored bead came from). People who score high on the JTC measure are ready to make their decisions about the bead's source before they actually have enough data to justify that decision. In the Hurley et al.
study, eight men and four women (average age 39.4 years old) were drawn from a community mental health center and given training intended to reduce their JTC tendencies. Of the 12 participants, five had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, three had a psychotic disorder, three had schizoaffective disorder, and one had delusional disorder.
Their diagnoses were made approximately 10 years prior to the intervention, and 11 of the 12 individuals were taking antipsychotic medications. In addition to having these clinical diagnoses, the participants also had elevated scores on a measure of social anxiety.
Their tendency to hold inflexible beliefs was also assessed, as this could contribute to JTC by priming individuals to make decisions consistent with their existing views.
The specific training method focused on JTC indeed served to reduce the tendency to reach premature conclusions, as well as belief inflexibility in nine of the 12 participants. Paranoia was reduced in six of the 12, and one person’s social anxiety was alleviated by the training.
An alternate cognitively focused training method was compared to the JTC-focused intervention, but it was not as effective in modifying JTC specifically.
The JTC intervention, developed by King’s College London’s Helen Waller and colleagues (2011), is known as the “Maudsley Review Training Programme” (MRTP).
If this ingrained cognitive bias can be reduced in individuals with clinically diagnosed disorders, it stands to reason that the approach could also be beneficial to individuals who do not have these disorders, but nevertheless approach their interactions with a negative bias. Looking now at the MRTP, see how you might benefit from this five-step method:
1. Think about times when you jumped to the wrong conclusions.
Thinking your partner failed to follow through on your wishes or assuming a parent was being rude are just two instances that people can encounter during their daily lives.
What about you? When was the last time you accused your partner of some flaw or failing that turned out to be an unfair criticism? When might you have turned right instead of left, because you didn’t read a sign carefully enough?
2. Test your ability to see the whole picture. In the MRTP, participants see part of a picture, one bit at a time (e.g., seeing the handle of a jug prior to seeing the rest of it). They had to guess what the entire picture represented. Participants were then instructed to look at more parts of the picture before deciding what it was.
3. See how easily you are fooled by illusions. Back in Introductory Psychology, you might have been given the “Mueller-Lyer” illusion in which you see two double-headed arrows. One set of arrows faces out and the other faces inward.
The two lines are actually the same length, but you are fooled by the arrows into thinking the one with the outward-facing arrows is longer.
If you rush to judgment, you’re more ly to be fooled by the illusion; by learning to take your time, you will be able to overcome this visual trick.
4. Ask yourself if you are too quick to form an impression of a person. In the training, participants see a picture of a person who is described as looking at them and staring.
Through training, participants learn to change their immediate judgment (e.g., they’re being looked at critically) to consider other options (e.g.
, the person is actually watching a TV screen behind your head).
5. See how many times other people jump to conclusions in movies or television that depict the tendency in a humorous way.
Remember the classic episode of Friends when Ross told Rachel they were on a “break”? It took years for this rift to be resolved, all due to mistaken suspicions that the characters had of each other.
By watching other people suffer the negative consequences of jumping to conclusions, you can see the logical flaws that your own thinking might contain.
To sum up, solid relationships with others depend on solid evidence. Allow yourself to take the time and willingness to suspend judgment, and your relationships will be all the more fulfilling.
Social Anxiety, Jumping to Conclusions, and Peace of Mind
Social anxiety, jumping to conclusions, and peace of mind: which one of the phrases doesn't seem to fit with the others? In this particular set of words, three's a crowd, and it seems that peace of mind doesn't fit.
Social anxiety and jumping to conclusions often go hand-in-hand, each make the other worse until a person's brain is chaotic and swirling with anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. No wonder peace of mind doesn't naturally fit. There's no room.
When jumping to conclusions is removed, there's plenty of room for peace of mind even when social anxiety remains.
Jumping to Conclusions Ignites Social Anxiety
Social anxiety, put simply, is the fear of being judged by others, the fear of making mistakes and proving the negative judgments correct, and/or, the fear of embarrassment. The fear of the opinions of others is so deeply rooted that automatically, in almost every situation, people with social anxiety begin jumping to conclusions and assuming that others are looking down on them.
Someone living with social anxiety disorder might have a job she loves but can't enjoy; she lives in perpetual fear of her supervisors and coworkers thinking she's inferior and hating her because of it.
Someone else might have such severe social anxiety that it becomes avoidant personality disorder.
He's afraid of the scrutiny and negative opinions of others to such a degree that he severely restricts his life and actions.
all mental health disorders, social anxiety disorder is complex and can't be assigned a single cause and easy solution. That said, there are things that have been found to contribute greatly to social anxiety.
Researchers and practitioners in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an approach to helping and healing that addresses the way people think and how their thoughts impact their behaviors (and feelings), have identified a number of faulty thought patterns, often called automatic, negative thoughts, that get in the way of healthy functioning and someone's ability to live life fully. One such automatic negative thought pattern that is widely implicated in social anxiety is jumping to conclusions.
Mind-Reading Is Similar to Jumping to Conclusions
Jumping can be great physical exercise. Jumping rope and jumping on trampolines can be fun, exhilarating, and invigorating. Jumping to conclusions is not so great. It feels horrible, it's exhausting, and it increases social anxiety. It most certainly doesn't create peace of mind.
To jump to conclusions is to form a thought or an opinion before checking it out for accuracy. A form of jumping to conclusions is mind reading.
With mind reading and social anxiety, a person experiencing the anxiety can take one look, even just a sideways glance, at someone and “know” that the person hates him or her or thinks he or she ridiculous, incompetent, and any other negative thing that fuels social anxiety.
Mind reading is interpreting someone's thoughts without actually knowing what those thoughts are. Mind reading isn't truly seeing yourself the way another person sees you; mind reading is seeing yourself the way you see you. Mind reading and jumping to the conclusion that another person regards you with disdain does not create the peace of mind you deserve.
According to CBT, another form of jumping to conclusions is fortune telling. mind reading, fortune telling contributes heavily to social anxiety disorder because it's driven by anxious, negative assumptions that haven't been proven true.
Fortune telling projects anxiety, in this case social anxiety, into the future. The woman from the above example might “know” that she will be fired because others think she's incompetent.
She has read her coworkers' minds and has concluded that they think she's a horrible person and a horrible worker, and now she is fortune telling and fully believes that she will lose her job because others think she's no good.
Social Anxiety and Peace of Mind
Jumping to conclusions, whether mind reading, fortune telling, or both, feeds social anxiety, making it ever stronger so that its squeeze grows harder and more stifling. The more we experience social anxiety, the more we tend to jump to conclusions, and the more we jump to conclusions, the more socially anxious we become.
It's possible to get off that trampoline and stop jumping to conclusions. There are social anxiety treatments. The next post, Visualization Exercises Can Conquer Anxiety, will address how to reduce social anxiety, stop jumping to conclusions, and develop peace of mind.
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Peterson, T. (2015, October 22). Social Anxiety, Jumping to Conclusions, and Peace of Mind, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/10/social-anxiety-jumping-to-conclusions-and-peace-of-mind
6 Ways Your Anxious Thoughts Are Screwing With Reality
It's very helpful to be mindful of the various ways of thinking—and you’ll definitely recognize these patterns in yourself—so that you can step back and realize when you’ve fallen into a “mind trap,” often referred to as “cognitive distortions.” The one I’m most guilty of? Catastrophizing, which we’ll start with.
Catastrophizing is a distorted type of thinking that really amplifies anxiety. It’s when we jump to the worst possible conclusion, expecting disaster, or we see something as being far worse than it actually is. Sound familiar? Jumping to the worst-case scenario is my super power.
We look at situations or challenges that face us, automatically imagining the worst possible thing that could happen.
Our minds continue this with the what-ifs game. This is when our minds go on and on: What if this worst-case scenario happens?
Catastrophizing can generally take two forms. In the first, it takes a current situation and gives it a truly negative “spin.
” The second occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong.
Breaking the cycle can be hard, but as it is the case with anxiety overall there are some simple steps to acknowledge what’s happening and stop it before it gets control:
- Recognize when you’re doing it!
- Start recording your negative thoughts to yourself. Write down what happened and what you thought about the situation as objectively as you can, and then write down what your reaction or behaviors were.
- Change your self-talk to be more forgiving and “hopeful.”
- Instead of trying to stop yourself from catastrophizing from here on out (it’s a hard one to avoid), realize that the worst thing that “could” happen isn’t always that terrible.
RELATED: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder
Polarized thinking happens when you believe that there are only right or wrong outcomes or views.
When you view things in terms of pure good or pure bad, it leads to unachievable standards and high stress levels.
Polarized thinking crops up when you find yourself basing your hopes and expectations on a single event or outcome, such as getting into the college course you’ve dreamed about, wanting everyone to be impressed by you, a specific level of income, or even a certain level of satisfaction.
- Realize that there are a lot of levels between triumph and tragedy, and that most things fall somewhere in between.
- Understand that no single accomplishment or failure is going to determine your future happiness.
- Don’t expect that your values will never change or that other people will value the same things as you.
- Try to figure out what the actual consequences of failure are, and have a plan for dealing with those consequences.
RELATED: 14 Ways to Stop Feeling So Anxious
Filtering is taking the negative details and magnifying them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
For example, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.
- Learn to evaluate things clearly and objectively, even if you still feel more aware of the sh*t stuff.
- Look for positives.
- Resist “minimalizing” your efforts or achievements.
- Acknowledge your own growth by comparing how you have improved or done things better than a month/year/five years ago.
RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety
This is thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you specifically. For example—and I’ve done this so many times—thinking that a friend’s bad mood is because I’ve done something to irritate them, and so I search my mind for reasons to blame myself. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better-looking, etc.
The underlying assumption is that your worth is in question.
You are therefore continually forced to test your value as a person by measuring yourself against others. If you come out better, you get a moment’s relief. If you come up short, you feel diminished. The basic thinking error is that you interpret each experience, each conversation, each look as a clue to your own worth and value.
- Understand that other people may not be aware that their bad moods are on display.
- Realize that others can have an awful lot going on in their heads.
- If you really think you’ve done something wrong—ask them.
- If nothing springs to mind, realize that you are most ly guilty of personalization, but don’t berate yourself for it. Observe it.
- Try to avoid jumping to the conclusion that you are at fault next time around.
- Try not to change your behavior around the person; their mood is their issue.
RELATED: Ask Yourself These 3 Questions to Stop Overthinking a Problem
Overgeneralization is coming to a general conclusion a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, we expect it to happen over and over again.
A person may see a single, unpleasant event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Using “always” and “never” are clues that this style of thinking is at work.
This distortion can lead to a restricted life, as you avoid future failures the single incident or event. You jump to conclusions without individuals saying anything, as though you know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do.
In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us. For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them and don’t actually bother to find out if they are correct.
Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.
- Observe your tendency to overgeneralize in your day-to-day life.
- Next time, try to look at the facts; is it really “always” or “never” or are you dramatizing reality? Take your emotions it.
- Try to treat events in isolation, instead of taking things in the past as a predictor of what will happen in the future.
RELATED: 11 Ways to Help Someone Who Has Anxiety
Similar in ways to overgeneralizations, it’s just crazy to believe you can correctly know a person’s reasons for the way they behave. Their actions may or may not be deliberate.
The person may not even be aware of what they are doing (this is, in my experience, so often the case). Their actions may or may not be directed at you. Their actions may have unintended consequences or may result from an accident or chance.
We judge others behavior, and we judge ourselves intent. It is difficult to determine cause when only the effect of something can be observed.
- Take heed of “consensus” information. If most people behave the same way when put in the same situation, then the situation is more ly to be the cause of the behavior.
- Ask yourself how you would behave in the same situation.
- Look for unseen causes, specifically looking for less-salient factors.
RELATED: How to Tell the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack
Simple steps to challenge cognitive distortions
Be aware of what you are saying to yourself. Ask yourself: “What is going through my mind?” or “What is it about this situation that is upsetting me?”
Challenge your thoughts. Remember, just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true. Ask yourself: “Is this thought helpful?”; “Am I being realistic?”; “Would other people in this situation think these thoughts?”; “Is this an example of one of the common mind traps?”
Consider the following strategies and ask yourself some of these questions:
- Look for evidence: What’s the evidence for and against my thought? Am I focusing on the negatives and ignoring other information? Am I jumping to conclusions without looking at all the facts?
- Search for alternative explanations: Are there any other possible explanations? Is there another way of looking at this? Am I being too inflexible in my thinking?
- Put thoughts into perspective: Is it as bad as I am making out? What is the worst that could happen? How ly is it that the worst will happen? Even if it did happen, would it really be that bad? What could I do to get through it?
- What is a more helpful thought? What can I say to myself that will help me remain calmer and help me achieve what I want to achieve in this situation?
Excerpted from Own It.: Make Your Anxiety Work for You by Caroline Foran. Copyright © 2017, 2019. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com
The Benefits of Not Jumping to Conclusions
Human brains simplify information under stress. Largely awareness, we have a tendency to categorize experiences into extremes of good and bad, black and white, right or wrong. Most of life, however, happens in the gray areas. We lose the subtleties that are always there if we are too quick to know.
When I take something personally or feel stung by something someone said or did, I try to remind myself to get curious about other meanings, other ways of understanding the moment.
For example, if someone is rude to me at a store, I could easily get angry and think to myself, “What a jerk!” But that thought process also gets me more riled up.
That way of thinking fuels my anger, which makes me feel more agitated. My goal is to keep calm.
So, as an alternative, I could think, “Perhaps this person is acting this way because she is suffering. Maybe something I am not aware of is happening in her life that is making her act rude.” Maybe she just lost someone she loves.
Maybe she had a terrible fight with her partner that morning. Or maybe she just received a scary medical diagnosis from a doctor.
Knowing those reasons are all possible helps me access compassion both for the person acting rude and myself for getting “dumped on.”
It takes some focus to resist the temptation to “know.” Instead of giving in to your brain’s natural inclination to be sure about what’s happening, look for nuance and the unknown.
This approach is a particularly useful parenting strategy. Let’s say my child or stepchild, Marcia, comes home and allows the front door to slam.
My thinking brain might be quick to generalize that the reason she slammed the door was hostility toward me.
But there may be other reasons that have nothing to do with me. I have the power to resist this natural temptation of the brain to come to quick judgments. Instead, I can call upon my aware self to become curious.
I could think to myself, “I wonder why Marcia slammed the door?” Then I might sift through the various reasons one could slam a door: by mistake from slippery fingers or forgetting to hold it; or because she is angry at herself or someone else; or because she wants attention and to let someone know she is home, albeit in a childish way. Maybe you can come up with some other reasons as well.
I can’t know my child’s intent for sure until I ask her (and that is assuming she knows her own motivations and will disclose them to me.) The important point here is not to jump too quickly to conclusions or be too quick to respond harshly.
Ultimately, I might decide to ask her why she slammed the door or simply make a request that she not to do that because it hurts my ears.
But I would also take the slam as a cue to actively notice and tune in to her emotional state. I slow myself down to notice her facial expression, body posture and the .
This may give me most of the information I need to make a preliminary assumption and then tailor my question or request accordingly.
If I can see that she is in a sullen mood, I can ask her how her day was concern and take it from there. Later on, when she is in a better mood, I can address the door slam and avoid a fight that might have ensued if I had confronted her the moment she walked in.
People often make snap judgments and reactions. In a moment of tension or conflict, it is important to remember that our brains are generalizing and drawing assumptions our prior experiences and histories. We have the choice, however, to remain open to new information, to increases our understanding of what is happening between two people in the present moment, and to curtail assumptions.
Since everyone is different, if we generalize our quick assumptions, which come from our unique histories, we lose valuable information available in the present.
We need to try to see and understand a current moment through the minds of others, and not only as a reflection of our own unique lens and our own unique history. We can do that by keeping an open mind first and foremost. After that, there is communication.
When someone in our midst acts in a way we don’t , there is nothing better than communicating our curiosity and desire to understand their true intent.
Jump image available from Shutterstock.
The Benefits of Not Jumping to Conclusions