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I Feel Out of Control - Could Behavior Therapy Help Me?


Do you feel out of control? Is anxiety ruining your life? Whether a mental health professional diagnosed you with an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or you are dealing with chronic nervous feelings, behavior therapy can change your life. Behavior therapy helps people examine problematic compulsions and supports them in changing those behaviors. Let’s look into how behavioral therapy could help you.

What is behavior therapy?

Behavioral therapy is it type of treatment that focuses on how people act. In treatment such as CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, a person learns to stop participating in “dysfunctional” behavior and learns healthier ways to cope. This may help people with OCD, who are dealing with unwanted obsessions and compulsions. Compulsions are problematic “loud” urges. A behavioral therapist can help someone gain control over their impulses. Often, the underlying problem is anxiety. A  therapist may work with you to help you learn to cope with this and the feelings of guilt and shame so often associated with self-destructive behavior.

It’s a myth that people with anxiety want attention.

There is a common misconception that people with anxiety are dramatic. Let’s be clear: you don’t have a choice when it comes to mental illness. You can choose how you cope with it, but not whether you have it or don’t. The person with anxiety didn’t choose to panic, and they are not trying to get attention; they are in emotional distress. Someone with anxiety isn’t necessarily asking for attention. Maybe their recurrent panic attacks are so overwhelming that they’re reaching out for help. Individuals who live with OCD or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often struggle with a lack of control over situations. They ask for reassurance when they can’t find an answer to their problems. There’s a balance between chronic reassurance-seeking behavior and occasionally asking for support. If you have anxiety or OCD and you find yourself continually asking others to comfort you and tell you everything is going to be all right, this could be disruptive to your relationships and your ability to comfort yourself. Consider talking to a behavior therapist about learning self-soothing techniques. A mental health professional can help you learn to tell yourself that things will be OK, so you don’t have to ask others for that reassurance constantly.

We often hear behaviors associated with mental illness as damaging, destructive or even “bad.” People who have mental illness aren’t inherently “bad” or “wrong,” but they have a legitimate health problem. 

When a person has documented anxiety in their medical chart, they should prepare for medical professionals to chalk up their symptoms of anxiety. Imagine your anxiety is so severe that it’s causing you emotional distress in addition to physical problems, such as muscle tension and migraines. You go to the doctor and confide in them that you’re in emotional pain hoping they will understand and lead you to a mental health professional who can help you feel better. They understand the headaches and the muscle tightness, but they can’t seem to grasp your mental anguish. Unfortunately, there are many instances where a doctor looks at you like you have three heads when you tell them you’re suffering because of mental health issues. They might not understand why you’re telling them this and why you haven’t saved this information for a therapist. Don’t feel discouraged by their reaction. They might not know much about mental health issues, but there are other resources where you can find help for your problems.

You may feel powerless about your self-destructive behavior, but you can get help. You can search for a therapist in your area or search for someone who specializes in behavior therapy online. There are so many ways to get treatment for problematic behaviors. Whatever you’re dealing with, don’t give up. The right therapist is out there.

When you start treatment, it’s not going to be easy and there will be times when you get frustrated, even with your therapist! You can’t change the thoughts you have, but you can change how you react toward them, and that matters.

Getty image by AntonioGuillem.