Recognising and Breaking Anxiety Rules - dummies

Recognising and Breaking Anxiety Rules

By Graham C. Davey, Kate Cavanagh, Fergal Jones, Lydia Turner, Adrian Whittington

Part of Managing Anxiety with CBT For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

Everyone uses rules and assumptions to get by in daily life. These rules and assumptions offer a mental shortcut, saving time and effort in dealing with day-to-day situations.

Many rules and assumptions are helpful (for example, look both ways before crossing the road; ask if you want to borrow something from someone), but with anxiety you may have unhelpful, unrealistic or rigid rules that underpin anxious thoughts and feelings (such as, I should never make mistakes; I am responsible for everyone’s safety and happiness).

You can find your own anxiety rules by listing the last few times you’ve felt anxious. What were your thoughts at each of those times? Are there any similarities or patterns to your thoughts that suggest a common theme? What rule might underpin these experiences?

For example, when if you often feel anxious because you imagine other people being disappointed with you because what you’ve done isn’t good enough, the rule might be ‘everything I do must be to the very highest standard’.

Common rules associated with anxiety are focused on perfectionist standards of achievement and being in control. Learning to break your anxiety rules can help you to understand and overcome your anxiety for good.