The ABC's of Anxiety is a spin on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that challenges the way in which you think and cope with your anxieties. The objects and manifestations of your fears do not fuel your anxieties. Rather, the way you perceive and think about situations stress you out. In short, you're overthinking situations and building them up into something that scares you. Here's why you should consider learning these ABC's to help with your anxiety:
- You can do this by yourself.
- Your therapist will have more tools to help you.
- You can practice relieving anxiety on your own time.
- It's free with the help of our ABCtracker™.
With this in mind, professionals designed this treatment as a form of self-help or guided healing with the help of a physician or psychologist. Use the ABC's to challenge your beliefs, change how you see your anxieties, and eventually learn that you had nothing to fear in the first place.
How Do You Perceive Your Anxiety?
Take a moment to step back and break down your anxiety. The point is to look at your fears with a new perspective. Try and understand that your thoughts and beliefs are not absolute truth. They are our perception of the world that comes from our own learning and experiences. Sometimes, however, we can learn wrong things or wrong ways of doing something. We encourage you to examine your thoughts and beliefs as you would examine a hypothesis – not as an absolute truth. Sometimes what we think or believe could be misleading and make our fears and anxieties worse.
Before getting to your fears, look at basic thoughts that often cross your mind. Do any of these negative thoughts or beliefs sound familiar?
- I will never get better.
- This always happens.
- This will end in the worst way possible.
- I deserve this.
Thinking patterns like this sometimes gives ill meaning to harmless events or associates bad feelings to certain situations. All in all, this feeds your anxiety. Identifying your ABC's helps to restructure your thoughts, suggest new ways of thinking, and ultimately manage whatever is stressing you out. One way to put your thoughts and beliefs into perspective is to look at the facts.
Applying Those ABC's
Say you have a fear of flying. Using the ABCtracker™, you identify the ABC's of your flying anxiety and here's what you have:
- Alarm: Sitting on the plane, you find it hard to breathe, you are sweating, and your stomach is in knots. These are physical alarms that show your anxiety.
- Belief: You think the pilot will lose control. You think the wings weren't checked properly. You think the plane will crash. You think you're going to die. The list goes on.
- Coping: You avoid flying.
You're limited to making short trips, driving 14+ hours, and never seeing what's on the other side of the ocean. But you're okay with that. And you live this way because your beliefs about flying have become so strong, you see it as truth. Do you think that you might not be looking at the whole picture to any flying situation? Three words: worst-case scenario.
You most likely think the worst of the situation, and then focus only on that outcome. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I been in a plane crash?
- Do I know anyone affected by plane crashes?
- Was there a plane crash today?
How strongly do you believe that you're going to be in a plane crash now? Answering questions like these put your beliefs into perspective. These are simple facts that you can see for yourself. After you answer these questions, look for evidence that supports your beliefs on the likelihood of a plane crash. Search phrases like “odds of plane crash" or “plane crash statistics."
Even if you're flying the bottom of the barrel of airlines, the odds of you dying in a plane crash are around 1 in 2 million. Which is a very low chance. When you look at the numbers, you start to realize that you're focusing on a tiny probability, and making it into a much bigger deal. By challenging your beliefs with this simple exercise, do you feel less anxious and more open-minded to new ideas? Research the reality of your anxiety and see what you learn. This exercise, among others in the ABCtracker, help you consider the possibility of living a fuller life with your perceive anxieties.
Being afraid of flying is normal. But cutting out plane trips entirely is a little extreme. The end goal is not to completely change your beliefs, but to soften those thoughts, and encourage you to try and face your fears. The ABCtracker™ keeps track of the intensity of your alarms, beliefs, and coping strategies. Along with its unique tools, the ABCtracker™ challenges your beliefs, suggests new coping methods, and shows how your ABC's of anxiety weaken and become manageable over time.
What If It's All in My Head?
Some troubling beliefs relate to people, places, and things. Sometimes your anxious beliefs can't be challenged with real numbers. Do any of these beliefs sound familiar?
- “Bad things always happen to me."
- “My friends don't like me."
- “If I ask for help, it is a sign of weakness."
- “This is too hard."
Sometimes, you believe so strongly that you can't consider other possibilities. These thoughts make it difficult for you to overcome your fears. Why do you think this way? Let's take a look at some habits you have that you might be unaware of.
Without communicating to others, you assume you know how they feel. You think you know everything, and let your assumptions become fact.
When I face _____, the worst possible thing will happen…
Whenever you are about to step out of your comfort zone, you assume the worst possible outcome. Thinking the worst is called catastrophizing.
It's my fault…
The first person to blame is yourself. When something happens, you tend to take it personally and punish yourself.
This always happens…
Maybe you have had trouble in the past. And if it happened once, you're under the impression that it will happen again.
Before you can make it out of your comfort zone, you're stuck thinking," What if ________ happens?"
Try and think of alternate beliefs that go against yours. More often than not, you may find thoughts like these consume you. To overcome these negative thoughts, challenge them. Use tools in the ABCtracker™ identify your thought patterns, suggest alternative ways of thinking.
The Rest is Up to You
So you've researched your fears, and done some thinking. Unfortunately, reading this article once through won't be enough to free you of your anxieties. This is just the starting point. ABC Therapy focuses on weakening your alarms and beliefs, encouraging new coping strategies, and helping you maintain and monitor the ABC's that make up your anxiety. It also teaches how to approach your anxieties from new perspectives with a goal going on to lead a more adventurous life. However these new ways of thinking don't sink in overnight. CBT is a gradual treatment that will benefit you with practice. Most importantly, CBT works when you commit to the steps and are open to adaptive ways of thinking.
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Date of original publication: April 15, 2014
Updated: September 12, 2019