Overgeneralizing Spells Trouble for Anxiety Sufferers

  Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Let me read you this article instead

Let’s say a college student is delivering a speech for a debating competition. Everything is going fine, and she has done all the important research work she needed to do for the speech. However, as she is delivering it, she forgets an important point, and she takes a long pause for 10 seconds to collect her thoughts and come back. When she can’t recall those important points, she ultimately leaves the floor in embarrassment. 

She overgeneralized her failure to recall, thinking she is unable to do the remaining activity as her memory sucks. This is combined and aggravated by social anxiety, which roots from the fear of people looking down upon the individual. 

You can detect a lot of patterns that root from this type of cognitive distortion known as overgeneralization. Our lives as humans are unique, and every experience we have in our life comes to us with delicate accuracy and time. A matter of a few seconds can change the whole experience for you, so if you think you can predict things with accuracy, maybe you should give it another thought. 

You can’t overgeneralize your failures or any negative experiences and expect a different outcome. This is because when you overgeneralize, you are letting all your negative thoughts control the way you perceive things merely based on your past experience. It is like wearing shades tinted pink and seeing everything in pink color. Each time you’re wearing those shades, you can’t expect to see different colors. 

What Happens When You Overgeneralize? 

As a result, you avoid trying new things, taking risks, accepting compliments, forming relationships, and do anything that involves some degree of risk. It is especially critical in anxiety sufferers, like in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), overgeneralization can induce severe anxiety and can even lead to panic attacks. This ends up in an endless cycle of anxiety-related symptoms that can put you in an uncomfortable state when any triggering thing comes to the surface. 

The good news is that Cognitive Behavior Therapy, also known as simply CBT, helps in breaking down these subtle patterns of anxiety and overgeneralization that can help an individual overcome these toxic cognitive distortion behavior traits. Re-framing is a simple yet powerful process to help alleviate this problem. 

The first step in stopping overgeneralization for anxiety sufferers is to pinpoint troublesome thinking patterns. See what triggers you and watch out for any negative thoughts that aggravate a situation. From there, you can challenge the statements that overgeneralize. For instance, if you say -- "I always get nervous speaking to large groups of people," then you could challenge and/or re-frame that thought with, "Yes, I notice an uptick in my nerves when speaking to groups, but that won't stop me from doing it." A simple re-framing of how you think about a given situation can have dramatic affects in the quality of your life. 

Another important step involved in the healing process is to overcome your fears of trying something new and instead of wearing any shades, try seeing things with your naked eye. Whenever a negative thought pops up, neutralize it and ask yourself, “What if something exciting happens?”, “What if I learn something new?” 

You need to change how you talk to yourself. 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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