Anxiety Habit Loop

Think about the fact that anxiety hides in our habits. That is anxiety can be a habit loop.

I’ve been reading the book Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer and highly recommend it. This is a short video that describes a little more on how the anxiety loop happens.

First, it’s important to know our survival brain is set up to avoid danger. We automatically act to avoid danger or unpleasant feelings. If you’re crossing the road reading your phone and hear the honking of a car you immediately jump back onto the curb without needing to think about it – it’s automatic! Just like habits require no thinking they are automatic.

Habits are formed in a 3 step process.

There is the Trigger/Cue for the behaviour and the behaviour seeks to produce a Reward or Result.

Here is an example. You have an unpleasant feeling of anxiety. That’s the cue/trigger. That behaviour could be anything that seeks to avoid and distract from that feeling like eating, smoking or worrying.

One of the biggest habit loops is worry. We feel the physical sensation of anxiety that’s the cue/trigger. The behaviour is worrying and the reward for worrying can be a feeling of being in control even if you’re not in control at all or a feeling of at least doing something.

It’s rewarding for the brain to say,” hey you’re worrying at least you’re doing something (even though it may be unproductive or unhelpful)” and that reward feeling feeds and tells our brain next time you’re anxious you should worry some more and that’s how anxiety is set up as a habit.

I’ll be posting more short videos with ideas from the book Unwinding Anxiety, where there are 3 steps to reframe and change these anxiety habit loops.

The first step is to map your anxiety habit loops. You can do that with this worksheet. Habit Mapper from Dr Jud

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