OCD & Anxiety Treatment: How We Justify Living With Anxiety
In this episode, I discuss how we often justify living with anxiety. To put simply, when our anxious minds come up with a potential threat and then we engage in a specific behavior in an attempt to neutralize the threat. We form a false connection. If the perceived threat doesn’t happen, we believe that our safety behavior prevented the event from happening. For example, if I wear my lucky shoes then my plane won’t crash. So we start to make the justification for continuing these safety behaviors and continuing living with anxiety. In this episode, I discuss the problem of justifying anxiety and why breaking these connections is crucial for your recovery.
All right, hello and welcome to this episode where we're going to continue our series on OCD and anxiety treatment and talk about how we justify anxiety. And so, um, you know, this is kind of a, an interesting topic because this is something that we, you know, anyone who deals with anxiety or OCD, you know, this is something that everyone does, right, um, is that we justify our behaviors that reinforcing anxiety. And so, and what what we do is that, uh, you know, ultimately our anxious minds, you know, we'll create a thought, right? It'll create some kind of what if thought or, you know, some potential threat and then we do something in an attempt to try to control or neutralize that threat, right? And then what we do is B, because we neutralized it in our mind the next time it comes up, we continue doing that and so on and so forth.
And that's ultimately the cycle of anxiety, right? Um, and you know, a good example of this could be, um, the fear of flying. So, you know, recently my family and I went down on a trip down to Mexico and for wedding, and we were flying back, right. And I was, I ended up sitting next to this, uh, this one gentlemen. Um, and, you know, we start talking and I, you know, he asked me what I, what I do and I'm like, Oh, you know, I specialize in working with people with OCD and anxiety. And he starts to ask me a little bit about it. And I tell him my story with dealing with it personally and how I kinda got into, uh, the, you know, working in this in general, and he starts telling me that he has this incredible fear of flying, not usually the thing that you want to hear when you're on a flight with someone right now.
Um, I mean, I'm kidding, but, um, and at the end of the day, um, you know, we start talking about it, right? And, you know, and anytime I start telling someone that I used to be, people always want to like tell me all their fears and stuff and which is just fun. Um, you know, because it's, it's cool to see people open up sometimes because often they've never told anyone. And um, so what happens is, is we're, we're sitting on the flight and he starts telling me about all these things he does before flying, right? And so one of the things was that I remember is that he has to wear a specific pair of shoes, right? And there's several other behaviors, but um, you know, he, he wears these specific pair of shoes every time that he flies. And so I asked him, you know, just, just directly, I'm like, okay, so if we, if you don't wear those shoes, do you believe the plane is gonna crash?
And he says, well, no, you know, I don't, but at the same time he's like, I can't not wear them right in. And this is what happens. This is a good example of justifying anxiety and justifying living with anxiety, right? Because what happens with anxiety is that in this situation specifically is that when we do these certain behaviors to try to control a fear, and in that fear doesn't come true. We didn't falsely associate that because we did those behaviors. It prevented the fear from coming. True. Okay. So let's, let's look at the fear of flying. For example, if I had that, the rituals of wearing a specific pair of shoes and maybe even a shirt and then I had to do 10 jumping jacks and um, you know, and to a specific piece of bubblegum every time before I went on a plane and then the plane didn't crash, my brain's going to make that connection regardless whether it's true or not that because I did all that the plane crash, especially if I was really afraid of the plane crashing.
Right? Cause that's what anxiety is, right? It comes up with this potential threat and then we try to control it. And then if the threat doesn't happen, we think that what we did controlled it. Does that, I mean, hopefully that makes sense. Right? Um, you know, because, and we did this with anything, right? If we have the fear of getting fired, right? You know from work and there's no evidence to suggest that we're going to get fired. And then we go and do all our emails throughout the night and make sure that our emails are perfect and then we don't get fired. We make this false connection that well doing all that email work and all that extra stuff we did actually prevented me from getting fired when the reality was it was never going to happen in the first place. Right. Most likely. And that's, that's how we make the justification for living with anxiety.
Right? Our brain comes up with these potential threats and we do these safety behaviors and we do them more and more and more. Cause it usually builds and builds and builds. And because the thing that we're afraid of doesn't happen, we keep doing them. And that was what I asked him. I said, well, you know, if I, if you just didn't wear these shoes on your next flight, you know, like, and then we kind of, we talked about like what would happen, right? Well, what would happen is, is odds are the plane would take off and it would land, right? And then his brain would learn that the shoes never kept him safe. And that's like the greatest part about, you know, um, you know, working with people. When I, when I get the opportunity to work with people and you know, with exposures and all that stuff, it's my favorite thing because you know, so often people will do these exposures for months or years, right?
And then all of a sudden we will do an exposure, right? Or, you know, face some kind of feared situation and then not do the safety behaviors and the anxiety will diminish. And this click will happen with, with people that, Oh, well, you know, I, maybe I didn't need to do that. Right. And I remember like, when that happened with me, right, it was like I used to do all these kind of religious routines because I was so afraid that I was going to get possessed one day. Right. When, you know, when I was really, you know, I was about 18, 19, I was really just lost in this. I kind of fear. And then one day I, I S I just stopped doing them, right? You know, through this process of exposure and response prevention, I was told to stop doing them. And then what happened is you didn't get possessed.
I didn't get possessed. And then I realized that there was no actual correlation. It wasn't a possession issue as an anxiety issue. Right? And that's the same thing. It's, it's not that the plane was ever going to crash. It's not a plane crashing issue. It's an anxiety issue. And, and that, that connection we make though is why we justify living with anxiety. Right. And there's a really good example of this to continue on this series of and better call Saul. And you know, I know I'm going to talk about this in this series of as we move through because it's a show that I'm just, I'm watching, right? With my wife. And, um, what, what we do oftentimes is we justify that because we feel something. It must be real, right? And in, and so I'm better call Saul. Um, like I explained in the, in the last episode, Chuck has this fear of, uh, these electromagnetic fields, right?
And he, he has, he's developed this belief that he's allergic to him. So when he's exposed to him, he goes into this like paralysis state. And what happens is, is he goes, he ends up getting hospitalized actually, and he's in the hospital. He's laying there and he's being exposed to this light. And once they turn all the lights off, he talks about how he's fine and the doctors asking him like, well, what's going on? And he starts explaining all his symptomology and it's all the symptomology of anxiety, right? Well, I get a racing heart, you know, I get a tingling sensation in my head and my skin. Um, you know, in my, you know, I start breathing really fast. I get, you know, it's like, so he starts explaining all these symptoms, all the symptoms that he gets from his allergy, and it's actually a very clear explanation of anxiety, right?
And the doctor like turns on this, um, you know, electro, uh, electric plug, right? Right next to him, and he doesn't know. And he has zero reaction to it. And the doctor renal was essentially proving a point like it's not actually an allergy, it's just in his mind, right? But he uses the feelings that he has as justification as to why his fear is real. And that's what a lot of us do, right? We, we say, well, you know what? I feel uncomfortable getting on a plane. So the plane must be a threat, right? It must be dangerous when the reality is it's the safest transportation available, right? And we do this with everything, right? Well, I feel anxious at night, so I must, it must mean that I'm going to get fired, right? Or whatever it is that we're worried about, right? We use our feelings as justification to engage in our behaviors that then reinforce the anxiety.
And when we get in that loop, what happens is the anxiety grows and grows and grows. And ultimately, again, our life becomes smaller and smaller and smaller. And so what we have to do is realize that we, that we have to often take that leap in and challenge those behaviors we're doing and let the anxiety go down on its own. And that will allow that click to happen where you're, where you realize you don't need to be doing these behaviors. And, and again, in this show, there's this excellent example where Chuck's just walking, right? And he's, uh, he's kind of like consumed in this work he's doing. And he just walks outside without thinking and he's standing at a car and he kind of has this like realization moment where he's like, what am I doing? I'm out here. Right? And he, it's something that he hadn't done in like, you know, potentially months or years, right?
He had hadn't gone outside and he just kinda does it. And then he realizes that he's safe out there and he realizes all the behaviors that he's been doing actually weren't keeping him safe. Right. He has this kind of almost epiphany moment. Right? And, and that's really what anxiety treatment is about, right? It's about getting to that place where, what we, what we think our fear is or our danger, and realizing that all the things we think we're doing to prevent that there's actually not a connection that's happening, right? It's the same way with someone who's, uh, afraid of, um, you know, getting AIDS, right, uh, from touching doorknobs. And they think that washing their hands is preventing them from getting AIDS. Well, they were never going to get AIDS, right? Like there's extremely low probability and in that connection they're making is what's reinforcing.
So hopefully that's making sense. And so, so just to recap, this episode is just, um, you know, it's just this idea of we justify living with anxiety sometimes because we use a feeling based judgment one and then we justify because the behaviors we're doing make us feel safer. Right? And, and the reality is that sometimes we have to challenge those behaviors and ultimately let the feelings and uncertainty go down on its own. And that's what all will allow that breakthrough. Right? And that really is the process of exposure and response prevention. So hopefully that makes sense. And, um, and just, I encourage you to look at ways you might be justifying, um, anxiety and OCD in your own life. And secondly, if this is something that you struggle with, you know, I just want to let you know that we're here to help you. I mean, I'm at restored mines.com we have resources, free assessments, uh, free downloads, you know, to help you on your journey to recovery. Cause this is what we do. This is what we specialize in. And so, um, you know, we just want to say thank you so much for tuning into this show and, uh, we wish you a wonderful week and we will see you next week as we continue this series on OCD and anxiety treatment. Take care.