Columns | Kane County Chronicle

Fear-fueled fictions: When anxious assumptions lead us astray

Anxiety disorders often go unnoticed, potentially causing detrimental consequences in relationships, education and work.

A prevalent issue born from a blend of anxiety and life experience is assumption-making. This tendency is succinctly captured in the adage, “When you assume, you make an _____ out of you and me.” Most readers easily will fill in the blank, and none of us want to be the object of that sentence.

Anxiety itself is discomforting, and the expression of anxiety-triggered assumptions exacerbates this misery, often culminating in interpersonal or professional predicaments that reinforce anxiety in a distressing cycle.

Several hazards emerge when forming assumptions grounded in anxiety:

1. Inaccurate perception/miscommunication: Anxious thoughts frequently involve irrational fears and exaggerated concerns. Treating these thoughts as accurate reflections of reality distorts situational perceptions, inducing unwarranted distress and overreactions.

2. Miscommunication: Common in digital communication, where tone and nonverbals are absent, this also pertains to personal conversations. Anxious thoughts assign presumed meanings to words, fostering conflict and stress.

3. Impaired decision-making: Anxious assumptions cloud judgment, leading to irrational or impulsive decisions. It also can lead to decision avoidance.

4. Missed opportunities: Anxiety-driven assumptions might deter you from beneficial opportunities and healthy risk-taking.

5. Self-fulfilling prophecy: Anxious anticipation of negative outcomes can unwittingly manifest those outcomes through behavior.

6. Stress and health effects: Chronic anxiety impacts physical health, with increased heart rate, blood pressure and tension. Anxiety-fueled negative assumptions exacerbate these physical symptoms.

7. Isolation: Anxious assumptions prompt social withdrawal and avoidance of anxiety-triggering situations, aligning with the fight-or-flight survival response.

8. Neglected self-care: Anxiety-based assumptions can disrupt self-care routines and healthy habits, forsaking activities that bring joy and relaxation.

9. Impaired problem-solving: Anxious thoughts hinder clear and logical thinking, complicating issue resolution and elevating frustration and anxiety.

10. Negative thought patterns: Repetitive and entrenched negative assumptions strengthen cognitive distortions, intensifying the anxiety cycle.

These dangers underpin misunderstandings, strained relationships and unwarranted conflicts. Unfounded fears may hinder personal or professional growth by discouraging risk-taking and opportunity pursuit. Jason Bateman’s insight shared on the “Smartless” podcast – ”confidence emerges beyond fear and discomfort” – highlights the transformative potential of overcoming anxiety’s grip.

To mitigate these hazards:

• Enhance communication: Validate interpretations through clarification, reflection and inquiry, particularly in digital conversations.

• Mindfulness and support: Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation and enlist mental health professionals to challenge and contextualize anxious thoughts.

• Engage in dialogue: Consult health care providers to collaboratively identify suitable interventions.

Remember, perceptions and assumptions influenced by anxiety might not align with reality. Cultivate discernment and verify sources before adopting beliefs. If concerns arise, seek professional guidance for constructive coping strategies. In stepping beyond the shadow of anxiety’s assumptions, one can foster resilience and growth, echoing Bateman’s wisdom on embracing discomfort to unlock confidence.

• Lynette Spencer is a licensed clinical social worker and the managing partner at Action Consulting and Therapy in Geneva.