Setbacks in Anxiety and Panic Disorder Recovery

Ok, so your recovery from anxiety or panic was going well, your symptoms had gone or were firmly under your control, your self esteem was high and life was looking rosy. Then, suddenly, BAM! Something happens and suddenly you are back where you started, or even worse than before. You’ve had a setback. Lots of recovering anxiety sufferers get them at some point.

Why do setbacks happen during anxiety recovery?

There could be any number of reasons. Something could have unconsciously jogged your memory and sent your anxiety up, you could have tried to tackle something new and felt overwhelming anxiety, you could have felt a new kind of anxiety that you hadn’t felt before. Either way, some symptoms came up and you thought “Aaaah, I don’t know how to deal with this!”. Most people get setbacks at some point in their recovery and they nearly all think the same thing: “Oh no! I’m back where I started. I’ll never get over this!”

Are setbacks permanent?

Not on your nelly. They are a time for you to look back at your achievements, and at your therapies, and assess what went wrong in order to find a solution. Understandably, it can be a depressing time. But it shouldn’t be! You will bounce back and more than likely gain a lot of new ground based on your knew learning and insights. With anxiety/panic/phobias as with life, the darkest hour is just before dawn.

What should you do when you have a setback?

Stay focused. You’ve been here before and you will deal with it. Is it as bad as you think? Re-establish previous patterns of behaviour. Gently, and starting with something easy, do a few of the things you’d worked on before the setback and felt comfortable with, just to show yourself you still can. Don’t worry if you feel a touch more anxious during this time, that’s your background anxiety level going up, it will pass. Do more of what you were doing before. It was obviously working.
Look for alternatives to compliment your previous strategies. Perhaps now is the time to look for the route cause, if you have been focussing on a Cognitive Behavioural method, or look at your current symptoms if you have been concentrating on the cause. Perhaps the manner of the setback can give you clues as to what your core fears are. Discuss them with your therapist/confident.

Pat yourself on the back. The fact that you’ve had a setback means you were really striving for success with your anxiety or phobia. Well done!

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