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  • Writer's pictureDr Wayne Bullock

Unhealthy Ways to Deal with Anxiety

Anxiety is a common, normal emotional response. We all experience anxiety to different degrees throughout our lives. The workplace, personal relationships, and significant life changes can all trigger anxiety.

And when anxiety flairs up, it’s natural for us to seek ways to cope. Unfortunately, some of the approaches we turn to are actually counterproductive and detrimental to our well-being.

Substance Abuse

Drugs and alcohol are some of the most destructive coping mechanisms. These substances may provide temporary relief, but they bring some dangerous baggage; often leading to addictions and other health problems which can exacerbate anxiety in the long run. They often also contribute to additional stress in your relational life, causing conflict and hurt feelings.


Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety can provide short-term relief but actually serve to reinforce the anxiety in the long term. Avoidance prevents us from confronting our fears and learning more healthy coping strategies. Avoidance often also leads to a life that can feel more constricted, less full and vital, and lead to feeling “meh.”

Overeating or Undereating

Changes in diet are often used as a means to cope with anxiety. Some suffering from anxiety overeat as a way of seeking comfort, while others may undereat to gain a sense of control. These behaviors only lead to physical health problems and worsen emotional distress as the consequences ripple out from these attempts to cope.

Compulsive Behaviors

Engaging in compulsive behaviors – cleaning the house, organizing, binge watching – can take our mind off our troubles and temporarily reduce anxiety. However, these behaviors consume a significant amount of time and tend to disrupt daily life, making the underlying anxiety worse. Like avoidance, compulsivity can lead to a life that feels more narrow and less rich.

Aggressive Outbursts

It’s not uncommon for some of us to cope with anxiety through verbal or physical aggression, either directed towards ourselves or others. This is never a good idea and can lead to both strained relationships and potentially legal consequences.

Excessive Technology Use

Overusing technology and social media can provide a temporary distraction from anxiety, but can contribute to social isolation and oftentimes promote feelings of inadequacy. Social media promotes the fantasy that others have it all, or at least find life more easy, which can lead to negative comparisons and additional anxiety.

Dr. Wayne Bullock is a compassionate, experienced, and licensed counselor in Washington D.C. focused on the needs of gay men and the LGBTQ community. Specialties include the treatment of trauma, depression, anxiety, and sexual issues.

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