For as long as I can remember I have had anxiety about (and many times chose to ignore) things like checking bank accounts, credit scores, and bills. I also would ignore messages to respond by phone about these things and other issues like medical tests or even my dad wanting to talk to me about something. I think it was my way of not being disappointed or let down by the results of what I would find out, while knowing that that type of behavior could be harmful financially and medically. If I don’t know that something “bad” has happened to my bank account or blood test, then to me “it hasn’t happened” and I can live in that uncertainty. But as I’ve gotten older, that uncertainty is worse than just knowing the reality of the situation. For a long time I was terrified about making mistakes and being “in trouble”, and these anxieties feel very much tied to that. Is this just general anxiety? Or does this fear of “finding out” have a more specified diagnosis? Is the best way to overcome this to just push forward and “get over my anxiety” or is there a better way?
Your fears could probably be categorized as a general anxiety disorder. I don’t think there’s anything that has been identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that would specifically encompass fears about checking accounts, credit scores, bills, etc. It would be wise to consult a therapist, in person, to know what specific disorder may be present, if any. Internet diagnosis is not possible.
In general, you seem to have a fear of reality or of living. You may not want to know the truth. You are purposefully avoiding the truth under specific circumstances, to protect yourself against something bad from happening. In your mind, if you don’t know about it, it hasn’t happened. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of any situation. If something bad happens, whether you know about it or not, it doesn’t mean that it did not happen. It’s better to know about it sooner, so you can address it and deal with it effectively. If not, you’re only creating more problems for yourself.
This problem has probably worsened over time because you are reinforcing avoidance behaviors. For instance, each time you avoid looking at bills or not taking a phone call etc., you are in essence telling yourself that it is okay to have avoided that bill or that phone call. The more you avoid, the worse the anxiety gets.
You asked about how to get better. You specifically asked about the idea of “pushing forward and getting over your anxiety.” If you could have done that, you would have done that. That’s akin to telling someone who has depression, to get over it and be happy. Not only is that unrealistic but it’s insulting. People don’t simply “get over” their depression or anxiety.
Thankfully, there are very good treatments for anxiety that could help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an ideal treatment for anxiety as are other types of therapies. Medication might also be helpful to initially decrease the anxiety that can sometimes intensify at the beginning of therapy. That is something you should discuss with your therapist.
This problem is something that can be corrected with counseling. If you’re not open to counseling, and you continue to engage in avoidance behaviors, your anxiety might worsen. That is unfortunately the end result when it comes to untreated anxiety. It’s illogical to suffer with a problem that is highly treatable. I hope you’re open to treatment.
One of the positive elements of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it addresses both the way one thinks about a situation and how one behaves in a situation. In your case, you may be assuming the worst-case scenario when you go to check your bills, etc. You’re fearing the worst and thus it’s understandable why you would want to avoid such terrible situations. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you to have a more realistic assessment of situations. Your anxiety about a situation should match the probability of it happening. If you pay your bills on time and you’re not irresponsible with credit card spending, then the probability of you having a surprise, is very low. With continued counseling, you can learn to think differently about situations and be more realistic and rational in your thought process.
Hopefully, you will consider counseling. It’s always best to consult an expert in matters related to mental health. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle