Telling someone in the grips of a raging anxiety disorder to “check in with themselves” is a TERRIBLE bit of advice.  If you are in the grips of a ranging anxiety disorder – finding it near impossible to STOP thinking about how you feel all the time – it’s OK to reject this advice.

While in the grips of raging disorders like OCD, health anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, specifically making time to focus inward on how one is feeling is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  A person that is desperate to STOP paying constant attention to how they feel and what they think does not need to turn inward to see what they need.  What they need is to stop focusing inward.  The inward focus is driving their problem.  Telling this person that they need to check in with themselves to see how they’re feeling is like telling an inmate to escape from prison by running back into the cell block.  It’s just terrible advice in this context.  Sorry, but it is.

Sometimes part of the anxiety problem is compulsion to think about one’s state.  Engaging in inner dialogue with fear driven distorted and disordered thoughts becomes a dysfunctional game that the sufferer is powerless to resist.  Every waking moment is spend scanning one’s own body and mind for threats to sanity, life, and limb.  Inward focus and self-examination can become a literal torture chamber. This is a fact for many wrestling with anxiety problems.

When offering advice to a person like this, suggesting inward focus and introspection is completely inappropriate.  At that moment the spirit, the inner child, and the need for emotional growth and freedom are irrelevant.  Before any of those things can matter, the cycle of obsessive thought and compulsive response must be broken.  There are ways to do that.  None of them involve the “check in”. The goal of someone in that situation is to learn that they can focus OUTWARD and still be safe.  They are trying to learn to get their focus back out into the world.  They yearn for a break from themselves.  They are desperate for it and will do anything they can to get that break.

If you are in the situation I am describing, its acceptable to completely reject “check in with yourself” when offered that advice.  Reject it loudly and quickly if you know that it’s hurting more than helping. You are allowed to do that.  You are entitled to stand up for yourself.

At some point, the self check-in may become a useful emotional or spiritual tool for these people.  When that day comes it means the cycle of obsessive thinking and inward focus has been broken.  This is a happy day.  When one’s own body and mind are no longer a trap, quiet introspection can again be a tool used to achieve good mental and emotional balance.  If desired and needed, the self check-in can be a wonderful thing.

Until this state is achieved, however, let’s be aware that not everything is a spiritual or emotional problem.  Sometimes we are dealing with mechanical problems, like it or not.

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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)







Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.