Anxiety, phobias and fears are commonly encountered in daily living and can be barriers to positive goals and personal change. It is commonly said that negative thoughts are influential factors in...

  1. Anxiety, phobias and fears are commonly encountered in daily living and can be barriers to positive goals and personal change. It is commonly said that negative thoughts are influential factors in these and various other psychological disorders. Accordingly, respond to what can be done to overcome patterns of negative thinking.  What influence can negative thinking have in disorders of anxiety, fear, and/or phobias?  What other factors can influence these disorders?
Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Negative thinking can have a profound impact on how individuals address the issues of anxiety, fear, and/ or phobic behavior.  On many levels, the ability for the mind to fixate on negative thinking can help to increase the frequency and intensity of such realities.  Negative thinking can help to trigger much in way of the onslaught of conditions in which the mind feels helpless and overwhelmed.  Negative thinking plays a large role in the learned helplessness of the individual.  In this state, the individual believes that they are helpless to change anything around them, reducing their autonomy, and enhancing the perception that there is a "lack of control over their own lives."  A critical element in depression is this learned helplessness, a state in which negative thinking has overcome the individual.  Disorders such as anxiety, fear, and/ or phobias can only be successfully navigated if the individual is committed to changing the mindset that has enabled such conditions to become reality.  

It might not be entirely accurate to say every aspect of anxiety, fear, and/ or phobias is contingent on positive thought.  However, the reality is that such realities are enhanced through negative reinforcement, learned helplessness, and the belief that the individual has no sense of power or control.  It is here in which one can see how negative thought plays a role in influencing these disorders.  At the same time, other factors influence their presence.  Biology and genes, along with lifestyle and other environmental factors, and medication are examples of other factors that can influence these disorders.   Different professionals will suggest to what extent these influences play in the development of these conditions.  However, what is understood is that the lack of positive thought has a significant function in how a patient responds to different psychological disorders.

Negative thoughts can play a determinative role in the development of psychological disorders like anxiety, fear, and/ or phobias.  By the same token, positive and empowering thinking can play a role in minimizing the impact of these disorders and perhaps place them within the correct mental setting.  Positive thinking can help to replace negative thinking through a conscious reminder to engage when negative thoughts overwhelm the individual.  If the individual is able to reorient themselves to positive thought at a point where fears and anxiety begin to take a hold of the mind, the mind's focus can be recalibrated.  This would help to counteract the learned helplessness upon which psychological conditions such as phobias, anxiety, and fear thrive. Additionally, positive thinking can lead to positive action, such as exercise or being able to actively communicate with others, paths that embrace positive empowerment as opposed to negative helplessness. These would be ways to overcome negative thoughts, or at least place them in a context where psychological paralysis is not as evident.  Sustained positive thought can help to offset some of the "catastrophizing" that might come about with the negative thinking that associates fear, anxiety, or phobia.  In this regard, the power of positive thought can be seen as a vital element to overcoming the realities associated with negative thought.