Panic Disorder and Self-Defeating Beliefs About Relationships

Faulty Beliefs and Panic Disorder

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Cognitive therapy is based on the concept that one's negative thoughts and beliefs influence the way one feels. As a form of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy works to help shift one's belief system as a way to create more realistic and positive thoughts. According to the theory of cognitive therapy, self-defeating beliefs greatly contribute to mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and panic disorder.

Self-defeating beliefs fall into one of two categories: individual or interpersonal. Individual self-defeating beliefs involve the way in which we measure our personal value. These types of beliefs typically involve aspects of perfectionism and the need for achievement and approval. Interpersonal self-defeating beliefs, on the other hand, deal with our beliefs about our relationships with others. These include our ideas about how our social connections should be, such as how we believe others should treat us.

Having panic disorder can greatly impact our relationships. Self-defeating beliefs about our connections with others can add to this problem. The following describes interpersonal self-defeating beliefs that are common among those with panic disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. Notice whether you recognize your own belief system in any of these faulty beliefs and learn ways to get past them.


People with panic disorder are prone to negative thinking, which often includes some form of self-blame. For instance, you may blame yourself for your panic symptoms, thinking that if you were more in control of yourself, then you wouldn't be struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.

Self-defeating beliefs about blame can also impact our relationships with others. For example, perhaps you are experiencing some conflict with another person. Are you quick to blame them for the differences you are having or are you able to see how you may have contributed to the disagreement?

Most relationships are faced with some conflict, and at times, other people will let us down. However, problems in a relationship typically involve both parties. Think about your own relationships and decide if you blame others when your connections are not what you want them to be. Resolve to let go of this self-defeating belief and start recognizing your role and responsibilities in relationships. Blame will only drag you down and certainly won'€™t end any differences you may be having with others.

Submissive Towards Others

Being overly submissive can stem from the mistaken belief that you must submit to others in order to be loved. When falling into this self-defeating belief, you always put others'€™ wants and needs before your own. While you may enjoy being helpful towards others, behaving overly submissive means that you always give in to what others expect, yet you feel unhappy as your own wants are not being addressed.

Submissiveness may also involve a fear of being alone. Many people with panic disorder and agoraphobia are subject to feelings of loneliness and isolation. For example, you may avoid social interactions due to being worried about how others will react if they knew about your condition. However, it is important to keep in mind that despite your symptoms, you are a worthwhile person. You deserve friendship and love without having to always be submissive towards others.

Fear of Conflict

Many people dislike conflict because it can bring up many uncomfortable emotions. It is true that conflict in our relationships can lead to feelings of anger, distress, and fear. However, this can become a self-defeating belief when conflict is avoided out of fear of rejection from others. Avoiding conflict will most likely not lead to any type of resolution. It may actually contribute to additional feelings of stress and anxiety. Conflict avoidance may be a quick solution, but in the long run, it can potentially make things worse.

Overcome Interpersonal Self-Defeating Beliefs

In order to overcome negative thinking and self-defeating beliefs, you need to recognize when they occur in your life. Begin noticing if you have any self-defeating beliefs that are preventing you from having and maintaining healthy relationships. Ask yourself if you are frequently blaming others, being too submissive with others, or avoiding conflict at all costs.

By recognizing your interpersonal self-defeating beliefs, you can begin to make changes in your belief system. For instance, instead of blaming the other person, try considering what role you play in the relationship. Stop sacrificing who you are in order to make others happy and you may be surprised by how much better you feel. Conflict doesn't have to mean insults or arguments. Instead of burying your head in the sand, face conflict with integrity, maturity, and mutual respect.

Make it a habit to question and rethink your negative thoughts and beliefs. By continually readjusting your self-defeating beliefs, you can shift your views to more positive and realistic ones. Over time, you may find that you are no longer holding onto self-defeating beliefs and have overcome your negative thinking.

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Article Sources

  • Burns, D. D. (2006). When panic attacks: The new drug-free anxiety therapy that can change your life. NY: Broadway Books.