A Christian Approach to Dealing with Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

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A Christian Approach to Dealing with Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

A Christian Approach to Dealing with Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

A Christian Approach to Dealing with Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

John C. Thomas, Ph.D.

1. If your anxiety is significant as in an anxiety disorder, get a medical checkup.

2. Make a commitment to obey God.


3. Pray (Phil 4:6). God told Daniel not to fear because He heard Daniel’s prayers (Dan. 10:12). Pray about what is causing your anxiety. Ask God to help you use your anxiety to move toward Him, not away from Him.

4. Open up to others and ask others to pray for you. Sharing what is going on with a good Christian friend will bring what is inside of you to light and make the burden easier to carry.

5. Realize God can guard our minds (Phil. 4:7).

6. Guard your thoughts (Phil. 4:8). Since anxiety is strongly cognitive, it is important to monitor what you think. Paul told us to mediate on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Consider the following verses (Psalm 34:4; 86:15; Proverbs 1:33; 3:25-26; Isaiah 40:28-31; Matthew 6:33-34; 11:28-30; John 10:27-28; 14:27; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:20; 4:10)

7. Focus on being content (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6). Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will significantly help you find fulfillment and contentment in any avenue of life.

8. Rely on God’s strength (Phil. 4:13)

9. Rely on God’s promises (Phil. 4:19)

10. Realize that God’s grace is in you (Phil. 4:23)

11. Exercise. Twenty minutes of having your heart rate up is like taking an antidepressant (good for anxiety as well) for 4 hours.

12. Use relaxation techniques. It is physiologically impossible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Any of the following techniques will help you in reducing your anxiety.

a. Stretching. While sitting as relaxed as you can, curl your toes to tense those muscles in your feet and relax them. Then raise your toes against the tops of your shoes to tense those muscles in your feet and relax them. Then move up to your ankles and do the same thing. Then to the knees and so on up through your whole body, learning to tense and relax every muscle group.

b. Breathing. Deep breathing using your abdomen (rather than your chest) helps you relax. To make sure you are “belly breathing” lie on your back and place a book on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose for about five seconds gradually filling your abdomen, and the book should rise. Then slowly exhale through nose and mouth for about five seconds, and the book should fall. Once you have learned how to do it, you can do it sitting, standing, or lying down any time to relax.

c. Imagine one of your favorite places (remember Paul’s advice to the Philippians) and perhaps think about being there alone or with your favorite companions. While “there,” imagine doing one of your favorite activities or enjoying one of your favorite things, including all of the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations.

d. Do some soothing, calming, relaxing activities, such as the following:

1) Listen to some of your favorite calming music (1 Sam. 16:23)

2) Smell some soothing fragrances, such as burning a vanilla or lavender candle (assuming you are not allergic).

3) Listen to running water, wind in the pines, or waves lapping the shore. These are available on tapes, CDs, or on sound generating machines.

13. Eat well. Healthy food is critical to a sound mind and sound body. In addition, you may wish to try herbal supplements. For example, Kava Kava may help reduce your anxiety and Valerian (root) may help induce sleep—if anxiety interferes with your sleep.

14. Live in the present (Matt. 6:34)

15. Look for ways to serve others (Phil. 2:3–4; 4:10) unless that is what is a trigger or cause of your anxiety.

16. Schedule time to worry. When you have an anxious thought (write it down with paper that you carry with you). When your “worry time” comes, go over your list…worry all you want. Of course, you will need to take those concerns (worry) and your subsequent feelings to God through prayer.

17. Look for solutions to whatever problem(s) may be causing your anxiety.

18. Think through outcomes.

a. Think of the best things that could happen and what would cause that outcome. Come up with “Plan A” to work toward that outcome.

b. Think of the worst thing that could happen and what would cause that outcome. Come up with a “Plan B” to cope with that outcome.

19. If a specific object or situation produces anxiety, take steps to gradually reduce the anxiety by facing it:

a. Make a list of the things that arouse the most to the least fear. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, think of the most feared situation with a dog, then the next most feared situation and so forth.

b. Practice relaxation exercises described earlier.

c. Imagine the least feared thing. If you have anxiety, practice relaxing until you can think of the feared thing and still feel relaxed. Keep doing this with things are a little more frightening each time (over the days ahead) until you can think of even the most frightening without becoming overly anxious.

d. When able, actually encounter the feared things in real life (if possible). Practice getting closer and closer to the feared objected or situation. For example, keep playing with a little puppy until you are not anxious. Then do the same thing with larger and larger gentle dogs until you can feel calm while doing so.

20. If your difficulty is in social relationships, you may need to confront someone. To help you with that, note how God confronted the churches in Revelations 2 and 3.

a. First, He affirmed them, saying something positive. For example, your good deeds, your faith, your perseverance.

b. Second, He confronted them about the problem. For example, yet I have something against you or nevertheless, I have a few things against you.

c. Third, He specified the consequences. For example, if you do not repent, I will…

d. Fourth, He affirmed them again. For example, to him who overcomes, I will give…

e. Make a plan deciding how you will word your affirmation, your confrontation, the consequences, and your reaffirmation of the other person.

21. If you cannot seem to stop thinking about something, try the following steps:

a. Recognize that it may be a disorder.

b. Relabel the problem as due to an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

c. Refocus on something other than the obsession.

22. If you feel compelled to repeat some act (i.e., compulsion), gradually delay carrying out the action for longer and longer periods of time. For example, if you feel compelled to wash you hands because you fear the germs associated with unclean hands, first delay washing them 1 minute. Then gradually increase them in small increments over time. Use relaxation to deal with the anxiety as you extend the length.

23. If you keep re-experiencing a traumatic event, try actually writing down a complete description of everything that happened, just as if you were giving a testimony in court. Write down not only what happened objectively, but also write every thought, feelings, and image you have of that time. Then re-read it often (several times a day), imaging everything that happened each time. Invite Christ into that image, especially at the point in which the scene is the worse (at the point of your greatest need, weakness, or vulnerability).

24. Read good books on anxiety.

The Anxiety Cure by Archibald Hart, Ph.D.

The Worry Workbook: Twelve Steps to Anxiety-Free Living by Les Carter, Ph.D. & Frank Minirth, MD

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen, MD

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (3rd edition) by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.

Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Social Phobia by Barbara Markway, Ph.D., Cheryl Carmin, Ph.D., C. Alec Pollard, Ph.D., & Teresa Flynn, Ph.D.

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