If you think anxiety is a damaging force all on its own, then here’s a deeper revelation. Unhealthy behavior strategies are born from the desire to control anxiety.

Unhealthy behavior strategies started off as survival tactics derived from anxiety. These neurotic responses were originally meant to help the suffering cope with what they were going through and their various environmental stimuli.

They came from the basic desire to fit in with society and feel normal again, or in some cases, deal actively with what was happening to them. Unfortunately, they caused a deeper set of problems to arise.

According to Karen Horney, psychoanalytic theorist, strategies used to cope with anxiety often turn into negative actions. These responses can come from all sorts of anxious feelings and situations in life. She placed emphasis on the early childhood development and how this framed actions and reactions.

Abnormal behavior strategies were born through some of the earliest events in life, it seems.

The problem is, these strategies have become normalized

The need for this and the need for that – there is a basic need for everything, it seems. The over-achiever has a need for power, trying to keep ahead of the game at all times. The recluse has a need to be alone and cringes at the thought of making friends or acquaintances. These are a few examples of the drastic strategies created by those who once suffered from an anxiety disorder or a  hidden form of this mental illness. You can say these are delayed reactions from a lifetime of dealing with anxious feelings.

There are many of these unhealthy behavior strategies born from anxiety. I have utilized many of them in my lifetime, including the desire to be alone. When you reach a moment during a panic attack or a feeling of neglect, it seems normal to tap into these behaviors. Here are 10 unhealthy examples of survival responses triggered by anxiety.

1. Independence or self-deficiency

I know that independence is a good thing, for the most part. Anxiety, however, can create a sense of independence that can carry into an unhealthy mindset. The desire to be independent can actually cause some people to completely pull away from society, alienating them from friends and family. This is when self-sufficiency becomes abnormal.

2. Power

The neurotic need for power can be a dangerous thing indeed. This strategy includes being controlling and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, including stepping on others in the process. There is little sympathy for the weaknesses of others when it comes to gaining power.

3. Tight borders and restrictions

The strategy used here demonstrates a need to be introverted, so recluse that any abilities to improve or move ahead are ignored. This reaction makes a person feel safe by excluding them from the company of anyone at all. It’s a lonely existence but grant you, a safe one….for obvious reasons.

4. Achievements

A person who suffers from the neurotic effects of anxiety may also be considered an “overachiever”. They will stop at nothing to compete with others. They try to be the best and it’s all due to their severe feelings of insecurity. They will even compete with themselves in order to be a better and more successful person than they were yesterday.

This action can apply an ungodly amount of pressure to be the best, as achievements are top priorities.

5. Narcissism

This trait is extremely dangerous to both the health of the anxious and the health of family members and loved ones. The strategy here, in case you didn’t know, is to demand everyone recognize personal admiration. This unhealthy strategy causes the sufferer to thrive only on they own hollow vaulted view of himself. And, they expect others to recognize their greatness.

6. Approval and affection

The need to be liked or loved can turn into quite an unhealthy strategy. Although it may seem healthy enough, feelings of neediness can cause uncomfortable situations where working hard to gain approval turns into negative feelings of inadequacy when this approval doesn’t happen. The need to be loved is a strong one when it turns into a neurotic addiction.

7. Co-dependency

This is a common trait seen in many relationships. Instead of being in a healthy independent union with another person, those who suffer from this unhealthy strategy will cling to the ideas and views of their partner in hopes of having relevancy.

There is also a fear of abandonment with this as well, where someone doesn’t see hope unless they are in a relationship at all times.

8. Exploitation

Simply said, this strategy is just the ability to use others for one’s own gain. This can include power, money or sex as tools for this neurotic strategy. There is usually no sympathetic response when another person is used in order to reach goals.

9. Prestige

Of all behavior strategies, this one revolves around material objects and accomplishments the most. What differentiates this behavior from accomplishments is that prestige is often sought as a means of making sure the general public knows what a great person you are, despite your achievements or awards. Regardless of success on paper, the word of mouth of “high-society” is much more important in this opinion.

10. Perfection

Seeking perfection can be an endless and unhealthy behavior trait. Nothing will ever be good enough and physical appearance will always be lacking. As for aging, this is a harsh enemy of perfection, and the perfectionist will seek to thwart this process from all angles. This behavior also demands perfection in other areas as well.

There are still healthy ways to cope with anxiety, no worries…

Now those are quite a few unhealthy behavior strategies, wouldn’t you agree? It’s okay, however, because there are many healthy ways to endure this illness and heal. The key is to be careful when making choices about how you will respond to triggers in life. For those who have already indulged in many of these unhealthy traits, it’s time to take it one day at a time and change the way you respond.

It won’t be easy, but in time, you will start to see a drastic improvement in your life. I wish you the best in transforming your unhealthy mindset into a greater, more productive way of life. Good luck!


  1. https://www.verywell.com
  2. http://changingminds.org

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. SS

    So well put but then again even if I know that these traits are 100% in one family member how does one tell them? Its not easy because. they always deflect it from themselves, UNLESS they read this( I have forwarded it ) and find their own solution for these traits that hamper them. Sometimes some highly intellectual educated people just do not see these bad traits in themselves and so they continue the way they are much to the unhappiness with those they deal with in their day to day dealing in the family.

    1. Sherrie

      Either we suffer from anxiety or we suffer from its survival tactics. It’s so frustrating it makes me want to laugh. But mind you, I don’t wish to laugh with levity. It’s almost as if I’ve taken a medication with side effects. I think this can all go back to the saying about choosing a person who has the imperfections that match our own in order to deal with the imperfections in the least of unhealthy manners. Whew, yes I know that’s sort of confusing, but maybe you’ve understood what I tried to say.

      I suffer from anxiety and I have used many of these unhealthy tactics to cope and yes, they can hurt others too. The good news is, people with anxiety sometimes listen a bit easier than a narcissist, which is a positive. I think you should try to talk to your loved ones about this and help them find a way to cope that can compliment your own coping mechanisms. Because, let’s face it, we all have coping mechanisms and believe it or not, someone we know hates them. Not the most positive response, I know, but it’s a real one. I hope things work out and they listen to your words of love. Be blessed.

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