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How do postponed desires lead to anxiety?

12.07.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
increased anxiety

If we think about the past or the future all the time, anxiety will increase. In this situation, we’re focusing on a huge number of random possibilities or distorted memories. This way of thinking activates negative mindset, and therefore a whole hurricane of negative thoughts. Gradually the habit of worrying because of every trifle thing develops.

Let’s take an orange for example. 

To eat fruit, if it is lying nearby, you just reach out to it, peel the skin, bite and enjoy the sweet and sour taste. There is no place for anxiety here. You just start eating. Almost instantly you switch from desire to action.

If there is no orange at hand, the situation becomes more complicated. The following thoughts come to mind: “Do I have money for oranges?”, “I don’t want to go outside in the rain”, “All my jeans are in the wash, “How to get to the store?” and so on. This already postpones the desire fulfillment for an indefinite period.

In addition, you could begin to doubt your desire to eat an orange or try to replace the real need — hunger — with other needs and ask yourself questions:

  • Is it useful to eat an orange after dinner? Where will this lead in the future?
  • My ex-husband liked oranges, am I like him?
  • Isn’t it too risky to buy foreign oranges in the off-season?

Doubts and contradictions are growing, as well as anxiety.

Perhaps all these questions will make you give up your desire for a while. Indeed, you cannot eat an orange or replace it with an apple. You may even go to a coffee shop with a friend and eat an orange cake there. 

The main thing is to make a choice, make a decision, and accept it. Then the anxiety will gradually subside.

If the idea to eat an orange looks impossible, and you do not want to give it up, you start to be haunted by thoughts: “Why don’t I live where oranges grow all year round? Why is the store so far away?”, “Why haven’t I been paid? Why all these proceedings with my ex-husband are happening to me?”, “When will I lose those 5kg? My life is unbearable”, “Every normal person should have oranges at home, and I don’t have them.” 

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increased anxiety causes

If every desire causes such a storm of dissatisfaction and is accompanied by a mass of emotions that remain undeveloped and do not translate into action, then anxiety can become a habitual behavior pattern.

Desire is transformed into a solution, and actions emerge from the decision — this is what a healthy chain looks like, and at the end of such a chain the person experiences emotion and gets the result.

However, some people have problems making a decision, and it is difficult for others to move to action after making a decision.

For example, an employee takes on a new task, understands how to solve it, but does not take specific actions to do so. Every day the number of tasks increases, and the actions taken are not enough, thus the anxiety increases.

To build connections in the desire-solution-action chain you need to change the behavior. Behavioral psychotherapy methods are effective here. In such cases psychologist teaches a person to quickly make a decision and act immediately, not postponing it for later. It helps to focus on what’s going on here and now and stop overthinking.

By feeling relieved and rejoicing at the result every time after making a decision and taking actions, person forms new positive attitudes for himself. 

In this way, a person reinforces the desired behavior pattern: he learns to make bold decisions and act, masters the ability to calmly treat ordinary situations and not to blow things out of proportion.


  1. Mariya Dolgih, psiholog, zametka «O trevozhnosti».