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Thread: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

  1. #1
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    Feb 2017
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    Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Hi all,

    I've been a health anxiety sufferer for many years now. It sort of comes and goes. I can be fine for months but then one small idea or trigger gets into my head and I'm a mess. Here are some of the big ones over the years: At 14, I convinced myself I had breast cancer. When I was 17 I had a whole year or two of bad healthy anxiety; I thought everything from heart disease, bowel cancer, ovarian cancer and thyroid conditions. At 20 I was convinced I had bladder cancer. It doesn't even stop at me; I have worried about a couple of people close to me having something awful like cancer or heart conditions. I can't watch medical shows or movies because the conditions pray on my mind and I swear there have been times my body has mimicked the symptoms of a disease I have been reading or watching about.Fortunately, my assumptions have always been wrong. And when I look back, even writing this, I realize it was really silly to have thought that and been so consumed by it. I've wasted precious moments of youth worrying consistently that I am dying of a disease.

    I am 24 now, and my HA hasn't been too bad in the past few years as having my boyfriend has given me a better distraction and I am not lonely like I was (I think when you're lonely or alone, you tend to focus on your body and symptoms a lot more). Of course, every time something is up with him I worry like crazy too. With the relationship, however, comes a new worry: pregnancy. I have recently posted about this and how I am currently going through some rough and anxious days. For background, we only had sex once this past month (since my last period) and it was fully protected. The condom did not rip, and it did not come off until my partner was in the bathroom. He didn't touch me before it was on either and I tested it by filling it with water after we had sex (it sounds gross but I figure that if there's a hole, I should know about it and I could get a MAP). Yet I am on day 37 of my cycle and I am still waiting for my period. I know it sounds really late, but its actually not that unusual for me as I usually have a couple of 'off' periods a year. Earlier this year I had a 40 day cycle and I hadn't had sex that month. I don't know what the reason was, maybe stress. So I could easily still get it. But, I am worrying like hell. I think perhaps it is because we in fact barely have sex (which is why we are not on an additional method of BC - I don't want all the hormones or pain to only have sex like twice a year).

    Part of me wonders if I was actually scaring of my period by worrying about it - I mean literally the morning after we had sex I was starting to get anxious by it. Its because every other month when I don't have sex, I don't care when my period comes as I know that simply pregnancy is not possible. But as soon as I have sex, I suddenly feel anxiety knowing that it is not an impossibility anymore. It is just a shame. I have only had sex about 12 times and didn't lose my virginity until my early 20s in part because of these fears. I have educated myself very well on birth control and how reliable it is and how it should be used, etc. I am mature enough for sex it is just anxiety getting in my way. The way I feel right now is the way I feel when I have convinced myself of a disease: the odds can be completely against me but I still believe it anyway. Likewise, when I worry about a disease, my body tends to mimic the symptoms of it, leading me to believe it even more (which part of me wonders if my lack of period is due to the stress I am causing myself over it). Its like when I was a teen and I convinced myself I had all of these cancers, although some teens (and bless them) do get cancer, its so so rare that being convinced you have as a teen is such a waste of energy. The odds are in your favour. And its like now - the odds are in my favour - unless the sperm magically seeped through the condom (and the water somehow wasn't able to) then I literally don't know how it would happen but I'm still convinced anyway. It's probably like a 99% chance that I am not pregnant, but I am still focusing on that 1%...

    Is there any way to get your mind to think in a better perspective?

  2. #2
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    Mar 2020
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    I understand. Recently did a tiny bit of fooling around, without a condom (no baby making goo present to my knowledge) and I was still worried I might be pregnant when my period was a bit late. But I have a fundamental belief Iím highly fertile and likely to get pregnant very easily - so thatís why my mind went there. Anxiety itself, I think, is based on a fundamental belief that something is wrong with us - that we canít possibly be totally healthy. That itís more likely weíre not, than likely our health is perfectly fine. And/ or maybe a fundamental belief that things tend to go wrong in our lives / bad things tend to happen when weíre doing well. Then we subconsciously look for things /twist things to confirm this belief. So I guess thatís what we need to try to tackle. Iím thinking of listening to some ďIím perfectly healthy and nothing is wrongĒ type subliminals if youtube has any or repeating it to myself. Also I found B vitamins help me be more positive oddly, energy drinks have them but theyíre not great so Iím going to try HTP5 b vitamin tablets again. I used to get some from a brand called FSC and they did help get me more level minded in the past, so I recommend those. Itís easier too than trying to rewire the subconscious negativity 😂 but identifying your general negative beliefs that work against you can be useful

  3. #3
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Can you take a pregnancy test?

  4. #4
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Something that is important to try and recognise is that it's not your brain focusing on the problem, it's your attention. You are not a slave to this, you are a willing participant.

    You have learned over the years to focus on the dangerous, unlikely scenario, and it's up to you to practice NOT doing that any more.

    This kind of health anxiety is a self satisfying addiction. We become habitually obsessed with investigating the worst possible outcome of extremely unlikely outcomes. It is habit though, it's not some hidden monster inside your head forcing you to worry, it's YOUR attention and YOUR focus causing the imaginary monsters. This is good news, because it means you can do something about it.

  5. #5
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    In answer to the thread title - it's due to the negative bias. Human beings are hardwired for negativity, and everybody has the 'What if' thoughts, but not everybody freaks out and becomes consumed with them..

    The answer is to be mindful of negative self-talk, reframe situations, develop positive habits, and make the most of special and uplifting moments.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Quote Originally Posted by NoraB View Post
    In answer to the thread title - it's due to the negative bias. Human beings are hardwired for negativity.
    I will respectfully (and massively) disagree with this.

    The fight or flight system is hard wired for threat detection given the right trigger, but we are absolutely, 100% NOT 'hard wired' for negativity. The negativity is created by conscious self talk, we have to create that within ourselves, or be fed it externally by bad parenting during formative years.

  7. #7
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Quote Originally Posted by ankietyjoe View Post
    I will respectfully (and massively) disagree with this.
    Quelle surprise.

    but we are absolutely, 100% NOT 'hard wired' for negativity.
    Yes we absolutely are! It's a survival thing, and you will need to go back to early humans to understand this one..

    For a start, we humans pay more attention to negative things than good and you only have to read a newspaper or watch the news to see that in action!

    The negativity is created by conscious self talk, we have to create that within ourselves, or be fed it externally by bad parenting during formative years.
    Negativity bias is fed by self-talk. It's harder to be positive. It takes a lot of effort, and that's because of the bias towards negativity! So ner!
    Last edited by NoraB; 11-12-20 at 12:01.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Quote Originally Posted by ankietyjoe View Post
    The fight or flight system is hard wired for threat detection given the right trigger, but we are absolutely, 100% NOT 'hard wired' for negativity. The negativity is created by conscious self talk, we have to create that within ourselves, or be fed it externally by bad parenting during formative years.
    Absolutely agree with this. Its how we perceive threats that is the issue and yes, it is formed in our formative years. Take a young child for example. Watch them play and interact. Not a care in the world. They don't really know what negativity is. Its a learned behavior that comes from observation. I do agree that breaking the cycle of negative self talk is challenging. It takes effort (I've been practicing positive self talk for decades) but it is possible.

    Positive thoughts
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  9. #9
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Quote Originally Posted by NoraB View Post
    Quelle surprise.



    Yes we absolutely are! It's a survival thing, and you will need to go back to early humans to understand this one..

    For a start, we humans pay more attention to negative things than good and you only have to read a newspaper or watch the news to see that in action!



    Negativity bias is fed by self-talk. It's harder to be positive. It takes a lot of effort, and that's because of the bias towards negativity! So ner!

    Listen, we don't HAVE to agree, it's not a conflict.


    The negative bias you're talking about IS learned. The fight or flight system IS hard wired, and responds to visible or audible threat. The problem with the FF system though is that it can ALSO react to imagined threat, and that's the negative talk part. Just because it reacts, doesn't mean the negativity itself is hard wired. If you read negative stories in the newspaper that is a conscious action triggering a subconscious reaction. The reaction itself isn't negative, it's your actions and thoughts that are, the conscious ones.

    The term 'negative bias' is extremely misleading and not really true. It's something that's learned over the years (it's the reason the vast majority of children are happy by default). If you practiced being happy as much as you practice being negative, you would argue that positive bias is the default state.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fishmanpa View Post
    Absolutely agree with this. Its how we perceive threats that is the issue and yes, it is formed in our formative years. Take a young child for example. Watch them play and interact. Not a care in the world. They don't really know what negativity is. Its a learned behavior that comes from observation. I do agree that breaking the cycle of negative self talk is challenging. It takes effort (I've been practicing positive self talk for decades) but it is possible.

    Positive thoughts
    Spot on

  10. #10
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    Re: Why does my brain focus on the tiny chance rather than the more likely scenario?

    Thanks for the responses, guys.

    I'm not sure where I stand in terms of your arguments of whether some kind of fight or flight is an innate part of us or instilled.

    However, although my mother doesn't have health anxiety as such, she has always been an excessive worrier and overprotective. She always seemed to worry about the worst case scenario when it came to us and I think maybe that rubbed off on me. She certainly has never been calm and happy lol.

    Generally speaking I am really optimistic in other areas of my life. I brush things off and say I'll be fine. But when it comes to my health, I cling onto even the tiniest percentage that something is indeed wrong with me.

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