Treating the Reassurance Junkie
Some anxious clients have such an overpowering need to know they’re not making a mistake, missing something important, or thinking or feeling something wrong, that they constantly seek reassurance from therapists, family, friends, doctors, and the internet. Most compulsive reassurance seeking attempts to answer unanswerable questions, solve unsolvable problems, or know for sure something that’s unknowable. In fact, reassurance often works backwards with clients who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or OCD, actually increasing distress. Rather than helping them to achieve greater certainty, the best approach is to teach them how to tolerate uncertainty.
Sally Winston, PsyD, cofounded and codirects the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland. She’s the inaugural recipient of the national Jerilyn Ross Award of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. She’s the coauthor of What Every Therapist Needs to Know about Anxiety Disorders and Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts.
Martin Seif, PhD, ABPP, cofounded the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He’s associate director of the Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center at White Plains Hospital and a faculty member of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical School. He’s the coauthor of What Every Therapist Needs to Know about Anxiety Disorders and Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts.