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by Patricia Thornton, PhD
anxiety won't kill you

Whether my patients have OCD, social anxiety, a phobia, panic, or are just generally anxious about life, they come into treatment wanting to be free of the uncomfortable feelings associated with anxiety. To rid themselves of their anxiety they have tried meditation, relaxation, yoga, different psychotherapies and medication, but overall they don’t feel a whole lot better. They ask me, “Why am I so anxious?” and “How do I get rid of this anxiety?” And I respond: “You need to allow yourself to be anxious and you don’t need to know why you are anxious.” I know it sounds counterintuitive. But when you actually move toward your anxiety and just allow yourself to experience it, without trying to flee the situation or reason your way out of it, those yucky anxiety feelings and bodily sensations tend to dissipate. Anxiety never stays at one level. It oscillates up and down, often influenced by what you’re thinking about. If you accept that you’re anxious, you are no longer fighting it. When you fight the feeling, you are saying to yourself, “This is awful! I can’t cope!”, “Something bad is going to happen”. And then what happens? You get more anxious. You may attempt to manage anxiety by avoiding situations that you believe could cause you to be anxious. Or you may attempt to manage anxious thoughts by ruminating or doing things to make sure you are safe. These strategies only work in the short term, if at all. Your anxiety comes roaring back, often worse than before. If you can stay in the anxiety causing situation or stay with the disturbing thoughts long enough and say to yourself: “It’s OK that I’m anxious,” the anxiety is likely to dissipate on it’s own. You don’t need to do anything about the anxiety! And if you can take it a step further and challenge yourself to want to feel more anxious, then you are taking bold steps to conquer your anxiety. I know that asking to feel more anxious is hard to do in practice because every part of you is saying you need to get rid of the anxiety. We are wired to respond to danger by gearing up our sympathetic nervous system so that we can get out of harm’s way. Sure, if there is a rhino charging at you, your brain tells your body that there is imminent danger and your anxiety will help move you away from the rhino’s path. Unfortunately, our brain creates noise (false thoughts) that we misinterpret as dangerous and then our fight/flight system gears up, even though there is no actual danger. When you can embrace anxiety and stay with situations and thoughts that make you anxious, you are retraining your brain to be less reactive to those false thoughts. This is not the easiest thing to do, but if you haven’t tried accepting your anxiety and actually asking yourself to be more anxious, try it. You are likely to discover that moving toward your anxiety, instead of away from it, will ultimately leave you feeling less anxious.


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About the Author:

patricia_thornton_picture_1.pngPatricia Thornton, PhD specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and OCD. She practices in New York City.

That is absolutely awful.. I'm so sorry you have to go through that. I've been having anxiety/ panic attacks every now and then. It normally happens when I'm waking up from a deep sleep and my heart is at like 150.. if I can talk to someone that calms me down but there are times I've had to call 911 so I could make sure I didn't pass out or worse die with my kids here alone.. but when they showed up I'd be pretty much okay and they would say my BP is good. That I'm young and seem healthy so I shouldn't worry. But it's so scary.. and it's really hard to handle... my husband is in the navy and I have no family that lives near us.. so its rough.. but honestly I didn't really have many panic attacks until after I came off of depo.. I just want to find a way to calm myself down and also to not keep waking up that way..

First of all just want to say hi. I have had anxiety for months now it's the worst feeling ever I have found it hard. I went to my gp and the put me on antidepressants there slowly working I find that going out with your kids and friends really helps take your mind of things. I know its hard but stand with your head up high and beat it you've got anxiety but anxiety has not got you.

I’ve had anxiety on and off now for a few months, worst months we’re the ones at the beginning, then I was fine for around 3 weeks before I relapsed because I have health anxiety. The thing that worries me the most is the dizziness and rapid heart rate from anxiety and I ‘believe’ that I might faint, and it’s so bad sometimes that I cry, I’ve had 1 session of cbt and hopefully I’ll get over these feelings soon

Your thinking that you have this you have that heart problem or any kind of health problem. But your not, until now I have symptoms and sometimes I’m so time at work coming home driving then all the sudden my heart beat went so fast and like I’m gossiping for air. That’s your mind telling you fight or flight respons out of no where you have this uncomfortable situation that you cannot explain. It’s your thought worrying about your body that it’s not supposed to.

How are you? I also dunno what to do with myself, i also have health anxiety and my BP always went high when im having anxiety and it really worries me like everyday and im afraid it might affect my heart :(

Same it s???? I get scared of my symptoms like my heart racing, heart pounding, body, numbness, dizzy like fainting or im doom, thinking i have something wrong with me, tumor in my , body shaking. No life

I am suffering so bad with panic and anixety disorder I hate it been ok. For few weeks and managed it now its come back like a Ton of bricks a few days ago and I feel crazy like I've lost my mind and try and block anixety out my head and it dont work I keep shaking too I get scared of pounding heart racing and think the worst is going to happen to me and that makes more anixety goes round and round want to get leave me alone

I feel this completely. I always feel like everything is not real. I feel scared of everything. It seems like I’m not looking out of my own eyes for some reason. It’s scary. I manage it as best I can for the most part. But it’s difficult. Then you start to feel like a burden to those around you who you feel most comfortable with, when the panic comes out.

Am having the same problems. I have had panic attacks and anxiety solid for 2 years now every day and at present its alot worse.i have tried everything but nothing works .my worst symptoms are the rapid heartbeat and the internal shaking .it drives me crazy .just to say you are not alone.

Me too it's hard to cope but Im still fighting. I think about heart, dizzy, feeling numb on my body or can't walk, pressure in my head thinking I have a tumor or going to stroke this suck.

Hi everyone I’m so sorry to everyone going through this.Does anyone on here have chest tightness that makes u feel like u can’t breathe?Idk if it’s because I had breast implant removed or is it just my chest it gets so tight I get terrified I can’t get enough air and really when it’s high and also in my neck feels choked

Yes, I too get chest tightness that lasts for days at a time. Your body tenses up, especially around your main organs, during an attack. It is the body’s natural instinct to brace for imminent danger. My chest will be sore for days sometimes after intense attacks.

Just one thing I seem to experience different... does anybody else's eyes go weird? Dont know how to explain it other than that but they're like blurry, or don't properly take things in. I feel drunk when im experience bad anxiety! Anyone else??

Hi, Lily. I get that too. Pupils dilate during panic attacks, apparently, so that’s why the blurry vision or light sensitivity. You can also get “stars” or “flashers” and tunnel vision. My panic attacks started at the same time I started getting optical migraines (the visual effects of a migraine without the headache), so there’s all kinds of freaky possibilities.

Hi my anxiety is really bad some days i cant cope i just want to run away because of it does anybody get feeling in there head with this because i do and it s so frightning

You are not alone, im 33 years old and have had this terrible mental disease we call anxiety for 13 + years. It can really takeba toll at times. You just have to fight it and tell yourself its just anxiety im not really gonna die or faint or be stuck like this. Its temporary. Keep fighting and dont give up.. I came on here because im having one tonight. I hope to get to sleep and let it pass. God bless you, i hope you stay strong.

I'm also 33 years old. Diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and suffering from this terrible disorder since 2015. It just started when I had Hyperthyroidism and gave me lots of horrible symptoms like constant nervousness, high blood pressure, insomnia, fast heart beat, fatigue, etc. I wasn't able to work properly at all so I decided to quit my good job. Underwent Radioactive Iodine Therapy for my thyroid few weeks after my resignation. I thought everything will go back to normal after that but unfortunately, those horrible symptoms stay in my system up to the present moment. Tired visiting ER every now and then because of the thought of having a heart attack due to breathing difficulty, or raptured aneurysm due to severe tension headache/ migraine, or stroke due to high blood pressure and numbness, or just the thought of passing out due to nervousness. Went to a Family Doctor, Cardiologist, Neurologist, Endocrinologist and everybody tells me I'm fine and all the tests are clear. Visited Psychiatrist and prescribed me Anxiolytic drug, Anti depressant and Anticonvulsant, but they all made my anxiety worse. I went to different Psychiatrist for a 2nd opinion but it was just the same. Didn't find myself comfortable talking to them. I have a very smart and handsome 7-year old son with me and my husband is working in other country. I'm taking care of my son all by myself. Some days when I feel calm, my bp is just around 90-120 over 60-80. But when my anxiety is at its peak it goes high up to 140-170 over 80-100 and I can't function at all due to nervousness, tense muscles, chest tightness, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, numbness, headache and more. It makes me more anxious thinking about severe illness or being bedridden or death and the pain it will bring to my husband and son if this will happen. I'm tired pretending I'm okay in front of other people and act normal when going to my son's school, market, relatives houses, etc, while my whole body is so tensed and restless and in pain. I need someone to talk to and understands what I'm going through. Life must go on not for ourselves but for the people who depends on us. Just keep doing something to divert our minds and make it busy. Talking to someone you trust is important. And most of all try to surrender our worries to God. I know it's hard to surrender it and not to get worried about it when you feel it. But acceptance is the key. Accept and keep doing something significant. We'll overcome this guys.

Im feeling the same way. Message me and we can talk. I can give you my number

Hi i would also like to talk about anxiety i been suffering with anxiety for 12 years now im 33 years old and i take xanax and it seems to make me worse heres my number 9178217218

Hi Erika,
i will talk to you about anxiety,i have h/a and have had it for the last 25 years.
It is awful,i have tried everything to be rid of it,and i truly believe the only way out of it is to ride the train of anxiety.Yes go with it,it is really hard and i have not done it yet but i hope one day i will.
I wait at the station and the train stops but i never get on it.The whistle blows and it goes without me.I drive my wife crazy with my questions about my health,but one thing Erika [NEVER GOOGLE].
I let my wife look for me then i have to believe her answer,not easy either but if i look myself i scare myself so i do not look.
I believe the answer to anxiety does is not pills or cbt,but in our own mind,we should not believe all that it tells us,IT LIES.
I cannot phone you because i live in England,but i will try to help you all i can,after 25 years of this i really want rid of anxiety.
Best wishes to you Garry.

if you see a phone number from s dakota. that was me trying to call you at night. my appologies if it was too late as i had just run across this page and your number. i almost live in the ER now from anxiety! my nerves are almost gone and i needed to find someone else like me out there. my family is of no use. thank you

Thank you that’s very enspiring I suffer from panic disorder so I go through 7-12 panic attacks a day which follows up with all the symptoms of anxiety and then some but you helped with that so thank you and god bless

Hi Kamila. I read your comment and felt like I could have written it. I have 2 small children and a fiance, and I live in fear that I am close to death because I'll panic randomly and cant convince myself otherwise that I'm not dieing. Even after going to the ER 3 times, seeing my doctor, getting blood drawn and wearing a heart monitor, and having all tests come back perfect, I deal with this still. I am struggling with keeping a happy face on around my children when sometimes I feel like I might keel over. I have heart palps, upset tummy, tingling limbs, left arm pain occasionally, and I get restless. Almost to the point of crying. It's a nightmare I cant wake up from.

Hello, I am dealing with the same thing too, I never had anxiety until after my daughter was born three years ago. I have panic attacks, that are completely random, some days are better then others. I have the same symptoms happen to me as we’ll , heart palpitations, dizziness, numb limbs. It literally makes you think your going to die and that then spikes your anxiety even more. I’m glad their are others who have similar symptoms makes me feel like we’re not alone.

Anxiety makes me feel like I’m loosing my mind sometimes but I’m learning to not give it the control.

I literally go through the same thing I’m only 17 year of age and it’s driving me insane with these physical symptoms mental too , i can’t tell the difference every five mins I’m panicking about something bad happening to me I barely eat now and I’m going through a lot aches idk what to do

Sometimes I feel like I'm caged in my head and I feel like I wanna go mad too. Cant concentrate. Its only God that has been keeping me

I have had anxiety since my 1st son was born in 2007. Sometimes i have long stretches without it and times when it is horrible. And also the things that trigger it change. I have found lately to help ease them is to not think about all those negative thoughts while having anxiety. I say no this is not anything but anxiety. I don't entertain the thoughts that tell me heart attack or whatever. I find a quiet spot or plug my ears lay down if possible and focus only on my breathing in and out and i calm down eventually. I hope this can help someone as it as helped me. I pray everyday for God to lift this burden and now I will pray for all of you as well.

Wow Bre what you just described is my life I live in constant fear of dying and it’s terrible the tingle limbs, pain in left arm, heart paps, and upset stomach that’s all me. I don’t know what to do and for some reason this always happens to me worse at night. It’s taking over my life and I have three boys ages 6,9 and 6 months. They need me and I need to get better it’s so hard.

Be encouraged please, even when anxiety turns out all the lights in the whole and all you see is black. This is what I try to tell myself. I believe you will be ok!!! When someone say this to me it makes me feel better. God bless💕

Hi Kamila. I understood of every bit you said. Im on my 4th night struggling to sleep because of the symptoms. My body is just too noisy at night. It is also not easy to discuss this with anyone. I am trying acupuncture now as alternative to medication.

I am feeling the same way. I havent gotten diagnosed yet, but i am pretty sure i have an anxiety disorder. I only had this feeling for a couple of weeks and its an awful. Its worst at night. I have not gotten proper sleep. I feel alone, i know there are many people that have it, but i feel alone. I was never like this, i just want it to go away but it hasnt.

“I was never like this, I just want it to go away” sounds like my wish. Nevertheless I’ve learned you have to fight back you can’t allow anxiety to control your life, your feelings or your decisions. Just being on here helps me. I’ve been dealing with this anxiety off and on for the past 6 years. Although I think I had it for most of my young adult life. I am 46 now. You do get relief at times. Educating yourself and knowing your triggers is a big part of recovery. Yes you can recover. And don’t be afraid to try holistic alternative to this medication. And of course always stay in consult you PC but ultimately it’s your body and mind and you know what you are feeling more than anyone else. I am presently dealing with this now. My symptoms is what really drive me nuts. I’m nervous for most of the day, head-spasms (scared of stroke, aneurism, als, etc). I’m at the doctor now because my toe won’t stop twitching is very uncomfortable at nights. Can’t hardly fall asleep. Anyhow I’m determined to beat this. I experience this at least once Every year and I always learn something new about myself and this thing! Keep the hope alive everybody. God bless💕

I know how you feel. I’m young and I’m 23 years old months ago I found out I have anxiety everyday I worry about my health about something bad happening. It scares me everyday. Message me or anyone cause I know I would love to talk to someone who has the same problems as me cause noon really understands

I feel exactly the way you do. I’ve been suffering with bad anxiety for 3 months now. On and off tension headache and ear pain. TMJ and just feeling nervous eat all times. I hate this feeling.

Very powerful!! Reading your comment gave me lots of strength and courage to accept and overcome this bad guys !.

Hey, I think we have the same thing, I was wondering if u would reach out to me I would to talk about it and hopefully get some tips and pointers.
Eddy

Thank you so much for sharing. Your tenacity and strength in dealing with this is very encouraging. Stay hopeful guys we will survive this. God bless us and be with us all❤️

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