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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.

I was okay with anxiety until this August 2020 t. I had severe panic attacks witg elevated bp and it made me worry more that I might be dying, having a heart attack or aneurysms. Just by reading here it made me realize that I was not the only one and ppl also experienced elevated bp. It feels a little comfortable to know thay I am not alone. I had this for 7 yrs, generalized anxiety disorder. I was okay with no medication until recently. Nervousness, scared, impending doom, headache, feeling of passing out and the list goes on. I have to move forward because I breastfeed my baby. I just want to be okay even with anxiety. I just do hope thag everything will be alright.

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

I get them 24-7 to the point my skin is burning and I breakout

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?

Can relate to the high BP and negative thoughts. I am not able to sleep well. I am having heart palpitation very night in the middle of the night. I am afraid of my anxious thought. sort of im trapped with the anxious feeling. have been suffering since I was 16 years old. Im 40 years old now. was ok for nearly 10 years and now my anxiety is back like hell. Went to the cardiologist and my BP was 140/90. Did a stress test and my BP was very high 160/90 during the test as I was very anxious during the stress test. Doc has told me that my heart is ok. that is should for go for a walk as physical exercise but Im afraid in case my BP is high again. Have anyone done a stress test and their BP was high. thx for ur advice

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

Hello Brittany I am going through exactly what you just wrote can I have you WhatsApp so you can educate me more on it ?

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❤️

Thanks for sharing. I get some those symptoms to and have to act normal. Headaches, toe twitch, muscles tense, dizzy, tiredness.
Trusting God for healing.
Stay strong you will be alright.
Try healing services it helps big time!

It's important to know many of our health anxiety problems start with something minor. Our anxiety then kicks in and it can spiral out of control. You start to question every little thing your body is doing...and the anxiety worsens. Scary but true....many times we see a doctor because we are concerned and you end up on all kinds of medications which have side effects and your problems begin to get worse, not better. Six years ago I thought I had a sinus infection which wouldn't get better. I began to worry. The worry turned into depression and panic because my life was changing. Pretty soon I was seeing all kinds of doctors. Every test they gave me was normal so then sent me along to a psychiatrist. I was given meds and more meds. My problems only got worse. It all began with a sinus infection, and now here I am, years later, taking all kinds of prescription meds for pain, for sleep, for depression, for anxiety.... I NEVER HAD ANY OF THESE PROBLEMS BEFORE I GOT SICK. We need to wake up and realize that a LOT of the time these problems....like health anxiety....are caused by doctors who throw medication at us and make us WORSE. I barely remember what it feels like to just feel....NORMAL. I miss my old life. Research "latrogenic illness." Many people are getting sicker and sicker because of the "care" they receive from doctors. I hope I get my life back. I never used to feel so depressed and so scared and dead inside. I don't feel like I am living my life anymore. It feels more like I am inside my head all the time. How do we get out of this dark rabbit hole, forever chasing "normal?"

Hi Kamilla. I have the same exact situation as you. Are you taking blood pressure medicines? My anxiety happens almost everyday which means bp is fluctuating. How are you now? I wish we lived close so we can talk. Has your anxiety improved from last year?

Thank you very much I'm feeling a bit better I'm even going to screen your comment I'm so glad I'm not alone I sometime feel I really want someone to talk to but my family just doesn't understand me I always try to talk to them but they don't give me the answers that I need well now I understand it is because they never went through what I'm going through

Same!!! I’ll get sharp pains in my chest, and feel like I’m going to pass out. I’ll go to emergency & all my test come back fine.. I’ve even told the doctor your telling me I’m fine but my heart is literally hurting and I’m having heart palpitations as we speak. And it always end in " its anxiety” I hate anxiety! It’s a fight every day! No person should have to deal with such an ugly thing! But we must continue to fight this off till the day we all realize " oh wow, no anxiety! ” can’t wait to feel that freeness again!

trust me you are not alone. we always think we face the worst but its not.
The only way is to face it but skillfully . Just like you prepare theory and then give the practical exam in school days...its the same way. I know how dreaded we feel , infact while writing this my hands are shaking and i am breathing shallow . One seek help online because he has symptoms like me and you.

i have severe anxiety symptoms even a thought of climbing stairs leaves me paralysed , but thats actually not true its the mind playing tricks
i suggest you to go through "any book writted by claire weekes and
and another book written bye barry "DARE"
there is nothing more powerful then your will and yes..
NO BODY DIES OF A PANICK ATTACK " however bad it may be you will not die
you have survived all your panick attacks to date , you can do it everytime.
countless times , many of us do that daily ..i feel panick attacks every hour for some days .i dont quit ...read thoese books repeatedly , if you feel cry out ur emotions its ok to cry . Tears brings acceptance
accept and allow those anxious feelings
and float past this experience and let the time pass this has build up over a period of time , it will go away in sometime , meanwhile you need to make sure you stay there , hang it there for some more time everytime , this will rewire our brain .
whatever be the symptoms accept and allow it. YOU WILL NOT DIE , YOU WILL NOT FAINT.

I have been dealing with Gad, depression and panic disorder. Everyday I think I’m dying. I get this weird feeling, sensation all over my body and feel like I’m going to die! Yesterday I have and anxiety and then a panic. It was one right after another. It took a lot of me and I have slept half the day and still was tired. I did therapy, medication, and mediation, and nothing seems to work. This is the hardest disease to fight. Your fighting yourself! It’s you who is thinking all this negative thoughts. I’ve tried to change a negative into a positive but that’s hard when you are going through pain, and you think you are dying at that moment. And, all the drs say it’s anxiety, yeah right! I can’t even work, stay outside long, enjoy my life!

My symptoms I get stabbing chest pains same spot, pains in my neck, arms, sweating on my back, tightness in chest , can’t breathe and muscles tense so tight in my arm I’m thinking I’m having a heart attack. At times my face gets so red, I get this pounding headache and know my pressure is up. The pains are one thing, but the feeling of ANXIETY is another. It’s the worse feeling of all. My anxiety comes and goes all day and wakes me up at night. It’s the worse. I feel as though no one knows my pain! I happy to read the posts about others going through the same difficult struggle. I felt alone!

I really appreciate your comment.Ive been feeling the same symptoms everyone else has on here...Hearing from someone else that its only temporary made me feel 100% better!

I believe I have illness anxiety. Always fearful my health is in jeopardy. If I hear of anyone that has died or had anyone that has had a life changing diagnosis I automatically go I to overdrive with anxiety.

I have had these in some form everyday for 11 yrs now the only thing that keeps me going is that I keep telling myself that I can’t die from it. That’s the only thing that keeps me from going off all the way. Pray for me and I will pray for y’all

I get a terrible stomach tightness and sometimes a pain across my gut i also cant drive more than 30 miles away I also have terrible anxiety in stores lol lines and drive thrus I started using CBD hemp oil it really helps i can still feel baby panic attacks try to start but they go away quickly. Im sorry you all are dealing with this bs I do do were all in it together with millions of others around the world.

Hi I had a really bad anxiety attack last night woke up shaking, feel like I’m going mad it’s so horrible

Yess im 46 been struggling with pure o and anxiety ocd since i was like 4 my earliest memories are struggling with my thoughts ...so overwhelming..

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