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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 am so happy I found this. I feel your pain I thought I was alone in this world. Cold air helps me also and I have been to the er twice in 1 week for panic attacks and had extensive testing done on my heart and I am perfectly fine. Today I just knew anxiety could kill me and I am happy to know that I won’t die from this and your post help me to know I am not alone thanks .

Hello im also young 26 year old and i have really bad anxiety! I can be resting and out of nowhere my heart races to 130 bpm and i panic i try so hard to not let it get to me any advice ?? On how to cope ? I tried everything i just fear the worse ?

I hope all is well in your marriage and i hope you are socialising with other like yourself. I dont want to ask any questions...... Skype every day with those fro home. Try to keep a part of your life as your own. Even if thats an hour a week. If childcare cost is any issue at all for you to get that hour explain that its much much cheaper than therapy. Access any navy support available. Dont be lonely.

I have been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety really bad since January. All after coming off of the depo shot. I have always had anxiety just not the panic attacks until coming of that darn depo shot. I’m not sure if that is what caused it but now any time I feel anxiety I get extremely overwhelmed and instantly thing “this is it” or “I need to go to the hospital” it’s terrible. I have struggled on and off since January and am now having more good days than bad but man when those bad days come back ITS SO HARD TO SHAKE THEM. I hate that people have to go through this and I still have a very very hard time understanding why people including myself have to suffer from it.

I feel Like I’m out of control everyday with anxiety. Some times throughout the day it lets up but I still Feel shaken. I feel Depression has gotten worse and I often have feelings like I don't Love my husband anymore not my children. That’s what stirs up my anxiety the most. Then when I start Thinking these thoughts It takes over and I go Into panic. What is wrong with me? Is this apart of the anxiety/ depression disorder because I know I love My family but those thoughts are so realistic.

Nichole, I hope you are better by now but just in case you're still struggling you're not alone! My anxiety panic cycle sounds very similar. It's the feeling of how can I be thinking that or feeling that! And that can be frightening. Remember they are only thoughts! A book by Claire Weekes helped me immensely! When I get a thought that triggers the anxiety panic cycle I face it, accept it as nothing more than a thought and float around with it and let time pass. That's the technique from Claire's book. It works but takes practice. It seems counter intuitive And too simple. For years I used to run from the scary (or trigger thought) and no matter how far I ran from it, it seemed to catch up to me. Once I started facing it, the thought or feeling or "what if" diminished. And within days I had a tool that helped me not be a slave to the thoughts. I am going through some anxiety right now and am using the technique. It is working! I expect it will take a few days to get it under control. One other thing is I have found that it's easy to project the discomfort anxiety and panic onto the ones you love. You still love them and everything will be fine. This technique works! Face, accept and let time pass. And practice!

If you haven't experienced anxiety and panic attacks, you really are not qualified to give medical advice on how to handle it. Absolutely nothing prepares you for, or helps you to understand the power that a panic attack has over your life. You not only feel like you are going to die from it, you wish you could, to end the mental and physical torment and pain. One must fully experience anxiety to begin to comprehend the extent to which it disables you.

This is very true. When you resist, it's worse. When you don't resist the thoughts or physical sensations, it tends to be easier to cope with. I been through the out of body feeling, heart Palps, panic, chest pain, arm aches, late night Google searches, mediation, exercise, vitamins, acupuncture etc. Etc. Not resisting seems to ease anxiety the fastest. Hypnotherapy was also helpful.

Melly

September 26, 2018

In reply to by Jon Prego

Im dealing with it and it's extremely scary and i need someone to talk to please
I have palps ,chest pain and it's scary for me first time dealing with it anyone willing to talk to me privately

What kind of breathing sensations are you having i think im having the Same

I have it really really bad where I think I’m sick or I have cancer maybe that’s why I’m anxious all the time can someone please talk to me in private as well I been googling for days I’m scared

I am feeling the same but willing to talk to you! How are u?

hi there
I have bad anxiety , I like to talk to you and sharing experience information

Hello all, it's good to see that I am not alone going through this struggle. It is also sad to see so many of us struggling. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety with depression. I just recently moved to Georgia and it is heightened again especially at night. I have been dealing with this going on 3 years, the medication helps but I'm still struggling.

Been struggling for years! I've had anxiety my whole life but was never diagnosed until 3 years ago, when I felt like I was having a heart attack. I was given anxiety pills but nothing changed. It actually got worse. But my dr never really explained anything to me. Just wrote a script and sent me away. I was not satisfied, and still believed that I might be suffering from a heart problem. Since then, I've been to the ER twice having chest pain, confused, breathing problems, scared out of my mind! I'm reading everyone's comments here, and it's very relieving to know I'm not alone and I'm not crazy!

Cherokee sanders

January 24, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

I feel the exact same way I’ve been dealing with it for years last Friday night had I really bad panic Attack been back and forth to the er cause I’m concerned about my heart the all told me the same thing nothing life threatening just need to learn how to cope with it also im wrecking my brain on google

Hey I just started this on Monday. I understand what your going through. They all tell you to juat realy and calm down but its not that easy. So far the best thing for me has been finding someone to talk to. I dont have many but I find them I guess. If you would like to talk let me know.

About two or three weeks ago I had panic attacks in waves three days straight. Now it's just overwhelming anxiety day after since then. I want to level back out without medicine but I feel like I'll never feel better.

The entire last week feels like one huge panic attack that is never ending. It's been debilitating. Now the stress from not being able to function enough to work, take care of my little girl, pay bills, or even take proper hygiene care of myself can make it feel unbearable. Finally made it, somehow, into my psychiatrists office a few days ago. The main thing I'm missing, is the talk therapy, to learn new ways to cope. If you need to talk or vent or share please dont hesitate to contact me at afeeney1@gmail.com. Anyone for that matter. It can feel so lonely in this world when we are dealing with mental illnesses and it's a damn shame bc there are millions out there amd spme of us just need a shoulder to cry on or some need that person who will drag them to treatment amd be there supporter.

Nicole

February 12, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

You are not alone. I was at the ER today bc I was convinced after a week of panic attacks chest pain, arm pain, jaw pain. (That I still have) that I was having a heart attack. All test came back negative!

Mosey

February 13, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

Same exact thing although the meds did work but only temporarily.. chest pain that moves around, waking up in middle of night with catches of breathe and palps, scares the lights out of me but the doctor did work ups and says my health is fine.. its frustrating because its seems to get better for a couple days then bam! Right back and it gives the feeling of one step forward two steps back.. I would also like to speak with someone privately who would like to talk about these sensations. Thanks Everyone and stay strong

Emily Belliard

February 13, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

Omg the same thing happened to me. I’ve been feeling anxious for years but recently I had an anxiety attack for the first time and I felt like I was having a heart attack I thought my body was going to shut off. I really thought I was going to die. I only spoke to a nurse not a doctor so I don’t get any medication for it. But I still feel chest pain sometimes and I’m still worried. I’m also worried about why so many people are going through this.

Hi Emily,

I hope you are feeling better. I also have always been an anxious person but never started to have attacks till recently. It definitely feels like I may be having a heart attack like you described above. I wish I knew how to deal with it and what triggers it. I am not on any medication for it either and don't really want to be. Have you ever heard of cognitive behavior therapy or tried that? I also wonder why so many people seem to suffer from this as well. Well if anything it definitely feels a little better having typed this out. Maybe group support is a good thing.

Stacy

February 17, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

I’ve gone to the hospital too, urgent care, a neurologist, my primary care Dr. who gave me Wellbutrin which is not working I actually think it’s making me depressed and I do not have depression. I have Xanax right now the only thing that seems to help. Had all of the symptoms, heart palps,sharp shooting pains in my head, chest pains, sweating, clammy, numbness, tingling, electric shock feeling, zoning out, dizzy,
I don’t like being by myself it’s worse then and my thoughts go crazy so I have to stay busy or sleep otherwise I’m making myself have the what if thoughts. This is just an awful thing. I just made an appt. with Psych Dr. it’s time for the specialist to handle this. Praying I get back to normal soon. I hope you all get better and I’m sorry you are struggling.

Hi everyone I'm crystal 25 and struggling really bad, I've never been or had anxiety until now it all started when I had
bad headache (tension type) and I got my partner to massage my neck and he found a lump on the side of my neck then silly me started to stress out and google google google! Went to docs and said it was a swollen lymph node and it wasn't bad and not to worry but i freaked myself out to the point I'm now experiencing all these physical symptoms fast heart rate,nervous feeling tingling and numbness all over body I've been to doctor multiple times Ed more than 3 times with all these weird feelings I can not sleep at all because every time I try calm myself my body send this shock like feeling through my body it's the worst feeling in the world I went 48hours without sleep and they gave me sleeping tablets that only give me 4-5 hours of sleep at max and I was only aloud to take them for 5 days but my body is constantly feeling all theses sensations and I've now been awake for 32 hours can someone please talk to me or send me in the right direction I have 3 beautiful babies and I'm struggling and a nervous wreck. Some of these comments have made me feel a bit better knowing I'm not alone, but I'm so worried about the not sleeping!

Hey I hear ya , I’ve been suffering this for many years and it comes and goes . Like right now I been goin through tut for a week off and on , and I feel the same way U do , feels like my whole body vibrates and feel nervous inside . Light headed at times .... and google is ur worst enemy btw .... chat anytime u want , we all can help each other out .... e_man_187@hotmail.com if ever u wanna email to chat about this shit

Hi crystal I was the same as you at the start Then got a bit better now am back to the start again how mine started was with sore heads and I went on goggle and bam I thought I have a brain tumour then my hole world fell apart panic attacks the lot I still get them to this day 4 months all in it’s a scary thing to be going through but if you need to speck to someone just send me a mail it’s sha311003@aol.com I would love to hear from you as we could try help each other ??

Laura

February 28, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

Can’t even stay still, shaking all over, not sleeping or eating

Im the same. I have zero appetite and losing weight by the day. Can relaz at all nor sleep. All bad thoughts always. Worried about health conditions i actually have that arent getting better. Don't knkw what to do but every second is hell. Meds make me ten times worse cant cope with side effects and become so needy

Kim

March 27, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

First,
I’m so sorry everyone is going through this anxiety symptoms...
I went through with nauseousness,dizzyness, can’t eat,can’t drink,cant sleep,shackyness,felt doomed and felt like I can’t get a breath so I used to ran out of the house to catch a breath......
Went to ER and they gave me some purple med to help me digest food and obviously that didn’t work,
Went to phycalogist and told her “ it made me feels like I’m dieing...” and she asked “ why are you afraid of dieing?” I just felt more hopeless than ever.
So went back to family doctor who gave me Xanax and can’t function because I was so sleepy and fear of getting addicted I stop taking it.
All these happen to me twenty years ago.
Looking back on those times i think what made it worse was I didn’t know anything about anxiety symptoms because twenty years ago I didn’t have access to web site like this.

Long story short my neighbor told me about her experience with depression/ anxiety and told me to go to her psychiatrist and he put me on some depression med for about 6 month and I felt better than ever!

Some days I still feel little anxious for no reason and I read this quote,

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious,
You are living in the future.
If you are at peace,
You are living in the present”

Suzanne

April 5, 2019

In reply to by Heather Blankenship

I'm just suddenly getting extreme anxiety attacks and very irritable maybe it's the new medicine they put me on xanxiety this stuff is supposed to help anxiety I believe it can be make it worse sometimes I have had heart palpitations racing heart feeling faint and weak and trouble swallowing sometimes some scary crap that's for sure I hope yours gets better

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