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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 feel your pain, been in the same boat for going on 6 years .. pretty sure it started whn I was child and progressively got worse over a cpl bad relationships, having children , dad having bad health issues and feeling alone most times. Tried many different medications which I was even to anxious to take most of the time.. so I’ve also tried the herbal pills which didn’t seem to do anything . So I feel like I don’t know how to cope most days and that makes me even more anxious, feels like I’m stuck in a viscous circle and I want out.

I have health anxiety as well and the symptoms from it make me feel like I’m losing my mind. I start therapy this week and I’m hopeful that it will help me reset.

I have a very Similar experience when it comes to my health concerns with anxiety. I see you posted this a year ago. Have you found anything that helps you?

I get the same way. The lightheadedness and rapid heart beat gets me every time. I get so scared of fainting. Are you feeling better?

Dear Sirs,
I have following symptoms:
1) Noises in head.
2) Severe pricking, shooting pain & tightness in chest muscles & up to abdomenal muscles.
Sleeplessness.
3) Seven years of these symptoms & no medicine works .
Kindly advise & oblige.
Thanks and best regards,
Narendra
Email: naren2231@gmail.com

I suffered multiple panic attacks a month ago they were continuous to the point I had to go to the ER. I had them but always came and went pretty much as fast as they came. This time was different then after that day every day since I legit been so anxious my anxiety is through the roof, I’m terrified to go out in public I’m nervous to drive I feel like inside my head is just racing & like I’m losing my mind. This is the scariest moment in my life I am currently taking Celexa I find I am having a lot of the side effects but I need to try something.... wanted to mention I never had fears of driving or being in public places till I had my panic attack episode I don’t know if it may of tiggered something. please has anyone suffered like me I am exhausted and I’m emotionally & physically drained. I’m not sleeping properly at night unless I take my sleeping aid which my doctor prescribed. I’m constantly in fear of losing my mind or not being who I am anymore. I got two beautiful girls who I’m fighting for every day so I can live my normal life again. Has anyone felt like this? Also always lightheaded when I’m out in public and I don’t feel anxious I just feel like I’m not feeling normal like I could pass out just the physically symptoms iv been having is unreal and I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone :(

Yes I know exactly what you’re talking about. I too suffer from the same issue. That feeling of faint or just not right when out kills me. I don’t understand it. Lately I have also been feeling my heart thump at night when trying to sleep. Its so disturbing that i cant sleep so I get up n Im upset at myself.

I am going throw the same thing for 19 months. I take lorazepam it helps. But it’s not all gone.

Hi I too am going through depression and anxiety. I know its scary and my kids and grandkids have moved away. My husband is here after he finishes work but i know how you feel. My husband was in the defence force for 28 years.

Hi everyone. I’m 37 and I’ve always had health anxiety and OCD (thoughts) for as long I can remember. Does anyone else feel like they are going crazy and doubt their own sanity? It’s awful and has been worse since I had my son 10 months ago x

Just register to your brain the last time that you went to the hospital or a doctor that there’s nothing wrong with you, Call for help (911) is not gonna help you it makes you more anxious. “Are they gonna be on time while I’m still breathing where are they now?) your relying to someone for help cause you are thinking that your gonna die or passing out. Quote me on this I have the situation that your having Rigth now I know very well that is not easy. didn’t go to work for two year cause of anxiety and panic Attack. Trust me dude just accept all things in life and that’s how you will cope up. Email me if your anxiety is over the roof I will tell you how I did I cope up.. chees and good luck kinnm@outlook.com

Hi Lachele how are you? I was just reading about the heart racing. I used to have that really bad, I would experience it in the morning and evening for months. It was very very intense, I thought I was having a heart attack many times. One thing I found that helped me was, whenever my heart would race, if I put my face in front of a hard blowing fan and just breathed deeply in my heart rate would start to calm down after 10 - 15 mins. The cold air blowing on my face seemed to really help. I dont know if your still experiencing the heart racing or not. I thought I would just suggest that. I know It's not very nice. Mine went away after a while. I had it day after day and never had a heart attack. I slowly got better, I hadnt had anxiety for years up until a couple of months ago. Now have been told I have GAD. Ive had many differant symptoms from tight chest.hard breathing, sore back. Constant anxiety in my stomach. Burning in my stomach. Sore/numb left arm sometimes dizzy. I have some good days and some bad. It was comforting to read other stories of people going through it. I hope you recover quickly. God bless.

My anxiety is going on 3 months now. It is so horrible, I get heat rising up the back of my neck and down my arms. Headaches, dizziness you name it. Went to ER had MRI CT SCAN EKG BLOOD TESTS, Everything is fine. I think the doctors are lying lol. Anxiety puffs up so big but I need to minimize it to succeed. Good luck yall

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.

You say anxiety wont kill you but in the UK, the Anxiety website states it can do harm and even lead to death! This information has caused my anxiety to escalate as I was never told it was dangerous

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.

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