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.

Yes! I get headaches and it makes me so worried. Last year I did an MRI and it was normal. Now I’m wondering if I should get another. I believe my anxiety is marijuana induced. Because every time I try this happens. Now I feel guilty and self-blame. This anxiety is frightening you’re not alone. However when I go to church it helps. My hope is in God. Stay encouraged you’re not alone!!!

Hello, i understand completely what your going through anxiety and depression are connected its a vicious circle. Medication and counselling may help write down your triggers and what you are doing to help yourself this can help aswel. It will not last forever try and be strong and realise that all you have to do is get into the right frame of mind again, but sometimes you will need a little help along the way. My anxiety has relapsed now i am seeking help once again i will go see my gp and discuss my options i will probably go back on the meds and also consider counselling.

I get this super strange feeling in my head I can’t explain. I’ve had constant anxiety for 2 whole days now. I just feel crazy and uncomfortable and I don’t know why I just can’t shake the feeling.

I too worried for a long time that something was or will happen to my heart but don’t worry you only have panic disorder you’ll be fine when you panic just get up and move around or put yourself in front of a fan and meditate it helps

This is me as well. Some days are good, and I'm free from the panic. But other days, like today, I'm so panicked I can't function and I'm convinced my heart is giving out, even though I have all tests done including a cat scan and heart monitor and all was perfectly fine. I'm so sick of this feeling. It's the worst.

Read your comment & going through the same thing. Not sure if you will see my post. But are you feeling better? If so what helped you? Thank you!

Don't worry about your heart, I've had panic disorder for ages and I've only just seen a cardiologist, he told me that your heart only beats to a certain speed, and the only time a fast heart beat could hurt you is if you already have something wrong going on with you cardiovascular system

I too have had gad all my life now at 61 really bad health anxiety about my eating and weight it’s terrible I’m thin and worry about weight loss ... im anxious and neasous all the time it’s horrible I pray for help everyday for it to go away ....but who knows anymore ....... sigh

The comfort of strangers...but we're all not really strangers dealing with this. Talking does help...

You are all not alone. I am glad I found this thread. I have always been a nervous, anxious person, but a few months ago I had 3 panic attacks in a row that ended with me in the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. Turns out, I was totally fine but the panic was so bad it had me believing I was dieing. Since then, I have had a few ok weeks, with lots of anxiety in between and several more attacks. I feel disconnected from myself during these, and my heart goes so fast that it begins palpitating. I get tight, cold and hot, and I feel I can't relax. If I try, my heart thumping keeps me up. This usually only lasts about an hour but the crippling anxiety lasts all day some days and I feel like each time I'm dieing again. Even when I try to talk myself through it. It is absolutely awful and I live in fear daily of it happening again. :(

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.
3) Seven years of these symptoms & no medicine works .
Kindly advise & oblige.
Thanks and best regards,

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

I just started anxiety after having a caffeine overdose. I took caffeine completely out my life and sugar which I think I'm going threw withdrawals making anxiety worse and pannick attacks the doctor gave me pills but I'm not ready to take them. I'll feel like I'm loosing my mind when I have an attack.its been 3 months for me.

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

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.

Hello I am 62 yrs. young and I too am a victim of this unending Nightmare... I have tried almost every natural medication there is, I even tried the CBD oil... but it did absolutely nothing. ( I have never experienced such terror)
My former Doctor had me on this medication called Clonazepam 0.5mg... it helped me a great deal, but she only kept me on it for 30 days... now I'm back to square one and she won't re write the prescription.
My anxiety started when this Pandemic came about, so many people are going through this, and we need more than just pep talk... my former Doctor told me to get psychiatric evaluation... because of the constant flare ups... well I guess everyone needs to have this done.
Anxiety doesn't mean you're nuts!... it can happen to anyone! I pray that the next doctor that I see will be a bit more compassionate and understanding, anxiety is no joke. Is there any real hope and help out there?

If it helps I experience the EXACT SAME thing. I'm commenting this after waking up at 4:45 am and having a panic attack. They are getting smaller but I hate the idea of waking up with one because I feel so weak when I first wake up. Just have to ride the wave and they get MUCH smaller.

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.

Trying to explain the symptoms to my fiancee and he will never get it. I get racing mind, burning feet sensation, random heat flashes , feeling off balanced and scared.
Thank God he is so supportive but he will never understand.

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.


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