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.

Additional Resources:

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.

Shantell Neal

October 19, 2018

In reply to by Melly

I would be willing to talk to you. I have the same issues.


October 24, 2018

In reply to by Melly

I know what your feeling. I am try to deal with it to. I’m going to try and accept I’m having anxiety tell myself to go ahead. Since it seems that what’s happening anyway so I guess I should feel the fear which I don’t much like and hope I realize I’m wasting time on it hope it does happen again. I hate it as much ch as u do. I just want it to stop. I pray for it to stop for both of us.


October 26, 2018

In reply to by Melly

Hi ❤️ I understand what you are experiencing

You,re not alone. I had / have every physical symptom going. Constant light headed ness, Fatigue, back pain, chest pain, watering eye, numb feeling, head pressure, head aches, twitching eyes, insomnia feeling intrusive thoughts, constant internet searches looking for reassurance, tinnitus ....everything. Been like this over 12 month. Had the same symptoms 20 years ago, they eventually faded as life changed. Modern life burns people out but I know you get over it. Hope my experience helps.

Wow! This is exactly what I'm going through now. I have all the symptoms that you mentioned. Thank you so much that helps a lot.

Hi there
I've had these symptoms lately, had my baby 10 months ago.
Chest pain on a daily basis but DR said it's chostocondritis. Lately it's getting worse.. lightheadness, fatigue, sweats, trembling feeling all over body, lump in throat like I'm being strangled... I'm convinced I'm going to have a heart attack. I've been to 3 different GPs, 2 cardiologists and had all the tests, they've assured me I'm fine but i can't accept that...still convinced it's my heart. This has completely ruined my life, i find it hard to function on a daily basis. I should be enjoying this time with my first child but i constantly feel like death is around the corner...

Hi there ❤️ Just want to let you know we are in very similar situations and you are not alone. My baby girl is 9 months and I have been dealing with it since she’s been born. I have the worst health anxiety and feel like I am dying every day. I hate myself for letting this control my life I feel like I’m not enjoying her the way I should be since she is my first and I’ve always prayed for this life. I am here to talk. I recently spoke to my husband about it and made an appointment to see a psychologist. I’m scared of developing an illness that will kill me or prevent me from being able to care for my baby girl. Enough is enough

I feel like you are explaining me. I live daily in the fear of having a heart attack. All the same symptoms. Dr tells me I’m fine. Er did blood test. Ekg- urine- told me I’m fine. But here is sir snuggling my 19 month old with a heavy chest and jaw aching! I just want to feel better!

You're not alone. My anxiety flipped a switch one morning after waking up and my baby was also 10 months. I had been dealing with some anxiety post partum and was on meds that helped until she was almost 1. That morning, I had my first panoc attack, unexpected and scary as hell. 4 yeara later it comes and goes but this past week has been the worst so far. Going back to therapy in a couple weeks to learn how to cope. Over the 4 years my family amd friends are tired of me, my daughter can now, sort of see what's going on. It needs to stop. Plus in the past 4 years, I feel my body has aged 20 years and my face shows the toll its taken. I'm here for you momma.❤

Every since I was a kid I remember always being worried and scared, it got really bad in 2011 I suffered for 2 whole years, I wouldn’t even come out of my house. Right now I suffer from chest pains, lightheadedness, lump in my throat, feeling like I’m gonna pass out, I’ve lost so many good jobs because of this and people just don’t understand what we go through daily, I use to go to the ER 3 times a week, I just knew I had cancer, I’ve had every test you could possibly think of and all came back just fine, but I still keep telling them they’re missing something. Right now I’m sitting here with the lump in my throat and feeling lightheaded, so I started googling things and ended up on here. This has really stopped me from living my life. I’m so sorry we are going through this, I truly hope we can find away to get better soon ❤️


I have been dealing with OCD/anxiety since I was a child. I feel all the anxiety symptoms and I have also analyze all my bodily sensations. I started feeling lime I had a drifting pass out feeling when I am about to fall asleep that obsessed and scared me so much. It is horrible to have sever anxiety

You will make it I'm currently going through postpartum anxiety/depression and I was thinking just like you, felt like I would never make it out. But started buspirone and mirtazapine 15mg and once it got in my system things are headed back to being normal and the anxiety is no where near intense. It's also about letting the anxiety happen so your mind can realize ok it didn't hurt me and also staying positive. When the negative thoughts come I quickly think of something positive

Hello I'm 23 and I just got this feeling 2 weeks ago and yeah feel you so much I can't even come home to adorable son because all I have in my head is the nasty feeling but itll go away I promise we are not alone in this will get through it

Hey vez how are you feeling now?? Have you now or back before taken meds to help or are you feeling better now

How long did this last? Did it seem to last for months? Does it ever go away?

I can totally relate to this. Have worked a very stressful job for the past 12 months and have now got debilitating anxiety. I know it stems from the stress of the job and burn out, so for me it's circumstantial. I believe that it is my brain and body's reaction to too much stress! I too have every symptom (physical and psychological) under the sun! For me, I find that accepting wholeheartedly that I am anxious and sitting with the feelings calmly really does help. It's not easy and has taken months of practice. 4 months ago I couldn't leave the house. Now I am slowly integrating myself back into life. I thought it was a death sentence. Every day is hard but it does get better! Have faith in yourself and be strong!

Even I have had severe anxiety and I still have it. Heart pounding, head throbbing, nausea, hair fall, electric shock feeling, body zaps, aches and pains. I have it all!

Hi Mel,

Has anyone reached out to you!? How are you feeling!?

Lalit Singh

November 8, 2018

In reply to by Melly

I am Lalit Singh from India. I am suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for last 2 year and more and still not getting the right way. Some time my anxiety goes always but after thinking of it it comes again u can mail me at
I know talking with someone who is suffering from same disease give u another way of living

Had Anxiety for 26yrs now ever need to talk no problem.

Face ent neck shoulders back chest fatigue insomnia all over body pain scared


December 16, 2018

In reply to by Melly

I just stumbled apon this in the middle of dealing w my own episode. I hope you are doing better or improving. If not, I get it as I have been dealing with this for 6 years (in a heightened stage for 6 and not being able to identify for way longer). Anyways, if you need any words, write back.

Alot of this stuff for me is up and down.


Anxiety is ruining my life!! I feel like I am dying. Going insane. I don't know if I can take much more of this. Been dealing with it for years and years off and on. But here lately it is worse than ever and I am tired. ☹

Hi, I know how you feeling. Heart is racing, confusion, terrible thoughts, avoiding things, sweating and fear. I'm going through all of this at the moment. It's all caused by tiniest stress that gets you more and more anxious. At first change your thinking , look at sun, child, pet and have a smile and it'll go for a couple of seconds. To get yourself back to reality lookup Dr Joe dispenza , best stuff. After 40 min. You tube video you will be back as long as you can keep the thinking. There is meditation app called headspace must have app to relieve stress and anxiety. By the way I have severe anxiety and I'm going through without meds. I think meds are just short term help , not fixing anything. But mindfulness is the thing we are all after. Remember those are just thoughts, it's not you, you can't controll them so just let them pass. Stay positive.

Its my first time feeling like this ever. Never felt like this for the whole life only just past few days. Recently im scared of heart attacks, anxiety attack. Everything I know is all in my head and i dont even know how to get them out. All i can feel is nothing and its like i can’t do anything anymore but lay down. Now i want to challenge myself if i can conquer it by not thinking about it and try to forget it by everything i do when i go out.

I'm exactly the same. Anxiety is ruining My life and it's such a shame as I'm only 22. I had to quit my job because of it, i haven't left the house in weeks. I get fast heat rate, palpatations, dizziness like am going to pass out, sweaty and shakey hands, chest pains and tightness, I struggle to sleep, I feel sick most days, I feel disconnected from my body, feel like am losing it, i have 1 panic attack nearly every day where I feel like am just going to collapse and die.. honestly it's the worst disease anybody could try handle alone, so just know your not alone, I suffer every single day! I try meditation and breathing techniques that come sometimes help but a lot of the times it doesn't nothing my thoughts of worrying take over. I've also experienced numbness and tingles up my arms and legs .. so many worrying scary symptoms. What's I'm most affraid of is if I do have a underlying heart problem or condition and because I'm young the doctors just fob me of and say im healthy because I'm young and give me anxiety tablets. If I do have anxiety then I'm worried my poor body is going to suffer in the long run with all the strain and stress It go's through every day, it's like a never ending vicious cycle, you feel like you need a new body and brain!

You just described exactly how I've been feeling lately. I'm honestly tempted to quit my job and check myself into a mental health facility bc I don't know what to do to make it to away. Everyday is a struggle and it takes all my energy just to get through work. I don't have a social life anymore bc of it and it's hard to even work out. I was going out everyday and just fine a month ago and it all of the sudden took over me. For anyone that's felt this way, how do you overcome it??

I literally have underlying health problems too which is why it scares me so much I’m currently sitting in the ER for the 5th time this month because my symptoms were scaring me so bad. Everything looks weird like I’m almost on acid or something, my head is tingling, chest pains, chest tightness, feeling like I’m going to die. It’s horrible can somebody please text me I really need support and need to calm down and can’t 5138833057

I am currently feeling the same . I have not been sleeping well for the past two weeks. I am on antidepressants but it seems an if they are not effective enough to reduce the enxiety.


December 21, 2018

In reply to by Melly

I understand where you are coming from. Let's talk.