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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.

Craig

November 18, 2018

In reply to by Jon Prego

My anxiety seems to come towards the end of the day into the night and is almost impossible for me to sleep in the same bed as my wife I end up downstairs on the couch to I guess a safe place in a sense not a good feeling this is all new to me

Don't run from it only enforces it go back in bed with your wife or the anxiety wins it sucks but we must go towards the anxiety and let it pass done it enough times!

I know its hard as the anxiety tries to take over our thoughts but don't avoid things i know its hard but running from anxiety makes it worse, hope you feel better Craig and we all beat anxiety it sucks its just our minds playing tricks on us take care!

Jo Buck

December 16, 2018

In reply to by Jon Prego

The anxiety symptoms are a beast. And I run from anxiety except for one time I gave into the anxiety and it wasn't that bad. I did my breathing techniques and I calm down and went on about my day. But it's a beast in itself and that's the scary part. I take my meds and pray about it. I hope everyone suffering from anxiety anf panic disorder hope we all can be cured and be well.

Rach

February 26, 2019

In reply to by Jon Prego

Anxiety is so bad it’s ruining my life I can’t breathe and the physical symptoms are the worse but what do you mean by resisting ?

Hello everyone, I just want to say that if you need someone to talk to please message me on Instagram @okokwuteva I have times where I’m doing very good besides maybe a small anxiety attack whenever I get worked up over something, but then I go through times where my anxiety is so bad even when I’m just relaxing and it feels like I can’t control it. I’m having so many physical symptoms dizziness/nausea/fatigue/chest pain/tingling hands or feet/ shortness of breath/ heart palps/ feeling doomed/ feeling like I’m going to die/ feeling like I’m going to pass out, etc. these last few weeks have been terrible for me. I have no insurance so I can’t make a doctors appointment. I did go to the ER in July because I was feeling this way and they ran a bunch of tests and told me that everyone is fine. I have really bad health anxiety on top of my day to day GAD. I’m currently trying to seek treatment at a free mental health clinic in my state. If you want to chat, I would definitely enjoy it as well. I hope everyone stays safe. We can do this. ❤️ We are the strongest people because not many people could handle this..

Donna

April 30, 2019

In reply to by Jon Prego

Oh yeah seems like a plan not resisting, just left the ER everything was normal ekg blood work but my heart rate was at 158bpm which slowed down to 120bpm now that im home , i didnt get any medicine for it so i just get at ease knowing im not alone in this feeling this horrible sensation ? Bless everyone on here and hope you all over come this anxiety! Its uncomfortable but no dangerous ! So we must do our best!

very perfect piece and straight to the point.This would be helpful to me because i would be delivering a presentation/talk to a patient that has been diagnosed of having anxiety disorder.
The article did not tell us if anxiety can kill or not.I really want an academic answer.

Diagnosed GAD and much more here, dealing with it for over 20+years, only gotten worse and In my opinion, This article is ridiculous, ludicrous even, i accept my anxiety, i hate it, i wish it would go away but i accept it, but doing so dose NOT EVER make me feel ANY better. I mean i have to accept it, it's always there, not much choice but to accept it, since it's a part of my everyday life, pretty much all day, why not accept it? But it does not help me one tiny bit to accept it. And "ask myself to be MORE anxious? Sorry lol, not something i need health wise. Why would i want to feel even more like i'm going out of my mind with anxiety or cause myself more difficulty? That's like saying if i break my leg, why not just break something else to distract myself from the pain of the broken leg. Ridiculous article in my opinion.

Way I read it is face the fact it’s anxiety and not something worst. As an anxiety sufferer myself I don’t know about the whole “ask for more” but when I realize my symptoms are anxiety and not the hypochondriac it turns you into. I feel much better and breathe and pray my way calm. If it’s still early I try to exercise to burn that adrenaline/cortisol off to boost the good stuff. The struggle is fighting off the negative hypochondriac inside. Every human being suffers from something. Stinking thinkin never produces positive results. I will pray for all of you. Hope this helps

Your article matches my experience about the best way past anxiety is through it. It doesn't match my experience that it won't kill you. I had a period with so deep of anxiety that I became sincerely suicidal. One night it was so bad that I made an absolute decision to kill myself the next morning. My mother serendipitously came over before that happened and prevented it. If it weren't for that I'm pretty sure that I was going to commit suicide. After that I learned how to "feel the anxiety". I found a technique where I would ride my bike no-handed and forcibly lean until I almost crashed and would experience an intense rush of environmentally induced anxiety that would dilute the emotional anxiety I was feeling. I did that over and over. Eventually I learned how to not mind anxiety. Nowadays when I have anxiety I can just mentally tell myself it's ok and relax into it.

What's worked for me is a combination of feeling the anxiety and intercepting my thoughts. With anxiety I find I can often ask myself what am I believing/thinking. There's often a thought or belief that amplifies the anxiety. When I figure out what thought is behind the anxiety I work to switch that thinking to not believing the negative thought. It doesn't help when it's real like I'm going to be homeless because I can't pay rent. That's when feeling the anxiety and telling myself it's going to be ok will help.

I suffer with chronic anxiety. Sometimes I can’t even talk because the pressure on my chest is so bad. My back burns from the anxiety. I’ve been suffering for 27 months with anxiety. As soon as i opened my eyes in the morning I get a rush through my body! I’ve seen many doctors including specialists. Nothing seems to work. I feel like I’m at the end of my road not knowing what to do. I can’t continue to live this way but I don’t know how to get better. My email is cindysbarbershop@aol.com. If you could help me please email me. I feel like I’m losing this battle.

Hi Cindy ,
Your not alone. It is problem of millions world wide and I am one among it is as common as any other illness and good thing it is treatable
Might be options you tried till now does not work for you please keep finding a suitable trick for you to manage it but never loose a battle

What worked bit for me is thought process just try to ignore that you have enxity and give more importance to most important and interesting things in life for you and eventually enxiety will become recessive one day from your subconscious mind

I know it not that easy but try it out it may help you

Guys if you are not keeping hydrated it can be causing your anxiety to become worse. So remember to stay hydrated. There are certain website to calculate how much water you should drink a day. Walking helps me so much as well. I hear running helps as well. I wish all of you the best of luck. Remember to also stay busy get a job or excercise alot. Much love to all of you. Just remember you are never alone. We all have the same symptoms. So that's proof that it's all in our heads. It's scary and uncomfortable but not dangerous. Remember that. Pray and bless you all.

I have been to very specialist known to man kind, from the time I wake up to the time I lay my head to rest I have constant anxiety all day constantly feeling my heart checking my blood pressure, I don’t have a appetite or anything anymore I feel so weak and tired all the time no matter how much sleep I get if anyone can help feel free to text me anytime 951-282-6259 as I am awake all hours

I have the same problem for 18months I am on Ativan and it don’t work anymore are you on meds also it has caused breathing problems everyday is hell

I just need someone to tell me that over time, I won’t lose my mind, I feel as soon as it gets dark out, my brain turns to mush. I’m trying non meds but sometimes I feel I should just give in and try them. I’m so tired but that’s the worst time for me.

If you can accept those anxious feelings, you will start feeling better. Easier said than done, I know, but you can do it. Remember that thoughts are only thoughts, and the physical symptoms aren't "something worse."

I hadnt been suffering from anxiety for a few years but Im in university now and its the worst its ever been. The mega hypochondriac inside me burst out. Now I cant stop worrying that something is wrong with me. My anxiety caused my sugar to go low and now Im worried that I have tumors on my pancreas. Ive seen 7 different doctors in a week for different things. I was afraid that I would die multiple times. I felt like I was dying a few times. I dont know how to fully get rid of these terrible feelings but I believe that it is just a horrible phase that will pass.

I completely understand how you’re feeling, I too get the feeling of immediate death. Currently I think my oesophagus has cancer in it and it’s hard to swallow, yet I can talk and move without being out of breath or any struggle. And I can say this is how I feel yet still have a voice in my head saying its true but I know it’s not. I've had anxiety for 3 years now first year was hell, consistent trips to doctors ( and hospitals) saying I’m dying of something new every day and wanting help to stop it. I had gotten to the point where I thought it would be easier to be dead because I won’t feel the pain anymore, but that’s my anxiety at its fullest.
And it’s now just slowly comes and goes, but I’m consistently reminding myself that I am healthy and OK and if there was actually something wrong it would have already been found by a doctor. I also drink lots of water (occasionally get anxious that I drink too much and will drown, I don’t drink that much really) and when I’m really badly anxious I walk up and down my hallway and it helps calm me down. Also one other tip when you are having anxiety attack your sugar levels are going down, best way to help them come back up and help take your mind of anxiety is ICY POLES! They will be your friend and they will help ease anxiety for you too. A friend said it to me just before I was wanting to take another trip to the hospital and within 15 minutes I was asleep in my bed and had a great night sleep and woke up feeling better. I also ate good food, that helped anxiety go down (apples are great for anxiety) but stick away from caffeine, fried food or lots of gluten products, I’m a large girl but I think from how scared I got the first time I had anxiety it scared me enough into sticking to eating right. I did lose weight by doing that but I also didn't eat for a week at one point from fear of chocking. I had lost 20 kilos in 2 and half months. My point in all of this is that yes you have anxiety, yes everything feels like it’s going to kill you. But it won’t. You will get through this. You are strong. And there will be a time where you will look back and see what dark place you came from and how you kicked anxieties butt!

I feel the same way as you. Keep praying and talking about it. Just about 2 months ago i was happy with no anxieties and a trauma event happen at work which brought out my anxieties about getting a disease and dying. Life is to short for this. I just want my mind back.

Hey guys,
I understand the feelings I’m 20 and been experiencing on and off anxiety since I was 13 years old. Sometimes it feels like the anxiety thoughts are real and you are truly in something dangerous but the truth is your brain makes up a ton of dark things. Maybe giving into it will help me. I fight it off too much and the truth is it only triggers my fight or flight response more. It’s ok to not feel ok. Anxiety can’t come out and hurt you. It’s all internal. We can’t let anxiety win. Keep trying because you really never know when it’s gonna be over and you will love your life.

This is the same thing my doctor taught me and he has some books out about it. One book is "Don't Panic" newest book is "stopping the noise in your head" I highly recommend both. I still suffer but I'm managing it. Peace

Abigail Hernandez

December 22, 2018

I need someone to talk to I just started feeling these attacks two weeks ago and its really scary,I honestly dont feel like doing anything I dont feel hungry either and I miss the things I use to do with my little family I can't even come home to my 8 month old baby boy because all I have is this nasty feeling I even cry because of the fear ..

Plx any body help out .my life has been hell since 4 years. I have confirmed my self to a room . I think every movement that I am going to die. I don't know what to do. Doctors only prescribe. Sleeping pills. Please any suggestions. And can extreme fear may lead to heart attack or cardiac arrest.
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I truly needed to hear this today! I couldn’t sleep thinking about a road trip my family is taking today! I was about to cancel plans but my kids deserve to go on trips! My inner me was telling me to confront my anxiety of being in a car with my kids but my anxiety took over! I will challenge myself and take the trip! I will meditate and move forward! I am strong and i know i can! I will cry if needed and accept my fears!!!! You are a Blessing!!!!! Thanks for the information!!!!!!

I'm dealing with anxiety and all of the lovely side effects that accompany it. If anybody ever needs to talk email me at staffeyw@yahoo.com. We can all help each other through these terrifying and trying times.

I have just recently moved out of house that I was sharing with my sisters. To by myself. I was so looking forward to it I had being so pumped. Then when I got the house keys last week all the anxiety kicked in I just felt like I didn’t want to move anymore I just want go back to sharing house with my sisters again. I feel so guilty because I was the person that I said I wanted to move out and that I had enough living with other people. My older sister is nervous and she had to budget so hard for getting her own little place. All I just feel is guilt because all I want to do is just go back and live with my sister again.

I have had Anxiety for approx 26Yrs and still fight with it everyday, the last 6 yrs I have had the disturbing thoughts which i hate the most and have read so much on it which is common with anxiety. Or i always switch to other thoughts like we get obsessed with them then get scared and anxious and think am i getting depressed because the anxiety just wont go, I know they say just go towards your anxiety but it is so hard when i have been like this for so long any good advice would be nice or should i just try my Paxil even though I do not like meds Thanks for any input!

Thankyou madam! As you have shared this useful information with us. Anxiety is not bad and also it is not a disease, it is naturall but doesn't mean that it is good to us. Over anxiety can make you mind dump easily.

I am dealing with it for the last 4 months now, its really hard, it affect my day. I want to get better tried all with the doctors recommendation but still the same, infact writing this now feels like i am having a hard time breathing its really sucks, sometimes i feel better but soon i said that in few minutes it attacks kinda funny sometimes, but really i am tired of it. Felt like sometime something on my throth that doenst help my breathing, sometimes i felt like i am having a heart attack, sweating,heart palping, shortness of breath, numbness on frontal face...ugh i thought was something else did all reapeted laboratory still all negative result. Good luck to all of us experiencing it.

I feel you’re pain. I love how the article says you won’t die from having a panic attack. If my panic attacks get too serious, I go into seizures. So now I get anxiety about having a seizure cuz I can feel when it’s coming on and my head starts twitching a little bit then it starts shaking violently and I fall flat on my face. Anxiety has limited my life! I can’t work any job especially with the public, I gotta have my Kpins, can’t go into crowds, Can’t speak my true feelings and I cant tell someone when I’m about to have a seizure cuz I feel humiliated by it and feel weak

I am having sudden heart palpation for past 4 days. Got to the hospital, all test came out normal. The doctor gave me some performance anxiety drug and tabs for relaxation sleeping pills. I knew that they will form a habit so I refused to take them. Fled from the place where I was living for 1 month, got back to my ancestral home where I was living for the past 4 years. It is surrounded by jungle. I am much relaxed here, yes there are sudden attacks but I start thinking that it is not life threatening and it will pass away after some time. I talked with a psychiatrist, he was advising me to start therapy with antidepressant medication for six months, I thought I am not falling for this trap, I consulted another psychiatrist and he said to wait for 3 weeks. I am fighting it on my own. I don't know why it started. My past story is that a month earlier my Uncle died, he was 49 and was ill, I had to move in that home to take care of my grandma, as I started to live there I got ill with typhoid, I recovered from it and was feeling well but now suddenly I got such anxiety attacks. I am also preparing for Civil Service Exams (India) One of the toughest exams in the world so preparation also takes a toll, anyway I like to study so it was not much of problem. But my Uncle's death was a real shock to the whole family. I changed place immediately I was having thought that I am also going to die there. That house vibes did not suit me. Now I am feeling much better in my real home and hoping that it will all go away within a few days.

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