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.

How do You deal with the anxiety of not being anxious enough ? I've been on zoloft for 7 months and it was really starting to mellow me out. But recently I started having panic attacks about not being anxious enough and it makes it harder to talk to people because I'm worried they will notice my lack of anxsighty and how they respond to me. I don't have any social anxsigy and that fact one is giving me ansighty I feel like I should feel a little at least and I don't feel any is that normal to feel that way ?

I have been struggling with anxiety since my mother passed in July, in January it hit a peak and hasn't stopped since. I have had every test known to man for my heart.....all fine. I have tried multiple SSRIs/ SNRIs and cannot tolerate the side effects. I am in therapy which helps when I am there. How do you just let the anxiety come without fighting it? Do you have a mantra? I don't know how to not fight it..... any suggestions would be great.

My anxiety gets so bad that I feel like I can’t breathe or like I’m breathing under water. I wake up with my heart racing even before I have the chance to think anything. My anxiety makes me so depressed I just stay in bed.

I had my first panic attack in December, since then I have panic attacks weakly, anxiety daily. I’m dying inside yet on the outside I pretend everything is ok.

Things I have done:
***Weekly ER visits-they check me to make sure I’m not having a heart attack or stroke(haven’t had one or I wouldn’t be here to write this)
***Daily Clinic visits-get medications that I take once and start to panic right away so I stop taking medication. The clinic is my safe place, so during the day sometimes when I can’t control the anxiety it’s nice to just sit there knowing a doctor is there.
***call 911 monthly-when I have a panic attack and can’t control it this usually helps since the paramedics help calm me down, check my heart rate, and my oxygen levels (they are always perfect)

But this is no way to live, I watch other people, wether at the grocery store, walking down the street, and I start crying because I want to be normal like them, like how I use to be. I would do anything to have their brains, or be in their bodies.

I go to work everyday because I don’t have a choice, I fake it at work. I’m always two steps back from the morning meeting incase I need to run. I take my pen cap and push it in my fingers to tell myself I’m still alive and to distract my mind from the anxiety.

Today I said f$@& it, I’m going to take some medication because I can’t live like this. And here I am the same thing, the anxiety is mad, with a pill in my stomach going through my body into my brain and the anxiety is so angry. Now I am in google looking for answers once again. Today I’m fed up and I want to live again. I’m going to take this article for what it’s worth and become friends with my anxiety. I’m not going to beat her or hurt her, because she is part of me and has been for a bit now. I will read this article daily to remind me.
So thank you

PS one of the clinic doctors told me to download a meditation app, I tried it out last night, and it put me to sleep. May not work every time but it did help a lot. I was actually surprised, maybe if your feeling anxious it would be worth a try.

It really helps knowing I'm not alone!! I suffer from GAD with panic attacks, social anxiety, and health anxiety. I will get dizzy, my legs feel like Jell-O, I look in the mirror and I swear my face looks not like me and it looks like my pupils dilate, my heart races, I pace back and forth, and I always think worst case scenario. I am 24 years old with two kids, and I'm newly engaged! I should love and enjoy life especially now, but hear I am being selfish and not enjoying life at all. Why :(

Hi, I had a panic attack last Saturday where I thought I was dying. The aftermath of it is even worst... reading this thread and knowing I’m not alone kind of eased my anxiety... I’m sorry we have to go through this... I hope and pray we can heal from this... YOU ARE LOVED ❤️

I get so scared of dying and it makes me have really bad tremors, makes me feel like I can’t breath, I often vomit in these little anxiety attacks about death. Death is my biggest fear and I believe it comes from me being Gay and me being a Gay Christian. The thought of going to hell just scares me, I’ve suffered with anxiety since I was 6 and I’m 17 going on 18 this year. I’ve basically had anxiety my whole life, and I just feel like it’s going to get worse and worse. I just don’t want anxiety to take over my brain to where I can’t think straight.

I have been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks for 9 months, I was on antidepressants for 4 months and I was feeling good. My doctor stopped my medication and I was going through hell for 3 months. After which things turned out to be normal again slowely, the only thing that was bothering me was I had unsatisfactory breathing all the time. But now I am feeling terrile agian, today I was at work suddenly I had an urge to scream and escape. I am terrified of this might actually happen one day and I may go crazy or be unable to relax or stay still. I was googling these symptoms where I came across a horrible piece of information saying that anxiety will lead to depression and then suicide. This was the scariest thing I have ever seen. I feel terrible after what happened today and I can not get up and do anything or focus on anything, these two thoughts are bothering me alot. Is it possible that I loose control of myself? Is there a day that I may think about suicide?

I have been suffering anxiety and panic for months now, mine has another element. I was told years ago Im possessed now it’s all I have in my head so during attacks My inner voice becomes the possession almost and i’m scared something is overtaking me yet logically I know it isn’t true... I’ve made my anxiety into a being.
Im in a constant panic, does someone want to talk :(

I have bad anxiety and sometimes i can just be sitting down and my heart skips and feel like i have to take a deep breath ! Does anybody gets heart palpitations???? it worries me

wonderful advice. going to try & embrace my anxiety as you advised

I had a medical scare 2 months ago and my anxiety hit the roof I being dealing with anxiety and depression for years, but theses attacks are by far the worst! I’m 45 so I at the age where my body is changing that doesn’t help also the symptoms I have are fast heart beats, dizzy, headaches, cold chills, but I also have these pin pricks that feel like small electric sticks. Dose anyone else’s. I have found talking about it helps.

Hi guys, so i am now 22 years old, when i was younger i suffered with severe o.c.d and never knew what it was untill i was older and it had subsided after thing's in my life became better. About 4 years ago i tried a little bit of weed, and i had a panick attack and felt like i was stuck inside my own mind for weeks! My symptoms were similar to a lot of the ones on here and i fell into a state where i couldn't laugh or even be tickled or when i got a spot on my body that felt itchy i would go to itch it and it would simply dissapear, it was horrible and i felt like i was losing my mind then i finally went to the doctor and he prescribed me antidepressants and it after a few weeks i went cold turkey as i felt like a robot on them. After that i didnt get any panic attacks or any of those symtoms for 4 years and i felt amazing!! Recently i went out for a drink with my partner and had way too many (even though i have done this withon those four years) and i took a panadol and before i went to sleep i had a panic attack about having hick ups because i was drunk and thought they wouldnt go away so i went to sleep and woke up feeling hung over then it wasnt untill two days after my hangover i really became trapped in my own mind again and the worst symptom was feeling wierd about seeying everything in first person? The same symptom i felt at the time about 4 years ago and for about a month now i have felt this way and felt so un easy about it and have had bad anaxuety and haven't been getting hungry and have lost about 5 to 6 kilos. I wake up every day feeling trapped in my own mind again and i know i shouldnt because seeying in first person is obviously so.ething that everyone has to do but for some reason it has really made me feel un easy and just feel off. Its almost like i have had a wierd thought and any other day i wouldnt think anything of it but its like my anxiety attached to that wierd thought and i cant seem to shake it!! The lroblem is i am living in hong kong and from australia so i dont know where to go but does anyone else ever have these symptoms or has had this before and know what to do? I really dont want to turn to antidepressants again. I have tried so much to shake it but my main question is has anyone else had the symtpom of feeling off and wierd about seeying in first person and not feeling yourself?

What should I do ,. Every time my anxiety attack me I'm so very scared now .. can u please help me what should I do thank you

I have been in inpatient myself and joined others there that were suffering from severe anxiety. We were all there for our own safety, i. e. Because we were struggling with suicidal and/or dangerous behavior. So when I read that anxiety cannot kill you, I have to beg to differ because severe anxiety can cause you to become suicidal.

I'm a little taken back at this approach to beat anxiety. I'm 63 years old and have suffered with this condition most of my life only to be escalated in the past few months. We are wired to do anything to stop the pain but you suggest to strap in for the ride and ride it out. Is this basically a face your fears strategy? I'll give it try, hope I'm strong enough

Dear Patricia,
I would like to ask you if you have come across the severe symptoms like what I have and which have rendered me non
Functional since past 7 years:
1) Noises in head.
2) Severe 24x7 pricking/ stabbing pain in chest muscles down up to stomach muscles sometimes & some times pricking in mouth Too.
3) Sleeplessness.
4) Antidepressants SSRI/SNRI's & TCA 's haven't helped me much.
What would you advise..

Today I had a panic attack so bad I thought it was a heart attack. The pain and tightness in my chest was so real. Took ambulance to ER. All vitals were normal. Eventually, I was able to calm down. I told the staff that maybe it was a panic attack. So embarrassing. They were close enough that I could hear them say mean things, laugh, and mock me. I was so humiliated.

I really loved this article. I get panic attacks in my car , I feel trapped or something and I feel like I can't breathe so I hyperventilate. I have had anxiety since my 20's , I am 46 now. It got worse after I had a child to the point where I could not drive anywhere. I started taking Zoloft and I did really well on it. A year ago, I got off Zoloft and started taking CBD's which acts more like a Xanax instead of addressing the serotonin imbalance. I started having anxiety in my car again recently, so I am going try to do this without Zoloft for a while. I am trying to face my fear of driving by driving around a lot. Cutting back on caffeine also helps. I wish the best to all of you with anxiety, I know how you feel, it's so debilitating.

The headline of your article gave me anxiety.

You’re right though. The cause must change, and facing it lessens it.

Thank you.

Hey there. I went through a period last year for about 6 months of really bad anxiety and panic attacks. It was terrible.

Right now, it's been about a week of suffering due to me remembering something from my past and accidentally letting grow bigger than it is and allowing it to take over.

Ignoring my anxious feelings only seems to make the symptoms worse! So I'll be trying not to fight it and accepting it for what it is. I'll also be seeking help because I simply can't keep going like this if I want to be happy and comfortable again. Anyone else get this way?

Just this passed month I had several anxiety attack. Twenty yrs ago I did not have this issue until I reached my late 30's. It has gotten to the point where I will call into work sick and stay in bed for a whole day. I have a child to raise and I'm really scared that I might pass out. Just going out in public to run errands I can feel the tension in my body, I'm sick and tired of it. Headaches, chest pain, numbness & dizziness. I don't want to take medication, if there is a natural remedy out there I would like to know.

Anxiety can kill. I have had severe generalized anxiety since birth. It can and does create physical symptoms. So I have had bleeding ulcers from anxiety, not from an infection of H pylori. My digestive system will overproduce acid. I can create migraines from anxiety. My mother had 2 heart attacks by getting so anxious. And I now have medical phobia so bad that I refuse to get any cancer screening and if I get any cancer I will choose assisted suicide. I can't get any invasive procedures so get panic attacks and have to leave. I cancelled a hernia surgery 20 years ago, couldn't go through with it and have walked around with a hernia for 20 years. So YES, anxiety can kill. I want it added to my death certificate, as my anxiety will be the root cause of whatever I do die of. People trivialize extreme anxiety and the only person I've ever heard of with it as bad as me is Scott Stossel.

I too have anxiety and it has been rough on me it started in September of 2018 and I use know how to control it but this time around it’s been out of control to the point where I can’t be by myself at home because I’m scared I can’t go to the store nothing it’s bad I have 2 kids and a husband and I try to pull through for them but something keeps pulling me back! It hurts my heart so much that I can’t be by myself when I use to be a perfectly fine person I feel like my world has shattered and I don’t know how to fix it I’m on medication but it doesn’t help me with the feeling of being scared at home I just feel so bad and don’t know what to do. I sometimes feel like I should be here but I can’t think like that I just wish this scared feeling would go away!

So, for years I've been having these panic attacks but have gotten worse. I went from feeling weird pains by my heart at night. Feeling like my heart stopped and my feet and hands get clammy and I'm gasping for air. Lately I've been experiencing super shortness of breath. I'm talking all day long and is worst after any psychically activity. It's to the point where the middle of my chest is tight all day long and I'm gasping for a good breath and yawning all day long. It's the scariest thing. I've been to all shorts of doctors for my heart the psychiatrist gives me pills but when I take them I get more attacks or tightness in my chest. All the doctors said I'm fine after 2 EGK and also a running test. Its said to say that when they give u meds and one of the side effects that are dangerous is shortness of breath. So you talk a pill that calms u down but gives u shortness of breath. I have panic attacks for no reason because of it. I feel like I'm dying all the time. Thought I had diabetes, thought I had so many issues with me. I'm not happy anymore and I don't wanna do things with my family or go on an airplane. I just want help and want to get better.

Hi, reading everyone comments scares me I been dealing with it for about 3 months now in medication lorazepam and today I started a maintenance pill ... I feel anxious every time I am in public, work or even the fast food drive tru... anyone with any tips how to make myself better. I have always been the happy Eddie now I walk around with a worried face. Please help. 9096367554

Hi guys. I have been dealing with anxiety and panic for about 5 months now. Health anxiety is a major problem for me personally. Symptoms started suddenly. I'm 33 years old. From what I heard and learned about this I will share these with you. Anxiety is a protector but has the mind of a child. It gets activated falsely sometimes triggering these symptoms. Then you go into a vicious cycle of fearing the feelings. In case you had labs and tests done and were negative for any medical problems, then trust that and always believe that God provided us with very strong bodies that can withstand a lot. God's mercy is so vast. He won't harm you and He equipped your body with the tools to overcome medical problems. Anxiety can trick people into believing that every single symptom is a major problem. You have to start believing in your body's abilities. The problem we all face lies in the way we respond to those sensations. Accepting the anxiety and those distressing thoughts and letting them sit without you paying too much attention to them is one of the best ways that help me cope with it sometimes. So no matter how tight it makes your chest feel or your heart beat, trust that your body is well equipped to handle this, of course given that you had normal tests and no major medical problems.

I have been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks off and on now for almost 20 years. I was on antidepressants for few years and quit cold turkey because i didnt want to be dependant on them. For years it worked i moved to different city got married have kids now got a business and finaly moved back. It seems to be happening more and more that im on the road im a truck driver and have been experiencing them while driving i can handle it because i know what it is its just annoying that the anxiety keeps coming and makes me feel like i dont want to drive trucks nomore. This is my career my families income and dont want to change it because of it. I have beat it before just tired of me letting it bother me. It seems that as i was a delivery driver making alot of stops and interacting with people kept my mind busy for years and the anxiety was basically a afterthought. Now that im over the road a little its like all im doing is thinking while driving and very little human interaction maybe its loneliness and i get anxiety because of it. Im close to 40 and just tired of it. Sometimes i feel like im going crazy.

I just had another attack last night. It was so hard and I couldn't sleep. My body tensed up so bad. I was literally shaking as if in the cold. I felt every bone in my body shake. My jawlines hurt and my head hurt so bad. There was intense pounding pressure on my crown and I couldn't sleep. The only good thing was that this time, I did not experienced any heart palpitation so that was good. I did some heavy breathing and that helped a little with the pressure in my head. I felt asleep. I woke up feeling normal, no pain, and great. But the minute I got up from my bed, every came back, just not as bad. I absolutely hate anxiety and everything that comes with it. I wish anxiety never existed. I literally have no life because of anxiety.

I have found acupuncture to be very helpful with the tension in my head. Unfortunately, it can get very expensive so I stopped with the acupuncture and now I desperately need it again, but I can't afford it since I am jobless. If anyone has any other alternatives that help with this evilness, besides medications, then please let me know!

Ive had anxiety from a traumatic event in my life lts been 30 years. The anxiety is horrible. My doctor said shes tried every drug for me. I think i might just go crazy. I have physical problems. Constant fuzzy feeling in my eyes and head. Exhaustion. Hair loss. Anyone else suffer with hair loss from anxiety? Please, help