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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 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..
Narendra.
Naren2231@gmail.com
4)

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.

Adrienne egnore them. They shouldn't be in that kind of line of work if they are doing things like that. They must of lack morels to do that. I have been there like you and its a very scary situation.

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 know this is an old post but I just wanted to say that I've been searching through this thread for someone who has a similar experience of anxiety. It seems that those of us who don't have the experience of thinking we have a physical ailment are in the minority. Outside my family Scott Stossel is also the only person who shares anxiety like mine. I've suffered since childhood. I've tried many medications with little result. Therapy has not been helpful since the prevailing thought seems to be that you have to have a traumatic history to suffer like this. I've tried to find something that precipitated this, but there's nothing. Like Stossell my family isn't perfect but nothing terrible has happened to me. I have a good life. Every female in my family has suffered with this going back generations. I agree that ultimately the anxiety will kill me. As it did my grandmother and great-grandmother. I guess it's more accurate to say anxiety won't kill you in the moment. I think it might be preferable to some of us if it did. The suffering can be so bad that sometimes I do wish I were having a heart attack and not another bout of panic. I am now watching my daughter suffering like this. I feel like a horrible person for having brought another human into the world to experience this.

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

Have you ever dealt with the trauma which caused your anxiety? It sounds like you've gone through lots of meds, which can often make things worse. You need to address the root of the problem. If you haven't, I highly recommend a good therapist....especially hypnotherapy. You need to have someone help you dig deep and uncover those painful traumas you perhaps never healed from? Medications won't help you if you haven't address the trauma by talking about it and finding ways to heal from it.

Hello ive been suffering anxiety for almost 3 years i ive been in so many doctor before because my chest tight and neck and head keeps aching bad..but they said i am all well and then i go to psyciatrist and give me medecine to take i thought that it will go away after taking it for year...i feel better not worse than the first time ..but the feeling evryday is still like i am.conciouse of my breathing...then got TMJ problem..its a jaw problem ..it hurst so bad like my face mucles nose are aches so bad...i still keep having anxiety problem.evryday though i cn take care of it but there is a time like right now it worse like my chest is burning sensation and my nerves keeps shaking and makes me feel scared...
Still hoping someday it will go away or defeat..i hope i get stringer and braver to defeat it

Hi, does anybody else experience chest pain in there left side? And also do they have jaw pain and arm pain? Because many of time I have allsorts of sensations with anxiety and it's usually this that sends me then into a panic attack.

I've had anxiety ever since i had a difibulator put in. It comes n goes . i can go months without it then boom i start getting it . it gets to the point where i hyperventilate. I've learned to calm myself down when i feel an attack coming on. It's one of the worst feelings . it seems like im going to die then my whole body feels super cold for a minute or two then it starts fading. I hate feeling this way ..

I got my anxiety when i was 22 after a mtn biking incident where i thought i was having a heart attack. I've had it ever since.

I have had several 2 month long or so episodes where i get agoraphobic, and fear the body sensations in particular the racing heart.

I have a phobia of my heartbeat and anytime it gets above 90 or so i wig out. I've been told several times that it isnt dangerous.

Over time, my anxiety has morphed from a fear of a heart attack to a fear of anxiety. I too get the crazy thought, worse case scenario, body aches, sweating, burning skin sensation, burping a lot, butterflies, etc

Lately, I had a kidney stone discovered at the beginning of January that has spiraling into another anxiety episode I just cant shake. I am on Paxil, and have xanax for emergency panic attacks.

What we resist persists? Yes. Through each episode I have survived - and so far I do have 100% survivial rate :) but what gets me through is I hit a point where I get so depressed from it I get almost suicidal that I'm like death by anxiety then and I slowly get out of it.

That hasnt worked this time but I have been having a hard time accepting anxiety. I've had it for three decades and I am so tired of it. The constant petrified feeling.

Anyway, I struggle too. Glad to talk seankalahar@gmail.com

Hi I’m Miranda. It is quit helpful to read about everyone’s anxiety. Really makes me feel like I’m not alone and that it’s not just me going crazy. My symptoms are sweaty plans and feet kinda like cold sweats, racing heart, dizziness. Seems like I get really irritated fast too when my anxiety is bad. Lately I’ve been having a hard time falling and asleep and staying asleep cuz I feel more anxious when I lay down and all I have to do is lay there and think. It is so hard to get on top of it and not let it bother me. I just wish it would go away. Good luck too everyone suffering.

I experience my heart beating so fast as soon as I open my eyes in the morning... And then I feel like I'm going to die or am having a heart attack I keep thinkin I don't want to leave my family and I'm to young for this I am 43 and worry all the time it may wipe me out for the rest of the day where I want to sleep and can't and then I get on Internet and look up signs and symptom of things all day long.does anyone feel like this.

This has been so helpful to me. I finally get that in order to get rid of my anxiety all I have to do is accept it. I have tried so many things, from self talk to physical relaxation methods but I realize now I shouldn't just push it away, I should just allow it.

The key for me and many many others is 3 things..

1) Magnesium spray and or B12 (magnesium and minerals are calming and have a tranquilizing effect on the body that you can actually feel.

2) Try not to make it all bigger than what it is. You need to get to the point where you just stop caring, and realize it’s not worth living like this whatsoever.

3) cutting down on stimulants and getting good sleep helps big time.

I have anxiety. Been going on for 7-8 years. It’s been really hard but this article is true. It helped me a lot, thank you.

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