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.

I have been dealing with anxiety attacks since 2009 and depression all my life but didn't know I had a depression problem. I'm sick all the time including now. I've learned to control my anxiety a little. I've been on antianxiety and antidepressants since 2009. I'm getting worse instead of better and am now heading toward ECT treatment because my mind and body feel like they've been hijacked. My quality of life is not good. I've been a single parent for 21 years and one of my 2 kids is special needs....I don't know what I did wrong to be going through this. Help me please!

Guillermo Vallarta

March 14, 2019

I’ve been battling this for 2 months now. It’s only gotten worse and worse. I’ve always been the “big brother” or the “go to” guy but feel so alone now that I need a shoulder. But reading some of these comments have given me hope and a small sense of strength. Knowing that the headaches, chest pain, body pain, bad thoughts and countless ER visits are actually of the norm. I battle this all day to the point where I’m literally incapable of being able to work and support my family. It’s destroying my life and my body. Anyone who would like to talk about this PLEASE reach out to me! Thanks everyone!

I was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety 3 years ago. I was hospitalized recently for IBS, and since returning home from hospital, I've been experiencing insane anxiety attacks. I have always been anxious, although never experienced an attack until recently. I've been having attacks daily for the past 3 days that last for hours. At first i thought i was dying and rushed to the ER. I haven't slept in a week due to the hospital and now anxiety attacks. They wake me up when i do eventually fall asleep and i literally am afraid to sleep because of this. I am on antidepressants and a mood stabilizer but only restarted them recently so they aren't kicking in yet. I understand that anxiety won't kill me and it will always pass, but it's so exhausting and frustrating that i feel so broken. I want to admit myself to hospital just so they can drug me up to stop this from happening but my recent hospitalization depleted our medical aid. I just want it to stop, because when I'm not having attacks, I'm having crippling anxiety and can't even keep my legs still; they feel so weak and numb. I just want this episode to pass and want to so badly get back to my old self and get a night's rest..

Same here is why I found this site. I’ve been dealing with this about 3 years now off and on. And every time the symptoms are different. This time the world kept rocking while I walked it has eased up. Headache like my head is clenching and releasing. Now my left big toe keep twitching and won’t stop. It’s been driving me a little nuts but I’m trying to ignore it. I’ve gone to every doctor known.I did mri balance test, ear test, blood sugar. Ended up in the ER twice because I thought I was going to die. All test negative of any ailments. Now I see a psychologist twice a week just to talk and it’s helping. I wrote this because I hope someone would be encouraged. I fine when you know you are not alone it somehow is comforting. Especially when you read you’re not the only one having these weird scary symptoms.
I’ve been reading and laughing not that I’m being mean but I’m thinking hey I’m not the only crazy person here. Believe me I’m not laughing at you I’m laughing with you. Somedays can be really scary. But I’m learning how to cope. How to get past focusing on the symptoms which is the real enemy here.
Going to church and believing in healing has helped me the most. I’ve had quite a bit of Pastors pray for me and I prayed to God. This I believe has helped me make the greatest progress. I’m still battling but I’m much better than I felt a couple months ago.
I think it’s so important for us to believe that we can be healed of this and live healthy free lives. We need to be encouraged and comforted which being among loved ones helps. When I feel afraid I go to my sister’ house and spend a couple days there.
Fight back don’t be afraid to believe you will get better even when the voices are loud and threaten lying to us about death.
Try Jesus I promise you it helps to believe there’s a higher power greater than you in your corner. And don’t be afraid during those scary times to ask that your life be spared no matter how stupid it may sound.
I hope this will help someone feel comforted and have hope. Be hopeful everything will be all right. God loves you and you will make it through this. You will not die but live to declare the glory of God. Love you guys????? We will make it?

Letting the anxiety move through you is surrendering. Don't fight it and always remember to be awesome

How do you do that? Is there a mantra you say to yourself, meditation or music? My natural instinct is to fight it

Hello Monday was my first time every in my life dealing with anxiety im miserable and depressed and think something is gonna hapoenend if anyone one talk email is

Hello to everyone who is suffering from anxiety like me. I’ve been suffering from it since 2 years ago, and its hard to deal with it sometimes i thought its gone then it will comeback worse, sometimes it happen on consecutive days.. I dunno how to deal with it since im living in a rural place with people who isnt aware of anxiety and couldnt understand the situation. :( Can someone please help get through this?? I stop taking meds cause im afraid of the side effects and i might get dependent on it. :( please contact me

Hey guys, I was diagnosed with anxiety /depression 10-11years ago. I had been on Zoloft the whole time until December. With the help of my doctor I got off of it. I had to as it wasn’t doing anything but making things worse. I was then put of Prozac which made me sick, so that lasted 6 days. Im currently not on anything, but I suffer everyday. My heart pounds out of my chest, I think I’m dying, and I just want to stay away from everyone. I haven’t worked since December. I can’t get into a car, or go anywhere. Does it get better? I try so hard, but when it’s time to do anything, I find away to get myself out of it. I have a 9 year old and all I want to do is be there for him. I have a wife, that I want to be there emotionally and physically for, but I rather be by myself, so the burden isn’t there. It’s almost a feeling like I’m here/there, but not really there. The pain and sadness, has to stop and I pray everyday it gets better. I also get these pains in my head, body shakes, crying episodes, and weakness. I know it’s just my anxiety, buts it’s almost a 12 hour deal, each day. I’ve been to therapy many times, but had to stop cause I can’t get in the car. Can anybody relate? Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks everyone.

I understand all. I had a TIA ( mini stroke ) in 2006. Have had anxiety ever since then. Chest feels like it is crushing in. Breathing problems. Numerous ER visits. I’m on Wellbutrin 300 but not helping much. Now I have stomach pain rite in middle of stomach followed nausea. Really isn’t fun. I’m try hipnosis now. Fingers crossed
Any questions or need to talk

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.

When I am feeling scared/on edge for no can come out of nowhere....I remind myself, "I know exactly what this is." It DOES help to just let it wash over you. Accept the fear....let is be what it is, and remind yourself, "I know I am not really dying. I have felt this before. I know I am safe, it just feels really bad. I know it will pass, it always does." I also remind myself of ALL the doctor visits, trips to the ER, calls to 911....and I was ALWAYS just fine. Always normals tests. Always super healthy. I remind myself that my brain is just broken, and I will not die from it, and it will pass. YES, IT SUUUUCKS!!!!!! It is awful, but remember there are so many of us suffering from the same thing. You are not alone. It can feel so isolating and hopeless....but you will make it through, as you always have. And PLEASE be careful about taking meds...they can absolutely make things worse. Latrogenic illness is a real thing...Google it. I ended up almost getting hospitalized from a horrific side effect to my meds, called Akathisia. I wanted to be dead, just to make it stop. Thank goodness I found out it wasn't ME, but a terrifying side effect. More people need to know about Latrogenesis and Akathisia. You think doctors are there to help you but you can end up in a much worse situation due to the "care" you receive.

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.

I highly recommend "Insight Timer." There are so many guided meditations and courses to choose from. When I am alone with my thoughts, feeling scared for no reason and feeling antsy/ helps to lay on my carpet and just click on the Insight Timer app....suddenly it's like there is someone with you, helping you through it. If you feel alone, and need a soothing voice to guide you along and get you through a scary, difficult moment....please get Insight Timer!!

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?

Your side effects sound similar to what I just went through....I felt like I was going insane, couldn't stay still, could not get comfortable.... It was like physical and mental torture. Turned out to be a horrific side effect called Akathisia. It is a nightmare....I hope you didn't have that. If you do have it, know that it is a side effect and it's not YOU.

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.

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.