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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.

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.

Yes, i have cardiophobia myself :) having hearthbeat in middle of night im even scared to sleep. We all having same feeling, you dont feel worst or better than anyone on this forum, some people afraid of hearht some about their brain ,reasons dont matter, but what ever you do, you wount die from 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.

It’s so good to know that I am not alone. Let’s fight this together friends

I lately been having anxiety thinking ima have a seizure because Ik people who have seizures

Hi everyone,
I am from India, I am suffering from anxiety and panic attacks,... just like to know that when you have attack and you try to sleep, and when you go into a deep sleep and wakes up suddenly as your heart force you to wake up with a fast heart racing and the chest tightness..I am fed up with this attacks..I m 33yrs old and have 2 son's..I want to Live my life happily with my kids and husband. I feel that I m having a heart attack or I m going to faint.. Everything is so unreal .I feel that I m not connected with life..The numbness and having all symptoms of heart attack..I don't have high blood pressure but my heart beats like I have run a mile.. Palpitations..I m really scared.. please someone help me..

Hi Ayesh. I am from India too. I'm also feeling the same thing for few weeks. Like shortness of breath, shooting pain in chest, back pain. All the scary symptoms. My doctor told me I am hundred percent all right. But still I'm not feeling ok.
I also got scared thinking there is something wrong with my heart. I don't know how to get out of it. So I can feel your pain.

Hi everyone,
I am Jenna and I have had Generalized Anxiety Disorder for years. I am 26 and for about a year now I have dizziness (off-balanced) on and off. I have been to doctors, I have had blood work, I tried to find a medical reason why I am feeling so off. I guess it does make sense the anxiety is triggering me to feel this way. I have been so afraid I was alone with dealing with this. If anyone has any advice to help, I would love the help!

Hi everyone,
I am Jenna and I have had Generalized Anxiety Disorder for years. I am 26 and for about a year now I have dizziness (off-balanced) on and off. I have been to doctors, I have had blood work, I tried to find a medical reason why I am feeling so off. I guess it does make sense the anxiety is triggering me to feel this way. I have been so afraid I was alone with dealing with this. If anyone has any advice to help, I would love the help!

It's just such a flippant thing to say, 'anxiety won't kill you.' It's really not helpful, and could even be construed as offensive. I tried for over a year to change my relationship with anxiety, and yes, acceptance does help, it helps you get through it, but it doesn't ever stop it from happening, it doesn't stop the intensity of those feelings, and even though you know you will get through it, and that it will come to end, it still always feels like something life threatening is about to happen. The only real reason that acceptance is used an approach for treating anxiety, is because there is really nothing else available. One day I hope that some bright spark does find a better treatment - anxiety seems like such a lot of unnecessary suffering to have to go through.

...the constant stress it causes on your body certainly can kill you.As can the stress day in day out...as in you can not stand to live like this.

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