If I think back to all of the most memorable and joyous moments of my life, my memories are laced with a dark, gripping cloak of anxiety.
Experiences that other people would celebrate, such as graduations, weddings, and promotions, are dreaded milestones for me — not the ferociously sought-after goals that they are for many people.
Sometimes, I think back to try to identify the defining moment that turned me into the anxious, paranoid wreck that I became for so long. I search for clues regarding what led me there. Maybe my mother was withholding, or maybe my father was too strict.
Perhaps those things are true. But my anxiety was always there, slowly bubbling to the surface for a quarter of a century, until it would eventually erupt, pouring into every aspect of my adult life.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Excessive anxiety or worry about an array things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances
Specific phobia: An intense fear or aversion to specific situations, things or places that is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.
Social anxiety: Excessive worry about actions or behaviors in social or performance situations and a fear of feeling embarrassed causes those with social anxiety to avoid social situations–gatherings, parties or events—leading to a kind of self-imposed isolation.
Panic disorder: Episodes of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Attacks can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by anxiety or a trigger, such as a feared object or situation
Anxiety, Mind, and Mayhem
That theme carries over in Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith. Describing himself as “anxiety personified,” Smith writes, “Anxiety compels a person to think, but it is the type of thinking that gives thinking a bad name: solipsistic, self-eviscerating, unremitting, vicious. My walks to therapy, for example, were spent outlining with great logical precision the manner in which my state of mind would lead me to complete existential ruin. A typical line of thought went something like this: I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate I will make an unforgivable mistake at work. Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay the rent.”
Celebrities Living with Anxiety
In recent years, as more and more celebrities reveal their own struggles with anxiety, these disorders seem to be emerging from behind the curtain and stepping onto the world stage. In a recent People magazine interview, singer and songwriter, Jewel, spoke about the panic attacks, anxiety, and agoraphobia that plagued her from the age of 15. Now 44, she credits journaling and meditation with helping her manage her anxiety. She recently shared a YouTube video of two mindfulness/meditation exercises she regularly uses to calm and center herself
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this therapy is that we can change the way we think to feel and act better even if the situation does not change. CBT focuses on determining the thought and behavior patterns responsible for sustaining or causing anxiety or panic attacks.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive therapy that emphasizes individual psychotherapy as well as group skills training to help people learn new skills and strategies—including mindfulness and distress tolerance–to manage their anxiety and panic.
- Exposure therapy involves exposing the patient in a safe and controlled environment to physical sensations they experience during an anxiety or panic attack. The idea is that by repeating the things that may trigger a panic attack those triggers will eventually lose their power.
- Medication can be used to control or lessen symptoms related to anxiety disorder. It is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as the aforementioned cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Medications used to treat panic disorder include antidepressants, though they take several weeks to reach effectiveness. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax work quickly. However they are addictive and should only be used for a short time,
The side of the hand: Outside of your hand below your fingers (the Karate Chop Point) tap with four fingers
- Head: The crown, center, and top of the head. Tap with all four fingers on both hands.
- Eyebrow: The inner edges of the eyebrows, closest to the bridge of the nose. Use two fingers.
- The side of the eye: The hard area between the eye and the temple. Use two fingers. Feel out this area gently so you don’t poke yourself in the eye!
- Under the eye: The hard area under the eye that merges with the cheekbone. Use two fingers, in line beneath the pupil.
- Beneath the nose: The point centered between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip. Use two fingers.
- Chin: This point is right beneath the previous one, and is centered between the bottom of the lower lip and the chin.
- Collarbone: Tap just below the hard ridge of your collarbone with four fingers.
- Underarm: On your side, about four inches beneath the armpit. Use four fingers.
Recovery and self-acceptance
I eventually found a third doctor, and I hoped to gain a steady flow of prescription pills that would help me avoid my demons 24/7. This doctor, however, must have recognized the problems under the surface and told me that I should seek help, instead.
“You’re on a dangerous path, you know.” His gentle eyes forced me to make eye contact.
“What do you mean?” I didn’t want him to accuse me of having an addiction, though I was sure that is what he meant.
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