It is important to know that not all anxiety disorder symptoms revolve around the bodily sensations that we experience from the extra adrenaline our brains are cranking out.
All that extra adrenaline can make you feel mental fatigue and other mental symptoms as well.
This is because adrenaline makes your mind hyper-aware and extra alert. And when you are in the throes of a bad anxiety spiral….you STAY hyper-aware and extra alert. Your mind basically never shuts off.
Your thoughts seem to never stop coming and can feel like they are racing sometimes. Even when you are sleeping, your mind is more active and alert and constantly scanning for danger. 24 hours a day, you are like a walking, hyped up radar….scanning your body and your environment over and over again so you don’t “miss anything”.
Imagine how tiring this must be for your brain….wanting so badly to rest, but knowing that it can’t because it has to stay alert in order to keep YOU alert and out of harm’s way.
This is why insomnia is a huge problem for people with anxiety disorders.
Not only do we already have a hard time relaxing because that is the kind of personality we have (we just aren’t comfortable being relaxed) but then we are also dealing with brains that are doing everything short of blaring an air horn in our ears in order to keep us from getting too comfortable.
It makes sleep kind of hard to come by.
So we are tired from lack of sleep, and we are emotionally and mentally exhausted from the constant scanning and worrying and checking and everything that goes along with having an anxiety disorder. And we basically become like walking 3 year olds who REALLY need a nap. We start to over react to everything.
Everything seems 10 times worse when you are tired.
And when you are physically and mentally exhausted, and dealing with an anxiety disorder your whole world feels like one big “trigger”. It seems like anything can set your anxiety off. The longer this mentally exhausted state of mind goes on, the worse it can get, until eventually, you start to become a bit like Barney Fife after 2 pots of coffee. You are running around all over town firing your gun off every time you see your own shadow.
It’s not that we become “paranoid”. Rather, it’s a little thing I like to refer to as being “Scare-a-noid”.
“Scare-a-noia” is when you become so stressed out and emotionally tired that you become really jumpy all the time and startle easily.
You find it hard to focus.
You often think you are seeing things out of the corner of your eye.
You find it hard to stay still and are very fidgety.
You can’t relax and you may have trouble sleeping.
I went through a period of “Scare-a-noia” where I about jumped out of my shoes every time somebody said hi to me. I would startle so hard that it actually HURT. I remember yelling at my husband to stop scaring me, even though he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Everything seemed so loud, and more “severe” and threatening. But this is what happens when you become so overly sensitized by constant worry and stress and adrenaline. Just know that “Scare-a-noia” is a totally normal part of having an anxiety disorder, and it does NOT mean there is something wrong with you. It’s just a tired mind over-reacting to even the slightest of stimuli.
In addition to giving you “scare-a-noia”, mental fatigue can also cause you to develop some pretty interesting phobias that feel almost kind of rational at the time you are dealing with them. It isn’t until later on, when you are mentally healthier and more rested that you might start to think “I can’t believe I was ever afraid of that.”
For example, I have had symptoms where I feared I would yell out something awful in a crowd. Adrenaline can make you feel “surges” for lack of a better word where you feel like you won’t be able to control your thoughts or words or actions. (But you are ALWAYS in control…I promise.) I was just sure that those adrenaline surges were going to cause profanity or nonsense or some crazy sounding thing to come flying out of my mouth at any given inappropriate moment. This really bothered me! My poor, tired mind.
It may seem like such an odd thing to develop a phobia about , but all that adrenaline you are producing, combined with your level of mental fatigue, will make you over-analyze any fleeting thought and turn it straight into a fear. Whatever happens to grab your attention at just the right “tired moment” will become the new latest and greatest thing that you start to worry and panic over.
For another instance, I lost twin boys when I was 3 months pregnant. Shortly after that, I was obviously very mentally tired and grieving and I was obviously under a tremendous amount of stress, and one day I happened to notice a plug coming out of the wall and I thought to myself “I wonder if that could start a fire?”
Well that one thought was the beginning of a 5 year-long phobia that was so powerful that I still struggle with it to this day, even though it is much better now that I am in a mentally healthier place.
I know it is irrational, and I know that I lived 38 years of my life without ever giving plugs a second thought…but I had that initial fearful thought right in the middle of a perfect storm of exhaustion and stress…..and it stuck. Every time I saw a plug after that, I associated it with the stress and grief and exhaustion and anxiety that I was going through at that time….and I associated it with that fearful thought. And I would check the plugs and then look at the lamps they were attached to, and then I started becoming afraid of the lamps catching on fire and one phobia kept breeding another phobia.
I went through a period of a few years where it took me 2 hours to go to bed because I had to check every plug and lamp in the house, and I had to check them repeatedly.
That was when my anxiety ventured over into OCD land, which is a bit more complicated and I will get more into at another time. But I basically had to learn to disassociate plugs and lamps from those bad feelings and that one initial fearful thought, so that I could look at them without reacting. I have had to train myself to look at them and not be terrified that they would cause my house to burn down. I have had to train myself to look at them and not think anything at all.
AND ITS HARD!
Breaking the habit of association is one of the hardest things a person can do, but that is something that all of us with anxiety and/or OCD have to go through.
And you want to talk about feeling crazy? Oh my gosh, I was not familiar with the OCD part of anxiety when all this broke out. I thought I had anxiety ALL figured out, but then lo and behold, out of the blue came its long-lost cousin whom I had not been introduced to yet. I mean, I had heard about OCD, but certainly never thought he’d be a houseguest of mine.
In fact, before my OCD broke out, I used to look at my stove knobs every now and then and think “I can’t believe there are some people who have to check those twenty times a day. That’s ridiculous.” And now, I AM one of those people who checks their knobs and I think “How can I get back to that mindset?” It”s like there is a portal somewhere that I need to find so that I can walk back into my “real” mind again.
And do you want to know the funny thing?
My husband is a fire chief. One of my biggest fears is my house burning down and I live with a fire chief. It just goes to show how irrational and nonsensical anxiety and worry and OCD can be.
Okay, so I really digressed there but I hope you can see it was for the larger purpose of showing how susceptible you are to over reacting to harmless things and falling into negative thought patterns when you are emotionally exhausted.
This is why you MUST…..you HAVE TO…..take care of yourself and get plenty of rest and relaxation when you are going through a particularly bad time. You are….we are…..all of us with anxiety disorders are always going to be more sensitive to the stresses of life than the average person and we have to take care of ourselves more than the average person does.
IT IS A MUST.
Once you rest and start to heal from whatever current stress or grief you are going through – and desensitize yourself and shut off the adrenaline, I promise you will get your life back and you will look back, and you too will say to yourself “I can’t believe I was ever afraid of that.”
It just takes time and consistency.
Know that whatever phobias or fears or obsessions you are going through….they do not mean you are insane or mentally “broken”.
On the contrary, your anxiety disorder is a sign that your brain is doing all of the RIGHT things. Just a little over-zealously. But that is something you can work with. With the right tools and the right amount of rest, self-education, determination and counseling/therapy if you decide to use it, you can put all of those things behind you and get your life back.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
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