Please not that this post, as with all posts here at TheWorryGames.com, pertains to anxiety that is not caused by trauma, a medical condition or that is co-existing with another diagnosis. Regardless of the cause of your anxiety, if you feel it is beyond your control, please consider professional help.
It is very important for those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder to understand that having an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean something is “wrong” with you.
I spent a great deal of time in the early days of my anxiety disorder believing that I had become ill and was broken or having some strange kind of break with reality. I thought I was no longer “me”. I thought I was now this new person..this odd, weird person who had no control over her emotions, mind, or brain anymore.
I spent so much time analyzing what “had happened to me”, trying to solve the mystery of how my life fell apart. It was literally the main focus of every day of my life. I went way into the rabbit hole and stayed there for several months. I suppose it was a good thing I did that because it eventually led me to the answer that every person with an anxiety disorder needs to come to. And that it is that there wasn’t a thing in the world wrong with me. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t broken. I was just me, being me. Every time I panicked, every time I extremely obsessed over something or felt depersonalization or had intrusive thoughts, that was all 100% just who I am as a person.
That was me and how I responded to extreme stress, mental exhaustion, and a lack of taking care of myself.
Anxiety disorders are not something that is “happening to you”.
They are you BEING you. Your anxiety disorder is comprised of your very real feelings, your very real emotions, and your very real responses to those feelings and emotions.
There is not a second of life with your anxiety disorder where you are not living out who you really are as a person. I would say that almost every person who has an anxiety disorder not caused by trauma or a medical issue, has all or at least a lot of the personality traits I talk about here. It is these personality traits that contribute to their stress response developing into a “disorder”. The anxiety symptoms are not caused by some mysterious breakdown or abnormality. They are the result of the way you and your personality traits are reacting to the stress in your life and the physical effects that stress is bringing you.
For example, if you are driving down the road and have a panic attack, it is not because something is “wrong” with you. It is because you are the kind of person who, if there is enough stress in your life, would find themselves having a panic attack while driving down the road. You are the kind of person who, when conditions are right, would find it very easy to panic and/or over-react to the slightest of things.
That isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just part of who you are. It’s you responding the way that YOU and your mind and your sensitive nervous system and your brain respond.
This idea that we have panic attacks because we are “faulty” or broken or because we have neurons misfiring in our heads, is not doing a whole lot to help ease our anxiety symptoms.
The truth is that we are having panic attacks because we are sensitive people who are stressed out and overwhelmed and on edge and everything is freaking us out!
I used to very much try to avoid thinking about certain things because it would trigger certain anxious reactions. For example, if I would think about panic attacks, I would start panicking. If I thought about a particularly scary intrusive thought, it would “stick” and I wouldn’t be able to let it go. I hated it and I hated it especially because I thought these reactions were a sign that something was wrong with me.
Once I took ownership of my panicking and my intrusive thoughts and said “Hey, if this happens – I am still me. It is me obsessing about a thought. It is me panicking. It’s not an illness doing that…..that is ME doing that. I can sit here and think about this crazy thought or I can panic until next Tuesday and I am still going to be 100% me.”, I felt very comforted.
I found that as soon as I accepted that it was “okay” for me to have any kind of extreme or “odd” reaction to something, it dramatically lessened that reaction and/or the urge to have that reaction.
- I am exactly the kind of person that would obsess/over-worry about something. And when I am under a great deal of stress and mentally tired, I am exactly the kind of person who would obsess about my obsessing.
- I am just the kind of person to panic over something most people wouldn’t panic about, and I am exactly the kind of person who, when under a lot of stress and mental exhaustion, would panic about my panic and then start panicking even more.
- I am the exact kind of person who would think I am dying over the slightest thing, and when stressed and mentally tired, it would be totally reasonable for me to obsess about it until I exhausted myself even more.
If I am being honest with myself, there isn’t one bit of my anxiety disorder that makes me say “Well that REALLY doesn’t sound like me at all.”
I mean, no I wasn’t having panic attacks my entire life and I didn’t always spend my life obsessing about losing control of myself and doing something crazy. However, when you put those symptoms in the context of everything about who I am and what I have been through…those things don’t sound all that “odd”. I’m a nervous woman who likes to be in control and be safe. Maybe I haven’t always been that way to a huge degree, at least not until my anxiety disorder “officially erupted”. But the seeds for my becoming that way have alway been inside me.
Reminding myself of this helped lessen my anxiety and ease my symptoms.
It made my anxiety symptoms less scary and threatening because those symptoms are normal for me and the stress filled circumstances I happen to be in at the time. They are what I do. They are my way of reacting to things that frighten or scare me. It doesn’t mean I like the symptoms. It doesn’t mean they are comfortable. But at least I know they come from ME.
Now, this does not mean I am saying it is “normal” to be living under so much stress that you are having such a strong reaction to it. If this is the case then you definitely want to look into improving your emotional health. However the reaction itself is very normal indeed. For you.
Take a look at your anxiety symptoms and see if you can find some correlation between your personality traits and these symptoms. Take each symptom and walk it back and try to see how it could have stemmed from one particular trait or “concern/fear” of yours , until it eventually it became the much bigger issue it is today.
Always remember that just because you don’t react to life as calmly as everybody else does, or just because you have found yourself suddenly having episodes of extreme worry or agitation or panicked yourself into a frenzy, it doesn’t mean you aren’t “normal”.
It just means you have hit the end of your rope and need to spend some time taking care of yourself.
Believe me, we ALL have a rope. Ours may be a bit shorter than everybody else’s and we may get there a little faster, but everybody has one, and if and when they ever get to the end of it, they WILL have anxiety symptoms and strong reactions. Thats part of being human.
It kind of stinks that most people don’t ever reach the end of theirs the way we do and we have to “recover” from life in a way that a lot of people don’t. But that’s okay. We are strong people, and we can handle it.
The point is that upon the eruption of your anxiety disorder, you haven’t become somebody new. You are still very much YOU.
You are just you under a whole lot of stress.
It is this belief that you are no longer “you”….that these anxiety and panic attacks do NOT come from who you are….that keeps the anxiety thriving and lasting and intensifying as time goes on.
If you are a drama prone, analytical, negative, imaginative, intelligent, over thinking, introverted worriers – at least to some degree – then your anxiety disorder is a very logical response to all of that.
Because anxiety disorders are comprised of drama, negativity, analysis, imagination, intelligence, introversion and worry.
Anxiety disorders require all of these ingredients, and those ingredients come from who you are.
It doesn’t mean we are “to blame” for our anxiety disorders. It’s not our fault we didn’t come with instruction manuals to help us figure out the best and healthiest ways to use these mostly wonderful traits of ours. But it should give us some hope that their reason for existing is so logical and “correctable”.
Put a sticky note up in your mind that says:
Anxiety disorders are simply you…exaggerated.
All of those very normal personality traits of yours are exaggerated because of mental exhaustion and stress and mentally/emotionally unhealthy living.
That is what your anxiety “disorder” is all about. That, and the fact that you are misinterpreting and over reacting to the very normal symptoms of stress, which is causing your body to create even more very normal symptoms of stress.
I’m just handing out puzzle pieces today, readers. I know this perspective I am offering isn’t going to change your life overnight.
Just take this puzzle piece and put it in the back of your head somewhere and leave it, and see if your subconscious can find a place where it fits. Its amazing what your subconscious can do all on its own and one of these days you might wake up and realize it found the right spot for this piece and put it into place. You will know if it does……you will know.
For more information on anxiety disorders please visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.