Levels of Worry

I’ve decided that I need to put an exact number on my levels of worry about certain things, so I can evaluate if, over time (day to day or minute to minute), I’m worried more or less about something. Which is to say, if I’m less worried, then I’m mentally healthier.  I tell myself, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. And then I think, how is my friend getting killed during a home invasion a small thing?? It isn’t, but that’s a worry, NOT a reality, and the world isn’t flooded with home invaders, I have simply reversed the statistics in my head, which IS a small thing, and can be fixed with logic, right?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
0 – Not worried at all. Not even crossing my mind.
1 – Random or stray thought, but not concerned, and not a thought more than once a day.
2 – Slight thoughts throughout the day, but logic abates worry.
3 – On my mind, mostly able to shoo it away, but logic not working.
4 – Slightly concerned, causing distraction when I’m not occupied.
5 – Concerned, on my mind pretty steady, even while occupied, but mostly able to function.
6 – Worried, becoming a distraction, only partially functioning, and causing stress.
7 – Worried, and starting to plan or research to gather info.
8 – Worried, calling people, breathing heavy, asthma triggered.
9 – Very Worried, tears start, calling hospitals, rapid texting, wheezing, etc.
10– Complete panic mode, very physically ill, crying uncontrollably, need help.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Please let me know if you agree with these stages of worry. If not, post yours, I’d like to hear from you!

: )

Mantra – Boundaries

Any time someone encroaches or obliterates our boundaries, it wounds us. It can leave us feeling threatened, trampled, violated, vulnerable, and sometimes even a little stupid.  This is not your fault. You are, at heart, a kind and generous person, and there are those out there, who take that for granted and use up every last drop of generosity you’ve got to give, and then push for a bit more.  These people are trespassers.  Hopefully, you can cut them right out of your life, because you deserve to be surrounded with positive people who appreciate you.  If not, you MUST repeat these boundary mantras at least three times a week.  Please say these mantras aloud for a least 10 straight minutes. Allow yourself to repeat the ones that resonate with you. Each time you repeat them, especially the ones WANT to believe about yourself, but don’t quite, let the doubt fall away with repetition.  We teach people how to treat us, so the first order of business is to decide we are worthy of good treatment.

  • I, (your name), am a worthy person.
  • I am worthy of good things. I deserve a peaceful life.
  • I am a person worthy of joy and happiness.
  • I honor myself. I love myself. I take good care of myself, mentally and physically.
  • I respect myself, because I know who I am. I know I’m worthy of respect.
  • I will allow others to speak to me only with respect.
  • I control my reactions, not others.
  • Disrespectful people will not provoke me, they will be cut off from my life.
  • I am a worthy human. Worthy of respect, polite speech and kindness.
  • I respect myself.  My true friends respect me, and themselves also.
  • I deserve to determine my own boundaries, and express them to others.
  • I reasonably expect others to respect my personal boundaries, both physical and emotional.
  • My boundaries are such as I wish, and I need not explain why to anyone.
  • If others stay within my set boundaries, they can remain in my life.
  • I am entitled to have, express and defend my boundaries.
  • I deserve to be in the company of those who respect my boundaries, and me.
  • I am worthy of respect, and I deserve respectful friends, family and co-workers.
  • I am unrattled by boundary breakers, aka “trespassers”. They will simply not have the pleasure of my company in the future. I am calm, they are gone.
  • I respect myself, and am proud of the boundaries I have set and keep.
  • The lines I draw will be honored by those who wish to stay in my life.
  • It is reasonable to assert my boundaries without fear or criticism.

Don’t Let Go

I worry about my sister. I worry about my parents. I worry about my kitten. I worry about my job.  I worry about money. I worry about my boyfriend when he’s on his motorcycle. I worry about losing things I love.  ID-10087041
Whatever the worry of the day is I always feel like I have to hold on to it in my mind or it will come true. As if my thinking about it can make it not happen. I must maintain focus on it like a security guard who endlessly travels the halls of a building or tediously stares at monitors, so that the thought doesn’t become a reality. And if I let go, if let my guard down, the evil intentions of fate might intervene and tragedy will certainly ensue. However irrational, I remain convinced that my repetitious quashing of the horrible images in my head will somehow fend off the attack of fate. I’m not sure when in the course of my life I decided I have this amazing power. Some call it “magical thinking.” So maybe when Olivia Newton John sang, “…have to believe we are magic…” I simply believed her. I was probably 12 when I first heard that, which is the ripest age to set in illogical beliefs. Now that I’m 44, (halfway grown-up) I logically I know it cannot be real. But emotionally it is as real to me as any other feeling or thought process I have.
As if this horribly burdensome power isn’t enough, it also painfully compounded with the need, well more accurately, an almost primal compulsion to worry about something. So when I think there’s nothing wrong at the moment, I begin to panic because I’m wondering what I’m missing. What is it that I have forgotten or I don’t know about yet that I should be worrying about?  ID-100134005
Because if I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be worrying about how could I possibly save anyone or anything with my super powers of destiny control?  If I don’t think about it or think ahead to all of the things that could go wrong in the path of everyone and everything I care about then it will be my fault when the shit hits the fan. Then I get to endure the mental anguish of the loss plus the guilt, so I must not let go. Must not. Don’t let go. Can’t.
I’ve read enough forums, blogs, books and medical journals to know that I’m not alone in this plight, and that with the right counseling and commitment to working on it, these thoughts can be reduced. I am not convinced they can be 100% eliminated for one’s entire future. Who could make that claim anyhow?  What I do know is that there are some exercises that can actually help.
First, you must take care of your physical body. And the foundation of that is sleep. Most people will tell you nutrition is first, and it kind of is, but really, if you don’t sleep well, you will make bad choices, including what to eat or not eat. So we start with sleep as our first building block in the defense to this (and most) kinds of anxiety.  If you don’t sleep well, exercise is excellent, but who has the energy to workout when they’ve had a crappy sleep?  So, if you ask your doctor for a sleep aid, or about holistic alternatives, it might help. I take an herbal supplement called SuperSnooze. If I remember to take it early enough, like 3 hours before bedtime, I can wake up with no grogginess. Ask your doctor if that might work for you too.
Secondly, eating the right food and on a schedule can really help. Both our body and our mind become weaker without the proper nutrition.  Imagine how you’d feel if you didn’t sleep, refused to eat right (or at all) and your immune system is unable to fend off the flu. Now, you are hungry, tired, stuffy, achy and worried about everything. You would be a huge pile of horribleness.  The most healthy diet I’ve found, that promotes clarity, health and energy is the raw vegan diet. Of course, most people won’t give up their meat, let alone get used to having nothing cooked or baked. A good balanced diet will include more veggies than anything. I am absolutely opposed to the all-meat or high-protein diet for several reasons. First, your body becomes laden with animal fats. Meat and fats can get stuck in your intestines for a very long time and ferment. The body will then have difficulty digesting other foods, which means lower nutrition. You may be full and functioning, but your body is nowhere near it’s highest potential. Further, diets high in protein have been shown time and time again to cause cancer and heart disease.
Third, I know everyone says this, and when you are anxious and/or depressed, the last thing you might want to do is get up and move, but – you have to. You have to get up and do anything physical. Stretch, do a few yoga poses, walk to your mailbox 4 times and back. Do anything that gets a little blood flow going. You’d be surprised how little it takes to kick up some endorphins and improve your mental state within minutes. Again, check with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program.  ID-10083133
Fourth, we must know, deep down, and really own this thought, and believe it thoroughly, and I say we because you, the reader and I, the writer both need to get this: We are NOT God. We are not any kind of superior being the wields the power of fate, or destiny or has control over the actions of others in any way. To really believe we can is pure folly.Why do we think that way? Well, we probably didn’t come to this conclusion in the first place out of arrogance (as some who don’t understand us might think). We developed it over time, through countless hours of worry, guilt and the refusal to accept the unknown. This is an important point, because it is going to be uncomfortable at first, to realize that you really have no control over others, whether you lock your brain on them or not.  However, once you really get this, and know there’s nothing you can do about it, it becomes a new freedom. You don’t have to worry, because it’s simply out of your control.  One of my favorite Authors, Douglas Adams calls it an SEP. This is short for someone else’s problem.  I like it. Not everyone’s path is my problem. Not every scenario that might suck is my problem. Only the ones that actually arise, that I myself can actually fix are my problems. And they are much fewer than our minds like to trick us in to believing. This new way of thinking is lighter, easier and much more realistic.

 

 

 

Kinds of Anxieties

If you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll find a few differing opinions as to the “Main types of anxieties” but these are the ones that overlap in most of them.

1.  General Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. For diagnosis of this disorder, symptoms must last at least 6 months. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals suffering GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties. Individuals often exhibit a variety of physical symptoms, including fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, bouts of difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes, and rashes and inability to fully control the anxiety. These symptoms must be consistent and on-going, persisting at least six months, for a formal diagnosis of GAD to be introduced. Approximately 6.8 million American adults experience GAD, and 2 percent of adult Europeans, in any given year, experience GAD.

2.  Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring severe panic attacks. It may also include significant behavioral changes lasting at least a month and of ongoing worry about the implications or concern about having other attacks. The latter are called anticipatory attacks. Panic disorder is not the same as agoraphobia (fear of public places), although many afflicted with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia. Panic attacks cannot be predicted, therefore an individual may become stressed, anxious or worried wondering when the next panic attack will occur. Panic disorder may be differentiated as a medical condition, or chemical imbalance. The DSM-IV-TR describes panic disorder and anxiety differently. Whereas anxiety is preceded by chronic stressors which build to reactions of moderate intensity that can last for days, weeks or months, panic attacks are acute events triggered by a sudden, out-of-the-blue cause: duration is short and symptoms are more intense. Panic attacks can occur in children, as well as adults. Panic in young people may be particularly distressing because children tend to have less insight about what is happening, and parents are also likely to experience distress when attacks occur.

3.  Phobias
The largest category of anxiety disorders are phobias. A phobia is usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.

4.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning; repeated checking; extreme hoarding; preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts; relationship-related obsessions; aversion to particular numbers; and nervous rituals, such as opening and closing a door a certain number of times before entering or leaving a room. These symptoms can be alienating and time-consuming, and often cause severe emotional and financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However, OCD sufferers generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational, and may become further distressed by this realization.

5.  Post-traumatic stress disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[1][2][3] This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen post traumatic stress (also known as acute stress response).[4] Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

6.  Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (e.g. a parent, grandparents, or siblings). According to the American Psychology Association, separation anxiety disorder is the inappropriate and excessive display of fear and distress when faced with situations of separation from the home or from a specific attachment figure. The anxiety that is expressed is categorized as being atypical of the expected developmental level and age. The severity of the symptoms ranges from anticipatory uneasiness to full-blown anxiety about separation.
SAD may cause significant negative effects within the child’s everyday life. These effects can be seen in areas of social and emotional functioning, family life, physical health, and within the academic context. The duration of this problem must persist for at least four weeks and must present itself before the child is 18 years of age to be diagnosed as SAD, as specified by the DSM-IV

 

Above excerpts from Wikipedia.com

Physiology of Fear

Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you have a sudden flash of worry or fear?  It’s not just your thoughts that change. Your entire brain chemistry changes, and so does your body. Our brain and body react in the same way to “perceived” fear and actual danger. Let me give you some examples.
For our first scenario, let’s say you are standing outside on the curb and a paper bag catches some wind, speeds toward you, and from the corner of your eye, you see something rather big flying at you fast – your heart skips a beat, you duck, scrunch your eyes shut and raise your arm to protect yourself.  The bag sails past, never having touched you, but the threat was real. You look up, realize what it was, and say “Whoa, that stupid paper bag scared the shit outta me!”  ID-10044165
The whole incident lasted just for a few seconds, but now all sorts of things have happened to your body. You are breathing deeper now, and your muscles are tense.  Your adrenal glands have flooded adrenalin into your blood stream. Other stress hormones have been released also, like norepinephrine and cortisol. All of which will keep you awake and alert, and possibly a bit sensitive to sounds and visual stimulus (or even paranoid) for hours.  Yes, it was the “flight or fight” response.  This was a normal response for anyone.
The second scenario involves no outward stimulus. No loud noises, no flying bags, no creaking doorways or tornado warnings on the news. It’s just you and your mind.  You are at home, making dinner, when your mind wanders to your actions earlier that day. You start thinking about that brilliant report you prepared and emailed to the senior execs for the meeting tomorrow, and suddenly freeze (stir fry be damned). Did you remember to update the spreadsheet?
 You sit down to focus and think for a second, as your heart starts to pound. Did you remember to run spell check? OMG, if you distribute incorrect data, you could look very stupid, earn the distrust of your boss or even lose your job!  OMG OMG OMG… but… wait… now that you think about it, you did update the spreadsheet and did run spell check, right before your lunch date arrived.  ID-10076375
He must have distracted you from the task you had just performed, enough that you would later forget that you did it. But you remember now. Whew. Ok then, don’t you feel better. However, how is your body and brain chemistry reacting now?  Exactly the same as with the flying paper bag.  You have triggered the release of many powerful chemicals in to your body, all from a single thought.
I hope this impresses on you the power of the mind.  This is why it is so important for us to gain control over our extreme anxiety and fear response, and “get our Zen on”.  ID-10044144

 

Fear: Tight Spaces

From Wikipedia

Claustrophobia (from Latin claustrum “a shut in place” and Greek φόβος, phóbos, “fear”) is the fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms (opposite: claustrophilia). It is typically classified as an anxiety disorder and often results in panic attack, and can be the result of many situations or stimuli, including elevators crowded to capacity, windowless rooms, and even tight-necked clothing.[1] The onset of claustrophobia has been attributed to many factors, including a reduction in the size of the amygdala, classical conditioning, or a genetic predisposition to fear small spaces.

One study indicates that anywhere from 5–7% of the world population is affected by severe claustrophobia, but only a small percentage of these people receive some kind of treatment for the disorder.[2]

Symptoms

Claustrophobia is typically thought to have two key symptoms: fear of restriction and fear of suffocation. A typical claustrophobic will fear restriction in at least one, if not several, of the following areas: small rooms, locked rooms, cars, tunnels, cellars, elevators. Additionally, the fear of restriction can cause some claustrophobics to fear trivial matters such as sitting in a barber’s chair or waiting in line at a grocery store simply out of a fear of confinement to a single space.

However, claustrophobics are not necessarily afraid of these areas themselves, but, rather, they fear what could happen to them should they become confined to an area. Often, when confined to an area, claustrophobics begin to fear suffocation, believing that there may be a lack of air in the area to which they are confined.

Many claustrophobics remove clothing during attacks, believing it will relieve the symptoms. Any combination of the above symptoms can lead to severe panic attacks. However, most claustrophobics do everything in their power to avoid these situations.[2]

Diagnosis

Claustrophobia is the fear of having no escape, and being closed in. It is typically classified as an anxiety disorder and often results in a rather severe panic attack. One study conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison’s neurology department revealed that anywhere from 2-5% of the world population is affected by severe claustrophobia, but only a small percentage of these people receive some kind of treatment for the disorder.

Claustrophobia develops as the mind makes the association that small spaces psychologically translate to some imminent danger. This typically occurs as a result of a traumatic past experience (such as being trapped in a dark, small space and thinking that there is no way out because the mind is not fully developed enough to realize there is a way out) or from another unpleasant experience occurring later on in life involving confined spaces. These two causes of claustrophobia both reject the common misconception that claustrophobia is a genetic disorder.

In fact claustrophobia is a conditioned response to a stimulus. It results from when an individual associates a tremendous amount of anxiety and a panic attack with a confined space. That event, the confined space, serves as a trigger or the stimulus, which is programmed into the brain. Because that stimulus is programmed into the brain, so is the response, which in this case, is a tremendous amount of anxiety. As a result, the confined space consistently triggers the same anxious response.

Scale

This method was developed in 1979 by interpreting the files of patients diagnosed with claustrophobia and by reading various scientific articles about the diagnosis of the disorder. Once an initial scale was developed, it was tested and sharpened by several experts in the field. Today, it consists of 20 questions that determine anxiety levels and desire to avoid certain situations. Several studies have proved this scale to be effective in claustrophobia diagnosis.[3]

Fear: Heights

From Wikipedia:

Acrophobia (from the Greek: ἄκρον, ákron , meaning “peak, summit, edge” and φόβος, phóbos, “fear”) is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort that share both similar etiology and options for treatment.

Most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights, especially if there is little or no protection. Those who are confident in such situations may be said to have a head for heights.

Acrophobia sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely. Between 2 and 5 percent of the general population suffer from acrophobia, with twice as many women affected as men.[1]

Vertigo” is often used (incorrectly) to describe a fear of heights, but it is more accurately a spinning sensation that occurs when one is not actually spinning. It can be triggered by looking down from a high place, or by looking straight up at a high place or tall object, but this alone does not describe vertigo. True vertigo can be triggered by almost any type of movement (e.g. standing up, sitting down, walking) or change in visual perspective (e.g. squatting down, walking up or down stairs, looking out of the window of a moving car or train). Vertigo is qualified as height vertigo when referring to dizziness triggered by heights.[citation needed]

Causes

Traditionally, acrophobia has been attributed, like other phobias, to conditioning or a traumatic experience involving heights. Recent studies have cast doubt on this explanation;[2] fear of falling, along with fear of loud noises, is one of the most commonly suggested inborn or non-associative fears. The newer non-association theory is that fear of heights is an evolved adaptation to a world where falls posed a significant danger. The degree of fear varies and the term phobia is reserved for those at the extreme end of the spectrum. It has been argued by researchers that fear of heights is an instinct found in many mammals, including domestic animals and human beings. Experiments using visual cliffs have shown human infants and toddlers, as well as other animals of various ages, to be reluctant in venturing onto a glass floor with a view of a few meters of apparent fall-space below it.[3] While an innate cautiousness around heights is helpful for survival, an extreme fear can interfere with the activities of everyday life, such as climbing up a flight of stairs or a ladder or even standing on a chair.

A possible contributing factor is dysfunction in maintaining balance. In this case the anxiety is both well founded and secondary. The human balance system integrates proprioceptive, vestibular and nearby visual cues to reckon position and motion.[4][5] As height increases, visual cues recede and balance becomes poorer even in normal people.[6] However, most people respond by shifting to more reliance on the proprioceptive and vestibular branches of the equilibrium system.

An acrophobic, on the other hand, continues to over-rely on visual signals whether because of inadequate vestibular function or incorrect strategy. Locomotion at a high elevation requires more than normal visual processing. The visual cortex becomes overloaded resulting in confusion. Some proponents of the alternative view of acrophobia warn that it may be ill-advised to encourage acrophobics to expose themselves to height without first resolving the vestibular issues. Research is underway at several clinics.[7

Fear: Spiders

From Wikipedia:

Arachnophobia is a specific phobia, the fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions.[1]

The reactions of arachnophobics are often irrational (though not all arachnophobics acknowledge this irrationality). It is one of the most common specific phobias,[2][3] and some statistics show that 50% of women and 10% of men show symptoms.[4] It may be an exaggerated form of an instinctive response that helped early humans to survive,[5] or a cultural phenomenon that is most common in predominantly European societies.[6]

The fear of spiders can be treated by any of the general techniques suggested for specific phobias. As with all phobias, the strength of the associations means the individual must not actively pursue the consequences, and outsiders should not in any way undermine and “play” with the phobia in the meantime.

People with arachnophobia tend to feel uneasy in any area they believe could harbor spiders or that has visible signs of their presence, such as webs. If arachnophobics see a spider, they may not enter the general vicinity until they have overcome the panic attack that is often associated with their phobia. Some people scream, cry, have trouble breathing, have excessive sweating or even heart trouble when they come in contact with an area near spiders or their webs. In some extreme cases, even a picture or a realistic drawing of a spider can also trigger fear.

Arachnophobia can be triggered by the mere thought of a spider or even by a picture of a spider in some cases. Some arachnophobics will, on entering a room, search it for a spider. If they find one they will monitor its progress very thoroughly. Others will do all in their power to distract themselves to avoid seeing the spider.[7]

Fear: Crowds & Public Places

Agoraphobia  is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety or panic in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment as being difficult to escape or get help. These situations include, but are not limited to, wide-open spaces, as well as unknown or uncontrollable social situations such as grocery stores, shopping malls, airports, sporting events, and even on bridges. Agoraphobia is the fear of having a panic attack in those situations. Agoraphobics will try to avoid those situations. Severe cases result in being unable to leave their home or places they feel safe.

Agoraphobia usually presents between ages 20 and 40 years and affects more women than men. Approximately 3.2 million, which is about 2.2%, of adults in the US between the ages of 18 and 54, suffer from agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia accounts for approximately 60% of phobias.

Approximately one third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia.

About Us

A note from the Author:  I’m not a doctor, counselor, nor do I carry any kind of degree in psychology. I’m just a regular person who struggles with anxiety and fear. A person that gives a great deal of thought how to calm the anxiety, abate the fear and be in control of my thoughts. I can not diagnose you, or fix you. Some articles I write here are to be taken with a grain of salt, and some are very serious. The content here is all intended to be helpful, entertaining, and used with common sense. I cannot be held liable if you take action or inaction that results in self harm or harm to others after reading this blog.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please call 911.

I’ve been in and out of counseling for many years. I’ve read many books, like “The Worry Cure” and workbooks in stress management, anxiety disorders and more. While I employ many techniques I’ve learned, I still struggle with thoughts of fear, panic and worry.

My goal with this blog is to help people who feel the way I do, by first learning that they are not alone with these intrusive, irrational thoughts and feelings. We are not crazy, nor can we just “snap out of it” as my ex-idiot husband said to me repeatedly. It’s a disorder, akin to an addiction, that we have to fight and work to control almost all the time.

I’m hopeful that my insights and articles will help those who read them.

If you have something to share or would like to be a contributing author on this site, please contact me at info@firstdontpanic.com