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?

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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.
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Please let me know if you agree with these stages of worry. If not, post yours, I’d like to hear from you!

: )

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

Words Have Power

I was thinking about the last episode of worry I had. The situation is resolved now, but because I told myself so many times how it could have turned out, the emotion still lingers when I think of that topic. I still feel a slight ping of anxiety just thinking about it, or seeing anything that reminds me of it, and then I have to tell myself that it’s over now.  “It’s over. It’s fine. It all turned out ok. Just calm down.”  *Exhale*

This lead me to a train of thought about how powerful words are. Not only words we say out loud, or to others, but even what we say in our head. And it’s not just that we’re self-talking, it’s the precise words we choose, and the emotions we attach to them as we repeat them over and over. This is especially true when we immediately jump to a particular conclusion. We are programming ourselves for an emotional and physical response. You may even call it brainwashing.  Even though my situation is resolved, I have put so much effort in to telling myself how bad it surely was going to turn out, that now it has the power to continue to scare me. Although, I’ve been actively using new, positive words to combat it, and it’s working.

My father told me many years ago, that you choose your mood. He said you also choose how to react to situations. For the most part, he was right. Actually, he’s entirely right, it’s just that it sounds much simpler than it is. If we choose to frame a given situation in our minds in an inflammatory, scary or negative way, then we give it the power to make us FEEL overwhelmed, scared and sad about it. The reality of the situation is completely different than what we’ve told ourselves, and the result is panic, worry, depression, etc. Once we realize that our perception actually affects our lives, we realize that we have to control it or it will ruin our lives.

We must not let this happen. Any time we come up against a situation we are disappointed with, or don’t know the outcome, we need to use the power of words to frame it in a way that will be beneficial, rather than harmful. Our mission is to challenge our usual negative thoughts with exactly opposite concepts. Even if you don’t believe it, explore the possible positive options, and give them room to take root in your mind, and grow. Practice with various situations of lesser import until you’ve gotten good enough to tackle the big stuff.  Here are some example scenarios to get you started.

• You haven’t heard from someone in a long while (and you think you should have) and you can’t reach them.
Before you begin to panic and imagine all manner of tragic ends for your loved one, run down the list of rational and likely reasons they are unavailable and/or late.
• They may have gotten caught up at work, by a collegue or client.
• Their cell phone might be set to silent or not within reach, or even out of battery.
• A client or boss tells you that you’ve made a costly mistake and they are “freaking out” about it.
Before you decide that you’ll be ridiculed, fired or sued,
• You invited a friend or loved one to an event, and they blew you off or flat out lied with their excuse, or blatantly told you they aren’t interested.
It may hurt because you had an expectation of that person. But before you decide to “unfriend” them or tell them off, ask yourself why the event was so important to you – and why must it be that important to your friend as well? You likely projected your enthusiasm and importance for the event on to that person. Is it fair and reasonable to expect identical feelings from others?
• A friend says something that seems hurtful or insulting. You can’t understand why they aren’t “on your side” or why they think that way about you.
It may be your usual reaction to be angry, defensive or even cry. But before you get to that point ask yourself, does this person really mean me harm? Does he/she intend to belittle me or judge me?

 

 

 

 

Shut up, Just SHUT UP!!

What if… what if… what if… what if…

My mind is racing at warp speed, asking variations on the same question with the bottom line answer being certain tragedy.  What if… what if…, omg, what if this, what if that?
An hour of this goes by and I’m frazzled. My palms are sweaty, my thighs are tired like I ran a marathon, I’ve had nervous shits like 6 times, so I have no nutrition left in my body, my mouth is dry, I’m trembling, finger tips tingly, my heart is pounding, and I look like I’ve just seen a ghost. I’ve been gritting my teeth so hard they hurt like I just chewed through a swing set at the park. And why? WHY?  All because my mind can NOT stop asking this question, “What if…”.

Dammit brain, would you just SHUT UP???

During this episode, did any of the “what if’s” come true? No. And because this was 3 weeks ago, has that situation played out and seen it’s tragic ending? No. Actually, nothing came of the event that I was so wiggy about, and nor did the thousands of other worst case scenarios before it.

So, in an effort to reduce my chronic suffering, I asked myself a new set of questions.

  1. First, answer the question: What if that horrible thing did happen?
    1. Well, I would handle it. I’d deal with it, and get through it. Nothing lasts forever.
  2. Second, what could I have been doing other than quivering like a scared chihuahua, and chopping years off my life span?
    1. I could have been working, napping, cleaning, exercising, reading, playing with the cat and the laser light, painting beach sunsets, etc. Anything productive, creative, fun or beneficial.
  3. Third, does my life belong to me, or to the worry?
    1. It’s mine, dammit! Life is for the living. I want all my time left to go toward enjoying it, not dreading it.
  4. Lastly, what can I do next time to avoid getting caught in this whirlwind of what-if’s?
    1. This required some investigation into how our brain works. Knowing how it works and why I started down this path is a small part of the solution. I found this article very helpful. It’s such a fascinating article, I’m now a bit distracted from my what if’s, but I know they’ll be back. I already know that part of the foundation of my asking “what if’s” is born from an earlier trauma. So if the memory has less of a hold on me from the start, maybe I don’t have to freak out about it. Now I’ve got something to research. Cool, we’re off to a good start.
    2.  The next task is to completely redirect my thoughts.  Telling yourself, “just don’t think about it” is useless. And when someone says that to a person like me, (with PTSD and GAD), they are in danger of being punched in the nose. When I begin my whirlwind of what-if’s (wowi’s, for short), I need an immediate and much stronger distraction. Something big and/or very intense needs to take it’s place. So here’s what I do:
      1. First, I leave the room I’m in, and get another view for my eyes and brain to process.  I mass text a bunch of  friends, “How you doin, what you up to?” I focus on waiting for their reply.
      2. If that doesn’t redirect my mind, I begin the “live in the now exercise”. I focus on that. If my mind wanders to the “what-if’s”, I go to yet another room, or stand outside.
      3. If no one texts back with anything distracting enough, I listen to my peace and calm affirmation and mantra MP3’s, that I recorded for myself. They really work for me a lot of the time. I focus on the meaning of each message, and breathe slowly. I usually close my eyes. I must listen to them 3 times before I am allowed to give up.  That’s my self-imposed rule.
      4. If none of this works, I grab my journal. (And yes, it’s a real notebook, made of paper. And a black ink pen. I’m not talking about blogging, and you’ll see why.) I begin to pour out my every thought and emotion. I describe how I feel, how I think things might play out, and how I feel about that. I allow myself to get angry about it. I write impossible scenarios. I get nuts on purpose. As I write more and more, I force myself to get even more angry and more ridiculous. Keep going, let it all out. Don’t filter a single thought, no matter how shitty and unjustified it is. As I become intentionally more livid and outrageous, the pen presses harder in to the page, and I write long-running tirades of colorful expletives. Now, I can’t even fit my writing on one line, or even write straight. I’ve taken up 3 pages already, like a lunatic. It’s GREAT!! I’m cursing and blaming and insulting this situation, myself, people who have nothing to do with it, commercials, politicians, whatever and whomever I please, and I continue do this until I become amused.   OK, now Stop.  Take a deep breath, now look back at some of the writing, mostly the last parts.  Ha ha! I have now given myself a chuckle, or even laughed to tears, while effectively trivializing the whole situation. And even though those feelings of amusement and triviality are thin and weak, while the what-ifs are still just around the corner with all the power of a black hole waiting to suck me in, I hold on to them as best I can, rereading the parts of my scribble I find most amusing.  It is at this point, I can almost always say, “Oh fuck it, I don’t care about that (whatever it was) anymore… it’ll be fine.”  My brain has finally shut up.

Please let me know if any of this helps you – or what YOU do to redirect your thoughts. : )

 

Panic and Worry Triggers

I have panic attacks or what I call “worry-waves” for many reasons. It feels like a sinking, sick feeling, with a dash of spinning out of control, a hint of falling 100 feet, and warm limbs. Sometimes its accompanied by flushing red on my chest and face. My mouth gets dry. My hands shake. Occasionally I feel weak and dizzy, and on extreme occasions, I can’t catch my breath and I experience chest pains.
In a word, it sucks.

Sometimes my worry wave comes on gradually, and sometimes it’s a sudden electrifying jolt. For instance, when you are up for your 1am popcorn frenzy and you see a scary face outside your window, only to realize that it’s your reflection, having forgotten to remove your makeup which has been rubbed and melted down your face and now very much resembles a cross between Alice Cooper and the Scream ghost face mask.

Some of my triggers are:

  • Seeing my family on latitude, in some place they aren’t supposed to be (which is almost always wrong, due to towers being inaccurate)
  • Reading an email, hearing a voice mail or directly listening to a pissed-off client
  • Learning that an expensive job has been rejected by the client, due to me/my staff error.
  • Going to the Dr. (for any reason)
  • Getting news that any family member is leaving town
  • Sometimes I can’t pin point exactly what or why… I just feel wiggy.

If I am able to quell my panic at all, it comes after learning that the problem has abated, and if I can’t immediately fix it, or get information that all is well, I have to have this long internal discussion with myself about how things will be ok, and no matter what, I have people in my life that will love and support me. Sometimes that works, and sometimes I just can’t shake the wiggins.

After the panic is finally gone, and there is no more threat, I can relax. Although, as with most chronic worriers, my mind turns to wondering what’s on the horizon, or even what may be horrible and tragic going on right now that I don’t yet know about. Still, even after it’s all said and done, my body responds for hours, with exhaustion, heightened sensitivity to others harsh words/tones, intolerance of criticism, jumping at loud noises, and lack of mental focus.

What triggers you? What physical symptoms do you experience? And what do you do to calm yourself?