Below are some common profiles of people with anxiety. Do any of these people sound like you?
The Self Helper
I have been anxious for as long as I can remember. One of the things I have been anxious about is my own ability (or lack thereof) to find a method that will “cure” my anxiety. So I spend my days trolling the internet, reading about the latest fads in anxiety treatment. I try all kinds of exercise classes. Yoga. Meditation. Hypnosis. I watch “Dr. Oz.” Go on “WebMD.” Still, I’ve been unable to find that “miracle cure.” And I have been driving myself crazy in the process.
I keep telling myself that there must be a medicine that will definitively cure my anxiety. As a result, I have tried everything. Antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications. Antipsychotics. Vitamins. Herbs. Different combinations of things. Unfortunately I haven’t yet found the drug I’ve been searching for. This has left me frustrated and hopeless.
I have a history of panic attacks, which are terrifying because they feel just like heart attacks. I am now in constant fear that I will have a panic attack and lose control or go crazy. As a result of this fear, I severely limit where I go and what I do. Crowded places, like malls, train stations, and airplanes are the worst for me; if I had a panic attack in these places, I wouldn’t be able to escape. And the people around me would think I was crazy. So I avoid these places completely. I used to love traveling and socializing, but now I don’t do any of this. My world has become a really narrow place.
There are certain triggers that fill me with obsessive fear and dread. I wish these triggers made sense, but they don’t. For example, I am fearful of anything that comes in odd numbers (for example, if a salesperson gives me 3 bills in change; if I receive 3 letters in the mail; if I have to take 3 steps up to a building). I am convinced that having a “bad” thought (such as, “I wish this person would drop dead”) will automatically make that thought come true. And I am extremely fearful of germs and illness. The only thing that brings me relief is engaging in structured rituals. For example, I have phrases that I must repeat over and over in my head to counteract my experience with an odd number or to a “bad thought.” And exposure to germs means that I have to spend inordinate amounts of time handwashing and showering. These rituals take so much of my time, they interfere with my work and social life.
My anxiety comes from comparing myself to others and always feeling that I come up short. I am convinced that my co-workers are doing a better job than I am. That my friends are better parents and have better marriages. That my neighbors seem to be better able than I am to manage the myriad stresses of life in the NY Metro Area. I stare at people’s Facebook pictures and posts for hours, jealous of how happy and “together” they and their family members look in these pictures and posts. I doubt that I will ever be able to be that happy and “together.”