Conquering Anxiety: My Story

anxiety, panic, stress

Today’s post was written by former anxiety sufferer Elisa. I am grateful to Elisa for sharing her inspirational story with us here at AG. Don’t forget to visit Elisa at Averageyogini.com and share your comments with her below. – Paul Dooley

My Own Brand of Anxiety

My name is Elisa, and I’m an anxiety sufferer. I say “I am” rather than “I was” because the way I see it, anxiety is a little like alcoholism.

Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, even if you’re not currently drinking.

I AM an anxiety sufferer, even though I haven’t suffered from anxiety in over eight years.

Anxiety disorders run in my family. It would be weird if I DIDN’T have one. Name a phobia, I’ll name you a family member. Generalized Anxiety Disorder? You got it! Panic? In spades! Hypochondria? You bet.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that anxiety would find me, especially after having uprooted myself (and my husband), sold all my belongings and moved to Europe to get an MBA. But find me it did, and it hit me hard.

I’ll never know what triggered it, I suppose. Things were going well. My academic life was going swimmingly. I had plenty of interviews with very prestigious firms lined up for my MBA summer internship.

Sure, our funds were dwindling more quickly than I expected, but all in all my husband and I were not in a bad place.

And then one day, on our way back from a ski trip with a few classmates, from the backseat of our friend’s car I began getting this feeling that I couldn’t breathe.

So I took a deep breath. My lungs filled up with oxygen, and I immediately thought… “Oh my God, I’m not breathing properly?”

So I took a deep breath again. Again, my lungs filled up just as they’re supposed to, and again, I panicked, intensely focused on my breathing.

It had gotten dark and the mountain where we’d gone skiing outside of Barcelona felt a little remote.

My friends could tell just by looking in the rear-view mirror as I kept clutching my chest and taking long, drawn out breaths that something was bothering me.

We got to Barcelona fairly late that night, but despite my not turning blue in the face and passing out from “not breathing,” I made my husband take me to an Emergency Room.

Once there, they checked my vitals, confirmed they were completely normal, handed me some anxiolytics, and sent me home.

I can’t remember whether I took the pills or not. I’d had panic attacks before but I’d never been one to take medication.

The funny thing is, people think it’s because I think I’m too good for it, but it’s actually because I’m afraid of it!

I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of my body, and I don’t like anything that causes me to fall asleep before I’m damn good and ready to close my eyes and do it myself.

The next day was no better, and the days and nights that followed got progressively worse. I stayed home from school for a few days, thinking it would help. It didn’t.

My mind darted from worrying about my breathing, to worrying about someone breaking into our apartment and kidnapping me, to worrying about avian flu because I found a dead pigeon outside our balcony.

What started as an uneasy feeling and irrational thoughts began to snowball into a constant feeling of dread, and eventually continual physical stress. Anxiety was my faithful companion, day in, day out, 24/7, no matter what I did or thought about.

Like many people, I’ve tried looking up anxiety symptoms to “inform myself”. Really I was doing it just to confirm one more time that what I was experiencing was in fact anxiety and not Multiple Sclerosis or an aneurysm… or a stroke…. or some other horrible disease that no one had been able to detect.

From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I had shortness of breath, tightness in my chest, light-headedness, and many of the other lovely, classic symptoms of anxiety.

While researching, I never did find this one symptom, though, that haunted me the most throughout the time I was plagued with panic disorder.

It was like a very heavy weight had settled on my head, around my neck and on my shoulders. And then the crying set in. And the sinking feeling that I would somehow never find my old self again.

I developed a fear of eating. I was certain I would one day ingest something – new or familiar – that would cause a severe allergic reaction and send me into anaphylactic shock.

This DESPITE having had an allergy panel done and having found nothing but a mild allergy to grass pollen.

I began to lose weight – and I was fairly thin already. At the bottom of the barrel, at 5’4” I weighed 100 lbs – at 30 years old, that was 20 lbs less than my high school weight of 120. I looked terrible.

And I felt terrible. My husband didn’t know how to help me. I called my family back home every night crying. My parents didn’t know how to help me either.

And then finally, after reaching out to anyone and their mother who might have an inkling about how to make this anxiety go away, I connected with one of my cousins on my father’s side. Everything changed after that.

Therapy – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Most people who try to help you through an episode of panic or anxiety will either dismiss your fears as irrational, or hold your hand, coddle you, and tell you everything will be okay.

That it’s just a panic attack and that things are going to be fine. That you are not, in fact, dying of avian flu / going to get kidnapped by terrorists / in danger of being hit by a nuclear bomb any time in the near future.

My cousin did something different. She shared her own story with me (I won’t tell it here – that’s her story to tell), having recovered from her own kind of anxiety many years earlier.

She also recommended a “tough love” brand of Brief Strategic Therapy that focuses on behavioral changes to help anxiety sufferers find their happiness again.

With the luxury of time behind me and many (8 now) years of reflection, I can clearly distill these behaviors into three principles that I continue to apply in my everyday life to keep anxiety firmly in its place: independence, non-avoidance, and acceptance.

Those are my own words, rather than how my therapist would have described them, but the spirit of these concepts remains.

The therapy, which lasted about eight sessions over the course of several months, was less about discovering the root of my anxiety and more about creating behaviors that disrupted the vicious cycle I found myself in.

My therapist – her name was Adela, and her office smelled like PEACE – would meet with me during these sessions and give me exercises to carry out between one meeting and the next that were designed to create new habits reflecting the principles I highlighted above.

I wasn’t allowed to ask why or delve too much into the mechanics of it all, but for some reason I trusted this method from the beginning and jumped eagerly into my exercises.

Eight sessions and many exercises later, I could finally breathe again. The mental symptoms began to abate first, and then the physical ones. I found an occasional spring in my step again.

The depression subsided. My outlook on my life changed, permanently, and when I finished my MBA in the spring of 2007 I felt doubly accomplished in what I’d achieved.

I’d climbed out of a deep hole, on my own, and had finished my studies just as I’d set out to do two years earlier.

Here’s how it all unfolded:

Independence – No One Can Save You But You

Anxious people (or at least this anxious person) tend to reach out to others for help in their worst moments. Well-meaning friends and family offer to hold our hands as we encounter something that makes us anxious – just to take the edge off.

We call our friends and relatives to ask for “advice” on our anxiety. I say “advice” in quotes, because really what we’re looking for is validation. Validation that what we’re experiencing is just anxiety.

Validation that our thoughts are irrational. Validation, even, that we’re making the right choices in our lives – whether it’s about our anxiety or not.

The first thing I was asked to do in therapy was to not under any circumstances discuss my anxiety with anyone but my therapist. If I was afraid, I had to keep it to myself. If I was having a crisis, I had to slog through it on my own.

The one caveat to this was that I was allowed to have a journal where I could write out my thoughts – stream of consciousness – whenever I felt the need for release.

My husband was brought in to this strategy during our first session with the therapist, and he tentatively agreed, and then consistently stuck with it.

He didn’t ask me whether I felt anxious when he saw me fretting or wringing my hands.

He just sat silently and watched me as the hand-wringing rose to a crescendo and then slowly died down.

I didn’t figure this out until later, but reaching out to others for reassurance did nothing but create co-dependence and fuel the irrational fire of my anxiety.

If someone said, “don’t be silly,” I’d think, “what do they know?” If someone offered to get on the elevator with me, I couldn’t get on without them the next time.

Relying on others was useless at best, and it weakened me at worst, making me feel incapable of managing even the most mundane details of my life without depending on somebody else.

It was important, in the end, for me to go through my treatment “alone,” so my victory would be 100% mine. So I could know, in perpetuity, like I know now, that I am capable of dealing with anything (even avian flu) on my own merits.

Non-Avoidance – AKA “Facing Your Fears”

The particular school of therapy I followed is founded on the idea that avoiding the things that cause you anxiety confirms your fight or flight response and increases your anxiety levels toward that particular thing.

Another vector of my treatment was making sure I didn’t avoid anxiety-inducing situations when I encountered them naturally, but rather, that I go about my business and engage in these activities if they came across my path.

For example, if my husband and I went out to dinner, I shouldn’t run screaming from the seafood place, or take the stairs to the 14th floor to avoid the elevator.

During my therapy, my best friend got married on the West Coast of Mexico. It presented a great opportunity to put non-avoidance into practice, given my fear of flying.

Being a bridesmaid at her wedding would require my getting on a 9 hour flight from Barcelona to Dallas, and then on a regional jet (read: TINY) from Dallas to Cabo San Lucas.

I gathered my courage, and bought a ticket. And with some tips and tricks from my therapist, I got on the airplane.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to make myself as uncomfortable during the flight as possible. I had to pick an itchy sweater, agonizing shoes, ill-fitting underwear, or anything I could muster up to ensure that I would be uncomfortable throughout the entire flight.

Why? Because anxious minds tend to fixate, and if you give your brain something else to fixate on, it will leave the negative thoughts that trigger your anxiety alone.

I chose to wear a corset. It worked like a charm.

Of the three principles I’ve described, I think this one has served me the most in my post-panic disorder life. I go after what I want, even if I have to go through something uncomfortable to get it. I always ask the question, despite fearing I won’t like the answer.

I try new things, go to new places, put myself out there, without a second thought to my comfort zone.

And I fly. I still occasionally cry while doing it, but it gets me where I need to be – closer to my loved ones. I leave the corset at home now, though.

Acceptance – Your Feelings Won’t Kill You – Even if They’re Unpleasant

Acceptable was the hardest of the three, and it took a long time to get it. It was also the most liberating once I got there, and the single thing I credit for tipping the balance of power in my favor.

Throughout my crisis, I had many fears. But the thing I feared most was never going back to “normal”. Never again having a life where anxiety wasn’t constantly present.

Feeling crappy, always. Everything I did – it was to get rid of my anxiety. All the other exercises, I followed them to the letter so I wouldn’t be anxious anymore.

The thing that really set me free, though, was coming to the realization that even if I NEVER went back to normal – that was ok too. I had a husband and family who loved me.

I lived in Barcelona, for Pete’s sake. Anxiety would be a burden, but it would be a burden I could bear. It could make me feel like crap, but it wasn’t going to kill me and it didn’t have to control me – not if I didn’t let it.

I had to get to this epiphany on my own, but throughout my therapy I was unknowingly going through exercises to drive this point home.

I only remember one of them, and it went something like this: a couple of times a week, I had to find a quiet place and set aside 15 minutes where I wouldn’t be interrupted.

During those 15 minutes I had to think about most frightening things I could conjure, and try as hard as I could to give myself a panic attack.

Week after week I thought long and hard about the worst things I could picture. You name a horrible situation, I thought about it.

I thought about it INTENSELY. The thing is, though, if I kept trying to chase a thought, it would ordinarily get away from me long before the 15 minutes were up.

And without knowing, I’d find myself laying there thinking about sunflowers and puppies, having failed miserably at giving myself that panic attack that was supposed to materialize.

Without my knowing, I was creating a habit of embracing anxiety, on a weekly basis. And by embracing my anxiety, I was undermining the mechanism that allows it to manifest, removing its hold on me permanently – or at least as long as I’m still willing to embrace it.

The Journey Continues – The Aftermath

The physical symptoms of my anxiety didn’t subside immediately after therapy ended. It took a while – months, I think – for me to feel completely normal again. Time passed.

Things happened. I got a high-stress summer internship. I got pregnant. I had a miscarriage. I graduated from my MBA and got a full time job. We moved to London.

I had a son, and nearly died in childbirth. Life kept happening, with all its ups and down, but the panic – the full blown panic I’d experienced – never came back. And even if it did, now I know how to get rid of it.

I’m not going to lie. I still get anxious about things. I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack, though – it’s probably been years – but I still hate to fly and don’t care much for enclosed spaces.

Still, I get on airplanes and ride in elevators as much as I need to. I eat seafood. And peanuts. I’m not always happy with things, and occasionally I will stress about something and have it twirling around in my head at night, preventing me from going to sleep.

So I go to yoga (it’s been a Godsend), and I play with my son.

Or I go for a good run and drum up some endorphins. And I’m happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been before. I was right about one thing, though, in my dark thoughts in Barcelona.

I never did find my old self again. I found a new me, though, and she is SO MUCH better.

Do you have a story that you want to share with the AG community? If you’re interested in spreading hope and knowledge send Paul an email at info@anxietyguru.net.

Confidence and Self-Esteem for Sufferers of Anxiety

self-esteem, confidence

Today’s guest post is brought to you by former anxiety sufferer Jon Jones. Jon began his struggle with anxiety and depression over 18 years ago. And after years of struggling he’s learned how to overcome these two challenging conditions. — Paul Dooley

Being confident and feeling great about yourself are two qualities that make life deeply satisfying.

You have a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye. People you meet are swayed by your natural charisma and charm.

The good times are better and the bad times not so bad.

You can take any problems life throws at you on the chin and plow forward to reach your goals with optimism and in high spirits.

Socializing becomes enjoyable, and people become attracted to you as you have the confidence and self-esteem to just be your real, genuine, fantastic self.

Being a sufferer of anxiety and panic, these qualities can seem out of your grasp. You feel hopelessness, despair, and maybe even shaky to the core.

Your mind is full of doubts, what will people think of me, will I perform at work, will the economy
recover, and so on.

So the first step in building confidence and self-esteem is learning how to manage your anxiety.

Getting Started

By learning how to deal with yourself in difficult situations that normally cause you to panic or experience anxiety your confidence can begin to grow.

Although you may still be shaky at first and experience anxiety you still managed to get through the situation and make it to the other side.

And this is what you must focus on, the fact that you were able to do it. By learning how to deal with yourself and not the situation you regain control.

By taking action and overcoming your personal battles you will begin to feel good about yourself. You´ll start having good feelings inside you.

Even simple things like walking down the street, going shopping or reading a book will become more enjoyable as you are more relaxed and have a deeper sense of satisfaction.

A Developed Skill

I´m not going to kid you and say that you can instantly develop bullet-proof confidence.

Like anything worthwhile in life you need to work on it. Confidence is grown by repeated practice.

Like a golfer who has learned to perfect his swing by constant practice at the driving range is confident in his abilities, so you too can develop your confidence in dealing with yourself by repetition.

By constantly exposing yourself to situations that normally cause you anxiety the fear dies down.

I´m not saying to grit your teeth and push yourself into anxiety causing situations, but rather to not avoid them. To go into them willingly.

This repeated exposure over time proves to yourself that you can do it. And true confidence can emerge.

But first you need to learn techniques which will allow you to be able to deal with yourself. I used to panic at the thought of different stressful situations.

My confidence was so low and my self-esteem was very weak.

But I no longer cringe at the thought of such things as public speaking, going to social events, or talking to strangers.

And this has all been down to the repeated exposure to situations which I used to dread.

I have built up my confidence of such situations by learning how to deal with myself, and not feed my anxiety.

The techniques that I have used to help me deal with my anxiety are all on this site. I can now do things with a feeling of inner strength.

I no longer doubt myself, but have clarity and purpose.

And it feels great to have this freedom. It has a very enjoyable feeling of lightness to it, as you can make your way in the world with a sense of ease and comfort.

Speak Up

One thing about confidence is that you can´t wait for it. You have to strive for it. Push the boat out.

Don´t wait until you feel confident before doing something, act and the confidence will come.

Although you may feel nervous, take a deep breath, exhale slowly and then speak up.

By doing so you will prove to yourself that you can do it. And will start changing your self-image seeing yourself as a confident person.
You can speak positive to yourself as much as you want, but there is no substitute for action.

You have to firmly decide that you are going to work on being a confident person, and take the necessary steps to becoming so.

So next time you in a anxious situation take a deep breath, let go of yourself, and grasp the nettle, and speak up. Then you will see that you can do it.

That the anxiety you were feeling was false, you were able to do it. And the sense of satisfaction you will feel will be amazing. You will feel fantastic.

There´s nothing better than proving to yourself that you can do things.

Keeping a Journal

A great aid in facilitating this is keeping a journal. In your journal you can write your thoughts for the day.

The moments you felt anxious and what you did to deal with yourself.

You can write down how you felt before you entered a difficult situation, the symptoms you had and the thoughts you felt.

And then you can write about how by dealing with yourself and not the situation you were able to successfully cope with yourself.

By building up positive memories of instances when you coped with yourself and got through situations which seemed very difficult at the time, then you are building true inner confidence and self-esteem.

And next time you enter a difficult moment you can recall these times. This will give you confidence, because if you have done it before, and you now have proof that you can do it again.

It is as if you have a personal cheer-leader standing beside you rooting for you, ¨saying you can do it!¨

And the beautiful thing is you can, because you already have done it many times before.

By constantly exposing yourself to different situations, writing down your successes and reminding yourself of how you were able to deal with yourself before then that little voice which once whispered ¨you can do it,¨ now starts to shout it out loud.

Feelings and thoughts of confidence become second nature, and come to you automatically. And you truly become a confident person with true self-esteem.

And the great things is the more you do this, the more reference points of success you build up the more your confidence and self-esteem will grow. It will snow ball.

So start today, by next week you´ll be more confident and feeling better. And this will continue next month, next year and well into the future. Because these personal achievements happened.

You faced what you thought were difficult moments, dealt with yourself, and proved to yourself that you could do it. So just imagine what other great things you can achieve!

List Positive Things About Yourself

Putting things on paper is a very powerful thing. The mere act of seeing your thoughts on paper and reading it has the effect of ingraining it further into your mind.

So make a list of your achievements, positive attributes, compliments and past praises that people have given you.

This also provides you with evidence to enable your confidence and self-esteem to grow and flourish. These things you have on your list are facts.

They happened and you did them! So when you are feeling low in confidence or self-esteem you can prove these feelings wrong.

When you have a thought of ¨I´m a loser¨ or something similar, you can think of your list and that time you had your boss congratulate you at work, or when you cooked an amazing meal and your dinner guests asked for seconds.

By getting into the habit of thinking of a positive thought when you think of a negative thought then you can make yourself more positive, because you can pick your moral up immediately by flipping it around.

Work On It

Being a confident and high self-esteem person is something you have to work on. It´s like gardening.

You need to start planting some beautiful thoughts in your mind. If not then negative weeds will grow.

Make it part of your routine to devote ten or fifteen minutes a day to work on your confidence and self-esteem.

You can read over your journal, and your lists mentioned above.

Also in quiet moments such as traveling to work, or waiting in line at the supermarket remind yourself of your positive points and achievements.

Doing so will develop a habit of positive thinking in your mind, until it become second nature to you. But you need to constantly work on it. If not weeds will grow.

So, by doing the different tips I have mentioned true confidence and self-esteem can emerge.

No longer would you be feeling inferior or timid. You will be able to walk tall, have an inner smile, and truly connect with people you meet.

A new sense of being will come into your life! Life is fantastic. And by developing true confidence and self-esteem you will also feel fantastic!

To learn more about how you can deal with anxiety and panic you can download my free eBook here.

Do you have a story that you want to share with the AG community? If you’re interested in spreading hope and knowledge send Paul an email at info@anxietyguru.net.

5 Years of Failed Blogging?

Sad Anniversary Can you believe it? I’ve been blogging for 5 years. I guess the old saying about time moving faster as you age is true. I can remember writing my first blog post in 2008 like it was yesterday.

To be honest I have mixed emotions about this blog now. At first I wanted to create something remarkable. I wanted to create an important anti-anxiety resource. I ended up with something very different.

For years I wrote blog posts and produced podcasts hoping that Anxietyguru.net would grow and evolve and you know what? It didn’t. I tried recruiting people to write, changing the design, asking for feedback, writing different types of posts but, it didn’t seem to matter.

Don’t get me wrong. This blog has grown. I’ve gone from 200 daily visitors to about 3,000. That sounds good I guess, yet in the world of websites that’s tiny. Worst of all I don’t know why. I don’t know what I did wrong.

Part of me wants to believe that this has happened because anxiety is transient. People are only interested in seeking tips when they are in crisis or semi-crisis. Anxious people, it seems, are more into internet surfing. They collect small bits of information from a lot of different places and build whatever they need from those small parts.

Sadly, that makes it less likely that AG will ever grow into a strong community. It can’t be the only reason this blog hasn’t developed more, but it’s certainly a big part of it. And that sucks because I’m not quite sure what to do now. I have failed. I feel defeated in my efforts to create something remarkable. At least that’s how I feel.

It’s hard to accept that something you’ve worked on for so long is futile. It’s downright depressing really. I guess in the end there’s only so much one person can do. Unlike a lot of successful websites AG has no staff, no budget, no nothing. Reality check I guess.

All that said, I still enjoy answering emails, helping people when I can, and receiving a kind message or two. That has never changed. So although AG isn’t what I hoped it would be, it still brings me satisfaction to know that I’ve brought comfort to some of you over the years.

Thank you.

Is Your Diet Causing Anxiety?

Today’s guest post by Juliana Weiss-Roessler of Weight Loss Triumph.

Last year, researchers found evidence that the kind of bacteria we have in our gut actually influences our brain chemistry and how we act. And what determines the types of bacteria that reside in our stomach and gastrointestinal tract? Food.

Translation: psychologically speaking, we are what we eat.

For years we’ve been aware of some kind of association between anxiety and things like irritable bowel syndrome, but now we know there’s a microbial component that may be involved in any number of mood disorders.

The harmful bacteria that can lead to these problems isn’t necessarily created by the things that we eat, but certain types of foods help it to thrive and overpower the bacteria that keeps us healthy and on an even keel.
So, how can you maintain a balanced level of good and bad bacteria? What should you eat and avoid? The answers are more straight-forward than you might imagine.

Foods to avoid

Refined sugars and starches. If you only cut one item out of your diet, make it refined sugar. Harmful bacteria are powered by sugar the way Popeye gets his strength from spinach. Get rid of sugar and greatly reduce the amount of starch in your diet and you’ll be metaphorically cutting the bacteria’s legs out from under it.

Fried foods. It’s not going to be easy, but say goodbye to those French fries and chicken fingers that you love. Not only do they have ridiculously little nutritional value, fried foods are hard for your body to digest, typically have too many omega-6 fats and trans fats because of the oils they’re cooked in, and they play a large role in the heart problems of many people. Basically, your body doesn’t process them very well.

Foods that cause acid to form.
What’s wrong with acid? Experts believe that it’s related to the level of magnesium in our bodies, and that magnesium at least contributes (if it doesn’t outright cause) anxiety in many people. Try not to eat too much of foods like liver, sour cream, eggs, pickles, or yogurt, or drink wine excessively. And while we’re on the subject of wine…

Alcohol. Everyone knows that drinking does nothing good for us nutritionally and a whole lot of bad, but still we partake because of the feeling it brings – even if that’s usually incredibly short-lived. Well, now there’s yet another reason to avoid alcohol, because it actually has the ability to cause you to suffer physical symptoms from the toxins in your body that help trigger attacks of anxiety.

Dairy. While dairy products aren’t bad for you in and of themselves, an excess of them can put you in a more anxious state by raising your levels of adrenaline. Take care that you eat and drink dairy in moderation and you should be fine.

Coffee. Drink too much coffee and you’re likely to experience an increase in your heart rate, as well as several of the other sensations that are known to create panic attacks. Obviously coffee doesn’t cause most people to experience anxiety or it wouldn’t be as popular as it is, but it is known to be an anxiety stimulant when taken to excess.

Foods to seek out

Traditional fats. While no one would call them “good” for you, natural fats like lard, coconut oil, and butter are far better than using processed oils in your cooking. Omega-3 fats. In recent years there’s been more and more talk about good fats and bad fats – well, omega-3s, generally speaking, are the good guys. Find them in things like grass-fed animals, wild fish, and more.

Protein for breakfast. Lean protein is pretty much always a positive thing, and if you eat it as part of your breakfast, it will help to keep you energized. Fermented foods. By making a food with natural fermentation, you create good bacteria that can help re-balance what’s in your gut. Pickles, chutneys, buttermilk, and even yogurt and sour cream can be great as long as they ferment naturally. Just be sure to eat dairy products in moderation.

Complex carbohydrates. When you do eat starchy foods, go for whole grains and eschew simple carbohydrates. Not only is this better for your gut, complex carbs are believed to release calming serotonin, which can help to relieve anxiety.

Soups and stocks. Really want to help your intestinal lining to heal improve digestion? Use animal bones and cartilage to create homemade stocks.

Obviously, worrying about how to get and prepare the right foods is something else that can add to your stress, but you can relieve that by using a home delivery diet plan that allows you to clearly define the foods you want.

AG Members Launches in 10 Days

anxiety treatment

Last year I was sitting at home thinking about how I could deliver exclusive content to people who are serious about getting better.

What I came up with was a private website packed with rock solid information.

And finally, after months of work, my members only website is ready to launch.

In the members only area you’ll find new podcasts, videos, articles, and a brand new forum. You can take a tour of the new site here.

Why is the new website private?

Many people with anxiety problems are reluctant to talk about their issues in public. This could be because of work, school, family; the list of reasons for wanting anonymity is long. So a member’s only website is the perfect solution.

Not only will there be privacy, peer support, and new content, but members will also get free access to both of my eBooks, How to Stop Anxious Thinking and The Big Idea. I’m really opening the doors on this one. I’m even starting a brand new personal coaching service that will only be available to members for the time being.

To see a sample video from my new site click here

I think the combination of great information, privacy, and peer support is a powerful blend that will help people learn helpful information in a safe environment. It creates a space where you can work on your goals without feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Do you want a FREE membership pass?

If you’re interested in a free membership pass then head to the comments section below and tell me how you would contribute to the new community at AG Members. Would you be an active member willing to reach out to others?

I’ll select 5 winning comments and award those people with a free membership pass. The winners will be announced on February 7, 2013.

I’d like to start off with a group of people willing to do more than just consume information. I’m looking for folks who want to take an active role in their recovery.

But if you don’t get a free pass don’t worry, all members of the Anxietyguru.net newsletter will receive something special in their inbox next week. So if you’re not already signed up, right now would be an excellent time!

 

 

Watch Paul Drive Across a 200 ft Tall Bridge

I don’t produce videos because I’m wary of making myself vulnerable.

Yet, I realize that if I put myself out there more, I have a greater chance of helping people. So today I’m releasing my first video, ever. I wanted to do something different in preparation for the launch of my new membership website.

In this video, I cross over the 200 ft tall Coronado bridge in San Diego to prove – mostly to myself – that I’ve done away with my old fear of heights. It’s nothing fancy, but I hope it encourages someone watching that overcoming their fears is a real possibility and not just something you hope for.

To watch the video click here.

Have you ever overcome a powerful fear? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

Note: Please excuse the shaky camera work. =)

Antipsychotic Drugs for Anxiety Disorders?

antipsychotic medicationsAbnormal anxiety isn’t easy to live with. Seriously, who likes panic attacks?

But are you willing to take an antipsychotic drug to make it stop? Some people are and I think this new trend is a slippery slope that could turn into a big problem.

See, a few weeks ago I had to write a paper about the off-label use of antipsychotic medications for school.

Right after I turned it in, like a day after, I ran into this article in the New York Times.

In it professor of psychiatry Dr. Richard Friedman argues that unless you have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression, taking antipsychotics may be a bad idea.

I agree.

First, a little background.  Antipsychotic drugs are better known under their brand names such as: Abilify, Seroquel, Haldol, Zyprexa, and a bunch of other names.

In the 1950′s antipsychotics were first used as a postoperative sedative. Over time doctors figured out that they could also be used on psychotic patients to great effect.

Since then a wide array of “second-generation” antipsychotics have been developed to help people cope with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations.

So how the heck did these drugs end up in anxious people? These drugs are powerful sedatives that block serotonin and dopamine reuptake which reduces “overactive” brain activity. In English that means that these drugs are the ultimate “chill pill.”

Plus, it isn’t shady to prescribe medications that aren’t designed to treat what you have. It’s called off-label use. In fact, the FDA says that doctors are free to prescribe medications to treat off-label conditions as long as doctors have a “firm scientific basis” to do so.

The problem is that there are too few studies proving that these powerful drugs are effective in people with anxiety. By effective I mean treating the underlying anxiety versus just making you sleepy. What is known however is that these drugs come with a ton of side effects.

Here are a few:

Antipsychotic Medication Symptoms

antipsychotic drugs

Thorazine was a precursor to second generation antipsyhotic drugs.

1. Weight gain

2. High triglycerides

3. Salivation

4. Hand tremor

5. Confusion

6. Mania

7. Irregular heart beat

8. Seizure

9. High cholesterol

10. Death

Does this mean that all people with anxiety problems should stay away from antipsychotic drugs?

I think they should be considered carefully unless folks are crawling out of their skin and nothing else is working.

I’d like to see more studies, more stats, and more information about the risk-benefit ratio of taking such a drug given all the potential side effects.

This is despite the fact that antipsychotics are often prescribed for mood disorders as a low dose augmentation for other medications.

I want to see this happen before these drugs become the new normal for people with anxiety problems. What I don’t want is a bunch of nervous folks losing their ability to function in the world because they couldn’t find a better way to reduce their high anxiety.

I can think of a lot ways to lower anxiety that don’t involve a pill and chronic sleep. I want to encourage you to be more creative than that.

This is especially true because there are already far less potent drugs available to treat high anxiety. Some of the drugs include:

Anti-Anxiety Medications

1. Celexa

2. Zoloft

3. Prozac

4. Paxil

5. BuSpar

6. Klonopin

7. Valium

8. Xanax

9. Librium

10. Ativan

You have options. Every single drug I listed also come with  side effects, but most of those include nausea, stomach problems, and dizziness. The reality is that most psychotropic drugs cause side effects. The question is are you willing to put up with potentially severe side effects?

The other issue is that antipsychotics can really knock you down. When they say sedation, they mean sedation. Below you’ll find a video of a guy on Seroquel.  He provides a firsthand account of why antipsychotics can be problematic when you have to work for a living.

Do you need to go through life like a zombie to not feel anxious? No, you don’t.

That being said, always do what works for you as long as it’s safe. My concern is that I don’t want anxious folks taking drugs that they don’t understand, need, or cause harm.

I’ve included in this post several links highlighted in blue so you can dig a little deeper. I simply wanted to introduce you to this new prescription trend.

You know, I’ve never been a huge fan of psych meds, however, I understand that they do help many people get better. There is no doubt about it. I just want you to have the information you need to make good decisions about your own care.

Listen to the podcast below:

anxiety symptoms

 

 

 

Disclaimer

When making decisions about medications always speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

 

The Beginners Guide to Getting Better

transtheoretical modelHow do you go from anxious to “normal”? Well, getting your hands on good information is part of it.

But you’ll need more than good information to get your life back.

There’s also a process, steps that you have to take mentally, before you can be free of abnormal anxiety.

Understanding where you’re at in that process, and how you can move forward from where you are, is just as important as any piece of information that you’ve ever, or could ever, learn about.

See, when you’re suffering from panic attacks or constant worry there’s no doubt that you want to change things for the better.

Simply wanting to stop the pain of anxiety however doesn’t mean that you’ll do what’s needed  to put an end to the special kind of hell that abnormal anxiety can represent.

That’s why understanding how people change can be helpful. It allows you to take a realistic view of what you need to do to achieve meaningful change in your life instead of sitting back and hoping for the best.

So today I want to challenge you by asking a very important question: “Where are you on your journey toward recovery?” Are you ready to break free from abnormal anxiety, or are you still not sure about what’s even happening to you?

I’d like you to answer this question so that you can understand how close you are, or aren’t, to ending your relationship with abnormal anxiety. Once this is clear in your mind you’ll be surprised how much easier making decisions about treating your anxiety can become.

To help me explore this topic I’m going to use something called the transtheoretical model. This model of health behavior change explains how most people think about change and what steps are taken to achieve it.

Using a behavior change model to understand how close you are to getting better makes sense because abnormal anxiety is rooted in behavior such as reassurance seeking and avoidance.

The transtheoretical model states that there are 5 stages of change. The stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Let’s look at these one by one.

1. Precontemplation: In this stage you’re not thinking about change. In fact, while in this stage you might tell yourself  that you don’t have a real problem.

For anxiety suffers in this stage there tends to be a “wait and see” attitude. This is why many anxiety sufferers in this stage are in a state of confusion that makes it difficult to know “what they have.”

Here you’ll experience some level of distress but aren’t yet thinking of ways to stop the cycle of panic or chronic worry you’re in. In that regard, you’re just rolling with it and hoping for the best.

2. Contemplation: Here you know there’s a problem and you start thinking about making a change. This is the stage of weighing pros and cons, this or that treatment, maybe yes or maybe no to doing something about your abnormal anxiety.

3. Preparation: This is the stage that I think most anxiety sufferers are in. This is where you might start looking for information, buying books, talking to people, seeing your doctor, et cetera.

Sadly, most people get stuck here. They become professional consumers of information, advice, and tricks, but tend to not use what they learn. So they’ll find something and think, “This sounds good, maybe I’ll give it a try.” Then, nothing. No follow-up.

Instead they move on to the next, “This sounds good” idea. This can go on for months, sometimes even years.

In the preparation stage you’re also likely to have a desire, maybe even a plan to change, but lack the commitment needed to reach your goals.

4. Action: This marks the point at which you want change, seek change, and do what has to be done to achieve it. Ironically, it’s also the stage where a relapse back into your old ways is most likely. This is because when you challenge your anxiety it usually gets worse before it gets better.

If that happens it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’re wasting your time with whatever you’re using to get rid of your abnormal anxiety. At the same time though, this is where the real work of recovery is done. This is where you make a commitment to get better and stick to it.

5. Maintenance: This is what it sounds like. You do enough to keep the gains you’ve achieved by toning down the intense use of your anti-anxiety regimen. So instead of doing breathing exercises every day, maybe you do them 2-3 times a week, for example. The point is you keep taking care of yourself.

I found a diagram  to help you visualize what I’m talking about.

The process of change

Image credit: pponline.co.uk

 

In my experience recovery wasn’t linear. It looked more like a zig zag pattern that brought me one step forward, then two steps sideways. That’s the nature of recovery from abnormal anxiety. My hope is that this muddy road to recovery doesn’t discourage you from trying to get better.

It can be frustrating to develop and stick to a plan, but the key is to stay focused on one important thing, which is this: Recovery from abnormal anxiety is possible.

So ask yourself where you are on this road toward change and recovery. Are you thinking about change or are you preparing for change?

Maybe you are ready for action but remain ambivalent for one reason or another. I think it’s important to clarify what you think is holding you back and what you can do about it.

Talk it out in the comments section below and tell me your thoughts on where you are and why that might be.

 

How to Use Acceptance to Stop Anxiety

anxiety curesLearning the facts about abnormal anxiety is a good way of getting your healing efforts off the ground. But chances are that you’ll need more than facts alone.

I say that because most people who read this blog are anxiety experts that stay anxious despite their impressive knowledge. All you have to do is read the comments on my most recent article to verify this.

The power of anxiety, worry, negative thinking, and hopelessness are such that no matter what you know, it’s not always enough to keep anxiety away.

What helps more, I think, is to develop an impressive knowledge base and couple that with acceptance.

Acceptance allows you to do what seems like the impossible, which is to relax your attitude toward anxiety symptoms, anxious thoughts, panic attacks, and all the rest of it.

Acceptance allows you to suspend your need to find out what happens next. It gives you the confidence to stop analyzing every aspect of your mind and body. In short, it let’s you put your guard down so you can rest.

My new eBook, The Big Idea, will show you how to do just that.

The Big Idea goes into detail about what acceptance is, how it works, and how you can use it to stop abnormal anxiety.

When I wrote my first eBook, How to Stop Anxious Thinking, I was focused on the facts.

But since then, I realized that you need to learn how to accept your abnormal anxiety just as much as you need to learn about adrenaline, the flight or flight response, or the nervous system. Acceptance is crucial.

To learn more about acceptance and my new eBook listen to my latest podcast below.

anxiety symptoms