Being anxious is one thing, but thinking that you’re about to die because of your anxiety is a different sport altogether.
The “normal” person will experience anxiety and shrug it off. Anxiety sufferers on the other hand, tend to wallow in their anxiety because it’s often accompanied by ten thousand symptoms that make an anxious person think death is imminent.
Although I’m skeptical that anxiety disorders are curable, I do believe they are manageable. One of the most important things that an anxious person can do to manage their nerves is to overcome the belief that anxiety symptoms can kill.
After all, it’s the physical symptoms and the fear of death that’s prolonging your misery. You want to solve this problem? Then unplug the connection between your symptoms and death. They aren’t related. I don’t care what your amygdala has to say about it.
If you could pull this off would you still behave like you currently do? I doubt it. You would probably venture out more, maybe even have a little more fun in your life. So exactly how do you overcome your fear of anxiety symptoms? For starters, you absolutely must change your way of thinking. You have to reprogram your brain to reject the false beliefs that you have built up over the past few months or even years.
The most significant of these self told lies is that anxiety can kill you. That it’s going to trigger a heart attack and drop you at any moment. Although we don’t intend to tell ourselves these things, it’s still something that people do.
People often experience palpitations, or some other heart disturbance, and assume that death has to play some part in what’s going on. But this is untrue. Panic attacks, anxiety, palpitations, and racing thoughts don’t kill people. There’s no recorded instance of someone having an anxiety related palpitation and keeling over as a result.
Now, you should clear yourself medically to rule out any issues that you may have, but once you get that out of the way, stop the urge to check and double-check that you’re “alright.” Stop asking people if you’re going to make it. Trust yourself to endure the temporary discomfort of any symptom. Once you’re able to do this then managing your anxiety symptoms becomes a real possibility.
Are anxiety symptoms intense? Hell yeah they are, but that alone doesn’t make them deadly. Losing your fear of death as it relates to anxiety should be your starting point. Do this and you will get closer to the “old you.”
In addition to removing your fear of anxiety related death, you should refrain from fear building. This is a term I just made up, but it’s pretty self explanatory. You shouldn’t get caught in the web of creating fears from old ones. This is counterproductive and can also lead to new phobias. Do you really want to be afraid of new stuff on top of all the other stuff?
I used to have this problem. I started having weird and fantastic fears that I knew needed to come to an end. For example, if I left my water bottle at work I would never drink from that bottle again. The assumption being that someone may have tampered with it, or worst yet poisoned it. That’s right people, poison. That’s outrageous. All of a sudden the janitors are carrying cyanide AND want to kill me specifically? My logical mind yells from the mountain tops, “No way man!”
Someone once gave me lotion as part of a gift basket. I almost didn’t want it because I felt like maybe the lotion was tampered with. I questioned the motive for the gift giving. But then I realized that everyone else got the exact same basket. So I put the lotion on right then and there to prove a point to my anxious mind. The point was you are out of control and need to be contained.
So now I don’t fear old water bottles or gifts of lotion. I told you about this embarrassing example because it illustrates what anxiety can do. And what it can do is build in your mind a set of false ideals that keep you from yourself.
Do not fear build.
If you find yourself creating new fears you should immediately challenge them. Why are you afraid? Is there a legitimate reason for the fear? Or are you simply allowing your anxiety to introduce yet another fear that you really don’t need?
So there you have it folks. Remove the connection between death and anxiety. Don’t fear build. And you’ll overcome your fear of anxiety symptoms.
The next time you’re having an anxiety attack, or whatever anxiety symptom, challenge yourself to asses the situation. Are you in real danger? If not then talk it out in your head. What is most likely happening? What’s happened in the past when you felt this way? Work with what you know, not your best guess.
Anxiety can be an overpowering force. It makes you believe things that aren’t true, it creates fear, and it suppresses your logical mind. But remember that you have the ability to see through the veil of fear. Remove the fear of the symptom, become more comfortable with it, and you will improve a great deal.
I used to be an anxiety sufferer so I would never lie to you and say this is a piece of cake – far from it. It takes time, practice, perseverance, and patience. You will be successful sometimes and at other times you will fail. But don’t get discouraged.
As long as you are aware of what you need to do then you have a starting point. Stop being a victim and get proactive about counteracting the fear. Even if you’re anxious sometimes, which you can’t always control, you can still do a lot to control your reaction to the anxiety.
That my friends is my message to you: You can do something about this.
Note: This article was updated on January 7, 2013.
I also added a podcast to accompany this post. Click on the player below to listen.