My insights and med-free solution after a decade of anxiety
Let's pretend we're young and we're afraid of the dark. How do we get over that? What I did was close my door, turned the lights off and sat in the middle of the room without making a move, and I paid very close attention to every emotion I felt, and I countered it with logic and reasoning.
As I got older I became worried about other things. I got over them the same way. I became very interested in psychology and biology, and from there adopted the notion that all these problems were 100% genetic/chemical related and I "gave up" and accepted my anxiety as being something completely out of my control and something that must be overcome with hard drugs like benzos, because I was born broken.
Long story short, I'm now somewhat iffy about the exact cause of anxiety. I do believe that some people have a chemical imbalance, but I feel that this is a very very small number of people, and most people suffering from anxiety can cope with the problem using CBT or any other form of therapy, even if that therapy is sitting at home and brainstorming the matter on your own.
I'm not against drugs. I do think that some people are just better off on benzos like Xanax and Valium, either because they're too anxious and must deal with it ASAP, or just because they have a bad attitude and should be medicated so as not to become a nuisance to the rest of society.
This post is entirely my opinion. I'm no doctor or expert of any sort, and it is aimed at giving insights and hope to those who don't wish to resort to being dependent on meds. This can be used in conjunction with meds - in fact, that's what I recommend if it's possible.
In my experience with anxiety, I would have episodes. The paranoia wasn't continuously ongoing. It would set in during times of stress or sometimes just at random; Tobacco and other drugs like caffeine also seem to trigger it.
I had to force myself to abandon my illogical thinking during an episode. It didn't matter if the paranoia episode stemmed from a sudden chemical imbalance, or something I took or ate. I realized that no matter how illogical the situation was, I was able to form a perfect logic that made perfect sense to me to remain paranoid. Without realizing that THIS is the problem, I was helpless because I didn't trust other people's judgment - only my own - which was very obscured. It took me a decade to accept this.
For example, let's say I was sitting in my room and I look at the door and suddenly became anxious that there is a criminal in my closet, waiting for me to sleep. In this situation, I almost always get a weapon, turn the lights on and open the closet to 'clear it' (relieve my anxiety); Sleeping was impossible until I did that.
Here's what I did to get over my anxiety. I waited for a time when I was at my peak best. Maybe I had just won something, or something great happened, or I just felt fantastic. It was a time when I knew I wasn't being illogical or crazy and used this as a baseline. I recorded this "me" which I knew would only last until another paranoia attack set in.
I "recorded" the good feelings I was having in the form of rules. I jotted down specific rules which I HAD to listen to if I became paranoid. They were just specific arguments I would use to counter-act the paranoia. These are written as if somebody (the good me) is talking to me (the right-now paranoid me).
1) Bad things only happen when you least expect them, so don't bother trying to get prepared with silly rituals. Your intuition seems to go off at random - Don't trust it.
2) When was the last time that happened? (I would ask this to myself about the situation I'm paranoid about it, be it somebody following me or whatever)
3) How many times have you obsessed over this before, only to realize that it was for nothing?
4) Chronic stress is the only real threat you have to worry about here. Take a deep breath and focus on the present moment.
5) Try to forcefully accept it. Take a deep breath Everything is fine.' Try to laugh or shake it off. Keep yourself distracted. Call somebody on your cellphone, or meditate about the present moment by looking for details in your surroundings (# of windows on that house, how shiny cars are, what people are wearing, all the muscles that are tense in your body, etc).
6) Try to logically accept it. Understand that by remaining paranoid, you are never going to get over it. Tell yourself that the chance you'll get hurt or anything bad will happen is damn near zero. Even a panic attack wouldn't hurt.
7) Go back through the rules again and again. Eventually they become automatic, but in the beginning I suggest you keep them written down somewhere or memorize them and revise them during e paranoia episode continuously.
Remember that they are not mantras or prayers - but actual questions that you must answer. Be aware that you can easily answer them illogically and 'force' yourself to remain paranoid. Don't get trapped! I struggled with this before I realized that humans are capable of justifying anything.
Do not succumb to your urges to follow any specific rituals. For example, if you believe that you kept the door unlocked - resist the urge to go back and check it. This ritual to relieve your anxiety becomes your coping mechanism and keeps you dependent on it. It's VERY important that you abandon these rituals!
Trust yourself. If you've been locking your door for 20 years with no problems, then it's unlikely you forgot to lock the door this time. If you've been anxious for years and nothing has ever gone wrong, then re-enforce the rule and go with the flow of life. Turn the anxiety into exhilaration.
Remain in the present moment. Realize that the future doesn't exist, and the past is gone now. Focusing on the present moment relieves stress and helps you pay attention to what you're doing (locking the door, turning off the gas, etc) so you're unlikely to forget that you did this. The reason you might forget you did these things is usually because they are mundane and automatic, and we're usually thinking about the future or past while doing these things, so we don't form any mental images or memories of us doing them.
These are rules and ideas that I give myself when I'm paranoid. You're free to modify them to your liking to fit your own mold of the problem. These can be tweaked to apply to social phobias as well.
I suggest you try them on minor issues first. Fear of the dark, talking to strangers, etc.. Perfect. Lock yourself in your room and go for it.
Realize that you possible spent years/decades being anxious and that this is re-enforced over and over in your head. So reversing the process takes a long time and might resort in excess stress and anxiety when you first follow these rules. Especially if you don't do any of your rituals. Everytime you don't succumb to them is a victory. Good luck!
Please note: I have a hard time dealing with anxiety when it is the result of a direct chemical alteration. For example, I usually feel overly sick and paranoid if I take 1 gram of caffeine (10+ cups of coffee) and the only way to deal with it seems to be with benzos or lots of rest with somebody I trust. The drug makes you delirious; These rules aren't going to work if you're problem is due to the direct effect of a substance, sleep deprivation, etc. This works great for those who suffer from anxiety like I do; episodes that come and go.
Last edited by ms_mod; 11-07-2007 at 02:10 PM.
Reason: Note edits to your post. Don't use vulgar or implied vulgar language for any reason. Ms_Mod