Archive for April 2013

Hey everyone. I just wanted to let you know that I will be out of the country until next Tuesday. Off to The Bahamas to celebrate my birthday! The plane ride is going to be a bit of challenge I expect, but I have a good feeling about this trip. Relaxation is never a bad thing, especially for us anxiety sufferers!

Have a great week everyone. If you need to reach me, you can contact me and I will probably be able to respond.


anticipatory anxietyNext week is my 21st birthday. My parents have graciously decided to take me to The Bahamas, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. There’s nothing like relaxing on a tropical island with a fruity drink in hand and a buffet of delicious food nearby. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it.

But alas, what is my life if not filled with irrational fears and worries? Currently, I am stressing over the flight. I haven’t been on a plane since my panic disorder started last year, so I’m apprehensive. Will I be able to board the plane and make it to The Bahamas unscathed? Or will it be a panic-fueled disaster?

Anticipatory anxiety, the constant discomfort us anxiety sufferers feel between panic attacks, is a curse like no other. It floats around us like an ominous cloud, constantly reminding us that a panic attack could strike at any moment. “Beware of the plane ride,” it whispers in our ears, “You know you can’t escape from the plane right? If you panic, you’re stuck.” For me, the anticipation of new or uncertain events is always the worst part. Those cursed “what if” statements keep popping up in my head, slowly nudging me into a state of frenzy.

The duration and intensity of anticipatory anxiety can vary quite substantially. For a visit to the doctor’s office, I may be anxious for only an hour leading up to it and remain capable of carrying on with my day. For a presentation that has a lot riding on it, I may fret for weeks, lose sleep, and as it gets closer to the presentation time, I may even struggle with everyday tasks like having a conversation.

So how do we beat this anticipatory worry? I’m not completely convinced that we can ever fully get rid of it (everyone worries a little bit), but we can certainly tame it and retain control over our lives. Here are some strategies you might find useful:

  • Mental distractions. When you feel your worries setting in, try to keep your mind occupied. Strike up a conversation with a close friend, do some crossword puzzles, or dive into your work. If you can keep mentally busy, you may be able to postpone the worries. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it can give you some relief. 
  • Physical distractions. Go out and exercise. Go for run, take the dog for a brisk walk, go swimming. Try to exert yourself, as this will keep you mentally occupied as well. It’s a win-win situation, because exercise is good for your overall health.
  • Meditation and relaxation. Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation have been scientifically explored as strategies for coping with excessive worrying, and the results have been very positive. Just doing some basic deep breathing exercises can help you stay grounded and deflect those troubling worrisome thoughts.
  • Intellectual attacks. This is the ultimate way to overcome your worries: hit them where they hurt. Use the much more evolutionarily advanced parts of your brain to combat those primitive structures giving you this life of anxiety. So what if you have a panic attack on the plane? You know from a lifetime of anxiety that a panic attack will not kill you, it usually goes away in about 30 minutes or so, and people around you are less aware than you expect. Worries are often irrational and illogical. If you can learn to challenge them with your superior logic, one day they may just go away permanently.

Hopefully you will find some comfort in these coping strategies. I find that distractions work well with the smaller worries, while I reserve the intellectual reasoning and meditation for some of the more lengthy worries. Distraction is a technique that can be applied to almost any form of anxiety, but alas, it never really works in the long run. At some point you need to directly target the underlying problem rather than just avoiding the symptoms.

Do you have other strategies for overcoming anticipatory anxiety? If you do, feel free to leave a comment. Have a great day!


photo by: lrargerich

32-p1Hello, my awesome readers. I apologize for my sparse posting lately, but I have been adjusting to some life changes, so I thought I would send off  a quick personal update.

As I’ve written about before, I was forced to take a semester off my undergraduate degree in order to focus on my mental health. It’s been about 4 months since I came home from school to start my path to recovery. I’m feeling much better! It seems like forever ago that I was unable to leave the house and I was terrified of my own reflection. And yet, it seems like just yesterday at the same time.

I wouldn’t say that I’m 100% recovered, but I have certainly made some noticeable progress. I’m now able to sit in the car without panic, I can go grocery shopping, I’m going running outside now with no anxiety, and I’m even back to socializing. I feel like a completely different person – one who isn’t living in constant fear. I finally have control back over my life.

And yet, in the midst of recovery, it is often easy to discount the struggles that brought me here. It’s often easy to feel like I’ve “cured” my mental illness, and I can go back to being “just a regular person.” This is a pattern that has plagued my life since I was first thrust into the world of depression a decade ago. When we begin to feel better, it’s easy to throw aside our illnesses and pretend like we can go back to living the way we used to live.

This is a trap that I am trying my best not to fall back into. If my previous way of living was so ideal, then how did I end up like this in the first place? This is a question that I have to keep asking myself. Ignoring my mental illness has never benefited me in the past, so I need to stop pretending like it will work in the future.

The panic attacks may have left me for the time being, but my social anxiety is as present as ever. I’ve become so accustomed to the social phobia that I barely even notice it’s there; I think that’s where I’ve gone wrong in the past. I have discounted how difficult it is to be terrified of answering phones and making small talk because I’m so used to those awful feelings. It’s normal for me to feel my heart racing and my hands quivering every time someone says “hi” to me on the street. So, I never question it.

But maybe it’s time for me to reach to the bottom of my mind and finally overcome this for good. I will probably always live with anxiety, but I don’t always have to live in fear of it. It’s time for me to embrace my illness instead of fighting with it and ignoring it. I am a social phobe. Answering the phone terrifies me. Making small talk causes me physical pain. Presentations don’t just make me nervous, they give me nightmares and they eat away at my psyche.

As I write these words, I let out a sigh of relief. I feel very optimistic about my mental health, for the first time in years.

I hope you don’t mind the self-indulgent post for today. Sometimes, I just need to let some thoughts out so there’s a little more room up in my head.

I hope that you are all doing well. As always, if you ever want to drop me line, leave a comment or contact me.



self-medicatingMost of us like to have a few drinks when we’re out socializing. After a long week of work or school, what sounds more pleasant than hitting the patio at a local pub for a pitcher of cold beer or a glass of Chardonnay? Maybe you’re more into martinis or daiquiris. Well, whatever your poison, drinking alcoholic beverages is a lasting aspect of human culture; one that surely isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Social drinking presents a particular challenge for those of us who suffer from social anxiety. For someone who fears social situations, consuming a depressant like alcohol in a socially acceptable manner seems like the perfect solution. Alcohol lowers our natural inhibitions, making us less worried about how we present ourselves, which is a dream for social phobics.

Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is often a safety behavior, which means that it’s perpetuating your anxiety. As I’ve mentioned before in my post on agoraphobia, anxiety is all about associative learning. The anxious brain has learned to fear particular situations thanks to years of reinforcement.

If every time the phone rings, you avoid it at all costs, your brain begins to associate the phone ringing with the sensation of fear. Similarly, if you get drunk every time you’re out at a party, you will learn that you can’t handle social situations when you’re sober.

The problem is teasing out the difference between self-medicating and having fun. Just because you have social anxiety doesn’t mean that every drink you take is perpetuating the problem. When I’m sitting around with my roommates polishing off a case of beer after a tough exam, I’m certainly not self-medicating. I’m just being a regular college student. But when I have to do five shots of tequila before I can leave for a party, then maybe it’s time to start looking at my behavior.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when considering your (potentially) self-medicating behavior:

  • How often do I enjoy social events when I’m sober?
  • How often do I turn down alcohol when I’m in a social situation?
  • Do I ever drink alone?
  • Do I make stronger drinks for myself than for others?
  • Am I always the one who instigates drinking?
  • Am I always encouraging my friends to start drinking earlier in the day?
  • Do I reliably drink much more when out at an event than in the comfort of my home?
  • Do I feel like I’m always in a rush to get drunk?

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some drinks with your friends. I don’t even believe that drinking alone is always a problem behavior – sometimes a cold beer is just so much more pleasant than a Coke.

It’s in exploring the motivation behind these behaviors that we can get to the root of the problem. If you’re having a glass of wine because you love the taste of wine, then you’re probably fine. If you’re polishing off  a bottle of wine in order to be better prepared to socialize at a work party, then maybe it’s time you take a hard look at your drinking habits.

To finish off, I just want to mention that there are many other reasons for self-medicating than social anxiety. Some people drink before bed to sleep better, others drink to avoid painful memories, while still others drink to avoid life in general. Today’s post was not meant to touch on addiction or mood disorders. Alcohol consumption is a touchy issue, so I may devote a more comprehensive post to it later.

Is self-medicating something that you struggle with? How did you answer the questions listed? If you feel like sharing, feel free to leave a comment. Have a great weekend!

photo by: bachmont