Every one worries. It is part of the wide range of emotions we humans have. Worry is natural, and for many people easily controlled. It comes and goes without much thought once the initial worrisome issue passes. For those of us with clinical anxiety (social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia disorder, etc.) we get all the normal worries in life and then a whole bunch of extra worry. Each person fighting with anxiety disorder has different triggers and different anxieties. The difference between normal anxiety and a clinical anxiety is the worries aren’t always rational and they spiral out of control very quickly.
I have had a fear of tornados for most of my life. I live in Nebraska, this is not an easy fear to overcome. In the middle of any severe storm it is normal to worry. With an anxiety disorder it is so much more than a worry when the sirens go off. For me it starts off by hearing a weather report about potential storms. It doesn’t even have to be for that day, the weather report could be for days later. When my anxiety isn’t being controlled well (and sometimes when it is) this is what my mind does,
There is a chance there may be a tornado tomorrow.
What if there is a tornado tomorrow?
What if it is a really, really bad storm?
What if we don’t make it to the basement in time?
What if it hits our house?
What if I/ my husband/ my kids get injured?
What if I/ my husband/ my kids die?
Now reading that you may be thinking, it is crazy to think to that extreme about a storm that may or may not even happen, and I would agree with you. My rational mind is saying it is useless to worry about something that may not even come to pass. The chances of it hitting our house are slim. The chance we are injured or die? Even less.
I can tell myself to stop. To just stop worrying about this. Stop! It! Now! But the anxiety fights to be heard. It fights with my rational thoughts until I am waging war with myself. I personally have generalized anxiety disorder, and tornados are not my only trigger. I have a whole bunch of other things that trigger me into an anxiety spiral. I am aware of most of my triggers, but now and then something happens and I am talking myself off that ledge of worry yet again.
When my anxiety disorder was at its worst, I felt like more things triggered my anxiety than not. I would unwillingly hold on to reckless thoughts for days or weeks before the anxious feelings left. It is so much more than thoughts in your head, there are also physical feelings that come along for the ride. At my worst it felt like electricity ran through my body. Like I was ball of raw nerves that were overly sensitive to everything. I would lay down to sleep and a million thoughts would pop into my head. Sometimes they were horrible and lingered, sometimes I would be up all night with my thoughts driving me mad. These thoughts are called intrusive thoughts because you have no control over them. They just pop in and over take you.
It took me way too long to finally get help for my anxiety. I struggled, I lost friends, I snapped at the people I love, I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I was very controlling because I felt like everything was out of my control. My mind was out of my control. I was held prisoner to the daily gamut of thoughts that could flood in at any given time. I felt like I was in quicksand trying to crawl out, only to sink in further. I hated the anxious feelings. I hated that I couldn’t make myself stop thinking and worrying. I had people, with the best of intentions, tell me worrying is a waste of time. Trust me I think so too. When your mind is the thing causing the problem mind over matter just doesn’t work.
There is a test my therapist had me take in the beginning of my treatment. My answers indicated that my anxiety disorder is most likely caused in part by my brain chemistry being off (brain chemistry issues are also part of why they think some people have fibromyalgia, which I also suffer from). Due to this I take a daily medication to help keep my serotonin levels normal. I also see a therapist when I feel the anxiety spiraling again (I saw her regularly in the beginning of my diagnoses). Some of my current weapons in this battle for my mind are yoga, reading, writing, breathing exercise, and meditation. What works for me may not work for others, in the beginning there is a lot of trial and error to find what works for you.
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, try to take things a moment at a time. Find a therapist who can help guide you. Who can teach you things like breathing techniques and other tools that help calm the mind. You can also take a test at home if you aren’t sure. I found one that was very similar to the one my therapist had me do here. If you feel like you have more than normal everyday worries of life, I highly recommend finding a therapist, talking to your general doctor, and/or finding a support group in your area. It is a lonely place when you are trapped with anxious thoughts, but you are not alone.