Psych Central

I Can’t Deal with My Anxiety Anymore

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have suffered from some type of anxiety for as long as I can remember. My mom has always believed that nothing could warrant outside intervention (e.g. Once I was even threatened with a year long grounding if I asked about a therapist again) So I have always learned to deal with my issues alone. I’ve suffered from panic attacks and extreme bouts of anxiety to the point that I’ve stopped breathing without realizing it (among other things like depression). The worst part was my hand would shake so much sometimes, that if I was holding a cup, liquid would spill out of it. Anything could cause it, anger, sadness, even being slightly out of my element.

When I start to panic, I usually go over the situation, remind myself why it is not as serious as I feel, and then spend as long as it takes to calm down, taking deep breaths. When I feel dizzy like I’m going to faint, I just stand really still, and remind myself i’m fine, until it passes. The hand shaking has been the worst though.

It helps that I am not embarrassed about it as much, cause a lot of times, if I forget about it while speaking, I’ll stop shaking. I also consciously calm myself down before events and that makes me shake less. The problem is, it takes so many tries before I can do something without shaking. Like I volunteered for the first time to do face painting, and I was so excited until my hands started shaking. I nearly had a panic attack, before I finally convinced another volunteer to take over for me. When I volunteered at a clinic, even putting a thermometer into a patients mouth, caused extreme shaking and I had to make excuses until I could calm myself down.

Whenever I look this stuff up, most sites tell you to get coping methods, and to do things similar to what I have already taught myself. I have even seen somewhere, that there are certain causes to shaking hands that can’t even be cured. My coping methods, although are helping, are just not helping enough. There’s soo many things I avoid because I’m afraid my hands will break something, or i’ll have to leave and calm myself down because I’ve started sweating and having problems breathing. My mom still thinks it’s no big deal.

I’m 23 now, and I just would like to know, is there something that would completely get rid of these symptoms? I don’t want to take pills for the rest of my life, but I will, if only to be able to live it.

A. I am impressed with your attempts to manage your anxiety. Your method was essentially to “sit with” your anxiety until it decreased. Generally speaking, that can be an effective approach.

Anxiety is reinforced (made stronger) when engaging in avoidant behavior. For instance, let’s examine the time that you volunteered to do face painting but had to stop because your hands were shaking. Ideally, it may have been better to have remained in that situation until your anxiety diminished. The anxiousness would have likely diminished but by leaving the situation prematurely you may have inadvertently reinforced your anxiety.

One approach you can build upon or practice is reviewing a situation to determine if your panic or anxiety is warranted. One’s level of anxiety should match the situation. For instance, putting a thermometer in a patient’s mouth should not generate anxiety. There is nothing to fear. Putting a thermometer in the mouth of an angry lion, on the other hand, should lead to a great deal of anxiety and panic.

In the first situation, there is no danger involved in placing a thermometer in the mouth of the patient. In the latter example, placing a thermometer in the mouth of a very large wild animal should generate fear because the risk of danger is high. That example demonstrates the notion that one’s level of anxiety has to match the situation. A therapist could greatly assist you in determining how much fear or anxiety you should have in a given situation.

As a teenager, your mother would not allow you the option of seeing a therapist. You had no choice but to try to work through your anxiety on your own. As an adult you have the ability to make your own choices. You can choose to see a therapist. Therapists are experts in treating mental health disorders. Despite your commendable efforts, anxiety remains a problem in your life and because of this I would recommend seeing a therapist.

Medication may be helpful as well. It can help to “take the edge off” of your anxiety, enough to tolerate an anxious situation. Medicine might also eliminate your anxiety completely. You most likely would not have to take the medication for an extended period of time but that will depend on what your doctor recommends.

Anxiety is holding you back from engaging in activities that you would enjoy. It is degrading your life but it does not have to. Millions of people have anxiety but are greatly assisted with the help of mental health professionals. To locate one in your community, try clicking on the “find help” tab at the top of this page. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). I Can’t Deal with My Anxiety Anymore. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/01/i-cant-deal-with-my-anxiety-anymore/