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Does anyone have advice for these terrible anxious feelings I get?

Tagged as: Health, Teenage<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (31 August 2015) 4 Answers - (Newest, 1 September 2015)
A female United States age 22-25, anonymous writes:

I know this is a site for relationship advice, but I've spent quite a fair amount of time on this website to know that many of the responders on here are extremely mature and have quite a bit of life experience. So mainly I'm just looking for whether or not others have had something similar and how they've dealt with it.

Long story short: I have anxiety. I worry a lot, and I get nervous a lot, etc. But it all started when I was around 16-17 and I had my first job at a fast-food restaurant. I would normally work after school shifts but then they had me come in early on a weekend shift at 8 am. This wasn't a big deal to me, but I was a little nervous as it was an 8 hour shift and I had never worked during the breakfast period. And I always have basic jitters when starting something for the first time. Unfortunately my nerves got the best of me and I ended up rushing to and from the bathroom all day. I've always been a person to suffer in silence so I went through hell every day because my same symptoms would occur over and over. One day I had to leave early because I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing my stomach hurt so much. Mix this with a fear of public embarrasment and you have two sources of a panic attack.

Ever since this horrible experience, my nerves have now always resulted in me running for the bathroom. I used to be normal and just shake a little or tremble but now the nerves immediately affect my gut instead.

I've now been in college for roughly 4 years, recently just started my senior year, and things have gotten bad again. They were pretty okay during my freshman-junior years but all of a sudden these current classes are just stressing me out! For absolutely no reason at all and I can't figure out why.

The worst part is that I know what I'm worried about and I know I have no reason to worry yet my body immediately tenses up and distracts me so bad that I can't pay attention in class. Recently I had to leave in the middle of class and spent 10 minutes in the bathroom before getting the courage to return. I came so close to cutting out early and missing my last class of the day because I was afraid of another attack. I'm so embarrassed by this, and now this week I am on the verge of tears at how crappy I feel. I yell at myself as to why can't I have a normal body, why do I let these things affect me so much? And yet my body just seems to act up instinctively.

I've recently tried talking to my parents because I really don't want to make an appointment with my doctor over somehthing that I know is caused from my own stupid paranoia. My mom can only offer me a "you need to get over it" which she doesn't convey in a mean way, just more of a "you need to change your mindset" as she thinks it's the only thing that's going to help me. My dad suggested Tai Chi which I've been trying. He said it's supposed to focus my mind so much on movement that it's meant to cause relaxation and distraction from your problems, yet when I try it my mind still goes all over the place in the middle of me trying the movements. My parents also don't want me to result to anxiety medication so I'm trying my best to find alternative options.

Today is my first day back in that class which I had the attack in (as it happened right before the weekend)and I am so paranoid it's going to happen again.

Has anyone ever experienced anxiety like this? Do you have any advice for remedy to these awful feelings?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 September 2015):

I developed a similar condition later in life, but grew up with social anxiety, so shy I was almost mute. I never got panic attacks as such, but I could barely cope with some social situations and I also developed digestive disorders due to the stress I was putting myself under.

Generally, anxiety is a massive problem for many, many young people today. The fast pace of life and social media and insecurities about jobs and global wars all create a generalised atmosphere of anxiety. Individuals pick up on this in their own way, developing aversions to certain things in their day to day life experience.

I went to the doctors for years and they were useless. At first, I was asking for help with things like insomnia - I was so anxious I couldn't sleep - but they didn't ever ask me if I was anxious or stressed, just said there was nothing they could do. I also asked for help with depression and they offered counselling - but what you find with counselling provided on the NHS is that it's very restricted in terms of how much you will get - you get just enough to help you to cope and then the funding doesn't cover getting you to a really thriving state. Finally I became seriously ill, totally exhausted - I was an incredibly hard working single Mum with no family support and I was completely and utterly worn out - my anxiety was actually forcing me to try harder and harder to cope and in the end I just became so exhausted and had colds and flu all the time due to my immune system being shot to hell.

At this stage the doctor finally diagnosed chronic fatigue and the only thing they could offer was graded exercise, for which I would have to go to hospital once a week to slowly increase the amount of exercise I did.

I had gone from being a completely healthy, fit and active, highly intelligent and achieving young woman, to being burned out. Part of this was the doctor's absolute failure to take me seriously over the years that I kept going to them saying I didn't feel well at all. It left me very angry and I took matters into my own hands. I am now much, much better, but I will never recover the energy that I used to have.

I did a massive amount of online research and, on one occasion, sat down with my daughter and figured out exactly which supplements might help me and exactly how much I would need. For me, this included liquid iron, magnesium, B12, fish oil, a general vitamin pill and Vitamin D.

I kept a record, rigorously, of my everyday symptoms, charting them in quite an obsessive manner and making note of when they seemed to get worse due to my period coming. I learned to by much easier on my self in the run up to my period, because anxiety is so much worse then. I also learned that it's quite common to get flu like symptoms before a period, due to prostaglandin being released. I'd simply exhausted myself, become burned out and had quite bad PMT symptoms. My extreme anxiety was due to years and years of pushing myself without any support but these bodily effects were making it worse.

Caffeine MUST be ruled out altogether, it makes anxiety far worse.

I asked to see a dietician, through my doctor. They didn't suggest this, I just asked and had to be quite assertive about my reasons. This was a major breakthrough and really helped. I found out I am highly intolerant to many foods and this was depleting my energy, making my anxiety even worse and disturbing my digestive system constantly. She was a great dietician and understood how what you eat also affects your mindset and vice versa and she recommended I start yoga, to slowly build up my strength and before starting cardiovascular exercise. This was the best advice I'd received all along.

I started yoga. Like you, I had tried Tai Chi but my mind was all over the place - I simply felt too anxious - and I also knew from experience I'd have to go to classes (which I couldn't afford and also might not be able to attend due to illness). I searched online and bought a yoga DVD to use at home and a good quality Yoga mat (not the little thin ones, a larger, thick one, available from ARGOS). At first I couldn't get into it at all. Then it slowly became an almost every day thing. I started to feel better in my body and my mind, but also I started to feel better about how I looked, because the yoga was really helping me to get back in shape.

However, another major breakthrough was re-introducing cardiovascular exercise. Without this, I couldn't boost up my immune system and was getting constant colds and flu and this was making me depressed and anxious.

I bought a fold up exercise bike and started exercising extremely slowly. One problem had been that, when I'd tried to do cardiovascular exercise to get healthier, I would boom and bust - feel great for a day and then become very ill again. So, in stead of going to the hospital once a week, I made a mental 'chart', very slowly increasing my exercise levels starting from 30 seconds and over several months working up to 30 minutes. I also very slowly started running, using a similar technique. This began to work wonders for my constant colds and flu and I now rarely get ill, though I do get flu-like symptoms when I have PMT.

Another thing I've tried, with limited success so far, is meditation. I can tell you it's fantastic when you can get it to work. But I've found it impossible to find a reasonably priced class and I don't quite have the discipline to learn it by myself. My yoga DVD does, however, have a relaxation session at the end, and this is great. I often have to repeat that section two or three times though because, even after one hour of yoga, I'm still a bit too anxious to follow the relaxation instructions.

I really believe your parents are right not to want you to take medication. However, I now know that one's relationship to one's mother plays a huge role in determining how anxious you will be later in life. If you have another who basically tells you that your problems are in your mind and you need to change your mindset, thiscan be an indication that you haven't received, early on, the mothering that you need to go into life confidently - and I don't necessarily mean that your Mum doesn't love you at all. She may be the most loving mother in the world but still hasn't given you the right support to start with. I absolutely dote on my own daughter, but even so I realise now, years later, that there are certain things I should have done that I didn't. It's incredibly difficult to get it right - the process of separating from your Mum psychologically, at a young age, has to be handled really carefully, to instil confidence in the child, rather than anxiety.

In my case, my mother was abusive towards me and simply not like a mother figure at all. I know now that this is a major cause of my anxiety - underneath everything I was terrified of being abandoned, because I'd never had the inner feeling of being understood and loved and this had left me feeling very alone, but in a way that was so 'normal' for me that I didn't know otherwise until I started educating myself about my condition. Again, this was more due to extensive research on the internet and reading about anxiety based illness. I did have some counselling from my doctor for this but, as I say, it was limited and I am such a hard working, achieving woman, that I think the counsellor was quite taken aback by just how much I'd coped with alone and how much I already understood about my condition. Really, it would have been better if I could have afforded private counselling, but the NHS counselling did help a bit. I think with counselling it's best if you can afford to go to a private one, recommended by a doctor, for as long as you need it. OR go to the NHS one but supplement this with all of the other things I've mentioned - reading and learning about your condition, eating right, and exercise.

Another thing to factor in is developing a social support network - friends, community, associates. I had become very isolated in an abusive relationship and had to re-learn how to make and sustain friendships. At first I was too anxious to do this and it has taken me years, literally, to put this in place. Social relations are very important for your sense of belonging and will add fun and pleasure, eventually, which will reduce your anxiety. You will have to learn what gives you real pleasure, because pleasure really is a major antidote to anxiety. I love sailing, but can't do it very often - when I do, all my anxiety goes. For you it will probably be something different, but you need to find out what it is in life that helps you 'let go'.

You sound like a very capable, hard working person who is very self critical. Learning to tame your 'inner critic' will really help. I'd suggest buying some books about coping with anxiety and educating yourself about how to be kind to yourself. Make getting well your project. You are young and your body will recover quickly. Don't leave it till your forties like I did, because you will be in a dangerous position then if your body breaks down. Some people break down psychologically, others do so through their body. I think you are one of the latter kind and learning about your condition will help. Unfortunately I really would not recommend doctors to guide or advise you except on things like being referred to a dietician and/ or for counselling and/or for basic blood tests.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 September 2015):

Have suffering with this myself specifically realted to jobs I would be in the toilet shitting or throwing up before every interview. I only went to the doctors after failing a job medical test due to v high blood pressure. This was due to my own worrying I had caused myself health problems. I took blood pressure and anti depressant medication. You must go to the doctor as you may have other more serious problems going on. If you don't want anti- anxiety medication (which I understand as it didn't help me if I'm honest) you could try CBT maybe? Never did it myself but I hear good things. My anxiety has never gone away entirely but I have learnt over time to control it and my blood pressure ha lowered a bit without meds. I find it really helpful to set aside an amount of time each day in which to relax and do things I enjoy this is really important for me. Also to learn all I can in new jobs which helps ease my anxiety as I have a better undertanding of what I am doing. I also like routine so it is good for me to get variety (I work shifts) to stop me getting stuck in a rut! It is something I have to conscious make an effort with but as time goes on I get used to it and am having less 'dash to toilet episodes'. Good luck and chill out :)

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (1 September 2015):

Honeypie agony auntWhile I'm NOT a fan of medication for everything, you could talk to your doctor about it and look for another option BEFORE taking meds. I kind of agree with your parents, however, THEY are not living in your mind when you get a panic attack.

I have OCD - with plenty of rituals, fear of germs, anxiety, panic attacks and "an over developed" sense of worrying. It showed up on my teens and I went through CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) which REALLY helped me out. CBT gives you the TOOLS (not a cure) to manage yourself and your symptoms.

I later added Yoga to manage my (especially) anxiety. Sports have been VERY good for me. As you can wear your body out and yet feel good instead of sitting and making up scary scenarios. (anxiety).

Now I still have the occasional anxiety attack but they are far and few between.

If your college has a mental health office, you could go talk to them before going to your own doctor.

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A male reader, Garbo United States + , writes (1 September 2015):

Garbo agony auntWhat you have is a serious condition which results in panic attacks that affect you physically. From what you describe, your symptoms have been progressing to worse. Notice how your panic attacks cause physiological changes such as urination... well, if untreated these panic attacks can trigger other physical problems such as heart arrhythmia, and that is a dangerous situation.

I have not experienced anxiety myself but I know people in my family who have and have seen how it can become a dangerous thing. Few of them were like you, listening to their parents, did not treat it until 30s and now, while young, have serious heart problems.

Although your parents don't want you to be treated by a psychiatrist and are urging you to get over it, the fact that it is causing you physical ailment and is impacting your life in a negative way means that you do need to be medically treated.

Now, there are some supplements that you could try taking on your own for anxiety and panic attacks, but I would recommend that you first obtain a specific diagnosis, get on medications and only then experiment with supplements with a homeopathic doctor. Not all medical doctors know anything about supplements and some are downright hostile about them.

By getting looked at, it does not mean that you are crazy. It simply means that you need to balance out your chemicals which for whatever reason are misfiring and causing you anxiety and panic attacks. These professionals could also point to you how to cope with these attacks as well as how to modify your behavior so less of them occur. As you get older and your body gets settled hormonally, and you learn the coping techniques then life becomes much easier.

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