Your question: Why does anxiety drive me crazy?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. I empathize with your situation, as anxiety is quite an unpleasant experience. First of all it has to be understood as a part of life. We all deal with anxiety and stress constantly, in our work, studies, relationships and life in general. The problem is when anxiety becomes constant and causes frustrations in our daily lives.

When you refer to “crazy” you may be talking about the emotional exhaustion caused by episodes of anxiety. When we feel anxious our body becomes dysregulated, so we feel unpleasant physical sensations such as tachycardia, rapid breathing, sweating, stomach pain and tingling in the body. And we also feel that our emotions get out of control: you may want to cry intensely, feel intense fear and also experience anger and helplessness (1).

This is common, you are not “crazy” even if anxiety makes you feel it.  It is part of the general symptomatology of anxiety that in itself does not represent any harm or danger to you. The problem is when the anxiety becomes too reminiscent and intense, and makes you feel that you are losing control of your life. In that case, it is time for you to do something about it.

What can you do?

There is a very effective technique called “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”. This consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a specific moment. It is useful when we are experiencing a lot of physical agitation or we feel that we have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and find it difficult to control our emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste (2).

Whether you are in your room, in a car or a public place, you can sit and practice this exercise in silence, breathing slowly as you do it as many times as you feel necessary to decrease the anxious symptoms. With time of practice this exercise will become easier, and you will realize how helpful it is to focus on our essential senses when we are overthinking things that make us feel bad.

Write to understand yourself

Another effective strategy is to keep a record of your emotions. In a journal you can write down and specify exactly what you mean by “crazy”. It is important to learn to name our emotions to eventually work on them. In this document I attach a link to an image that shows a circle with different emotions. You can look at them and find one that gives a name to what you are feeling in an anxiety attack, and then we would be clearer where to work to improve.

In my experience…

Everything you are experiencing right now is normal. No one sets rules or parameters for how you should feel when you experience anxiety, so your symptoms are not unusual or inappropriate. When we learn to accept what we don’t like about ourselves we are taking the first step to change those things.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that we all have the capacity to improve, although sometimes our mind makes us believe that we have no solution. Apply the techniques at your own pace and I am confident that you will gradually improve. It was a pleasure to write to you.

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