Every few months (or less), I develop some sort of new phobia. Some of them are absolutely ridiculous (which I recognize), but it is very difficult for me to overcome these fears. What can I do?
posted by nimufu to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I apologize in advance, as I am sure this is going to end up very long.
To give a little bit of background, my family has a history of mental instability. No one has ever been committed, but both sides of my family suffer from anxiety and depression and OCD (or OCPD).
About two years ago, I was diagnosed with a benign, but disabling, neurological disease. There is no cure, and treatments are typically hit-or-miss. It took about a year until I finally started to feel better. I lost about 1/4th of my body weight because I was too sick to eat. I felt so ill and was in so much pain that daily, I either felt (a) I was dying or (b) that I wanted to die. Suffice it to say, it took a big toll on me mentally, and when I think of how bad it was, I'm amazed I even got through it.
Around the time that the symptoms of my illness began to appear, I started to have terrible anxiety attacks. I've always been an anxious person, but I had never had a panic attack, to my knowledge, until that point. The day after I had my first panic attack, I started to develop really weird phobias. I also started to develop what I guess to be OCD.
At first, I was convinced that all of my food was poisoned. I would check all of my food and my drinks to make sure they were thoroughly sealed, and even if they were, I would think maybe someone tampered with it while in processing. Eventually I got over that, because I had to eat (or die), but I still check all of my food before I eat it.
Following that I heard a story on the news about a boy dying from amoebas. Cue amoeba phobia. Showers and baths became terrifying for me. If I got water up my nose, for several days I would be worried. Again I got over that, because I shower every day and I'm still alive.
Now I'm afraid I'm going to become disfigured or that I am, in some way, just going to die in some random terrible accident. This phobia has worsened my compulsions. I don't know if it's OCD because I don't have any "rituals", per se, but whenever I do something, or think of doing something, I'm afraid of the outcome. Like I'll think, "I can't get out of bed yet; if I get out of bed now I'll be disfigured/something bad will happen." Or if I go to get myself a snack, and there are multiple choices, I feel like if I pick the wrong one, I'll be disfigured or something bad will happen, leading me to get really frustrated and skip eating the snack at all. If I get in an argument with someone, regardless of the situation, I'm afraid I'll be "punished" by some unknown force for being a bad person. Just about every action I do, or am about to do, I think to myself, "If I do this (or don't do this), something bad will happen." It pretty much gets in the way of living.
Part of the fear of disfigurement is due to the fact that I am 24 and have never been in a relationship (I was physically/verbally abused as a child and my mother/step-father had a violent relationship when I was growing up, so it has taught me to just pretty much be terrified of ever dating). I know if I could address that issue, my fears would probably lessen, but I'm even afraid to go out sometimes or sign up for a dating site online because I'm afraid maybe I'll be disfigured by doing it. Also, I'M A TOTAL MENTAL CASE IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED and I'd rather not put anyone through that.
There is no one I can talk to about this; I'm not going to dump these problems on my friends, and my family is pretty unsupportive (when I told my mom about my fear of disfigurement, she just laughed and walked away). In fact my family is pretty much awful sometimes and they just add to my stress.
I know I need to see a therapist, but I'm in a really bad financial situation due to expensive medical bills and having to figure out how to bring income in by working for myself (my health is unreliable so I can't hold down a job). So while I am saving up to see someone, it's going to be awhile before I can afford regular sessions.
What I'd like to know is what self-help resources are out there that I can use to my benefit until I can see a therapist? What self-help booklets, workbooks, videos, et cetera, do you recommend? If anyone has had any problems similar to mine, what helped you to overcome your phobias/anxiety/psychological problems?
(P.S. I have tried a number of anti-anxiety drugs and I have had bad side effects with all of them, some even making me more anxious. I'd really just not go down that road again.
Also, my mental problems are not due to my neurological disease. Anxiety is one of the symptoms listed, but it's usually a side effect of HAVING the condition; the disease itself does not cause it.)