Too much anxiety, therapy isn't working, help?
May 15, 2012 1:11 PM Subscribe
My anxiety is running my life. I've been to therapy, it made it worse. What next?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Basic problem: I have really high anxiety mostly related to my work performance, I live in fear of public failure, I have high expectations for myself, and I can't be proud of much about my work since objectively I have achieved less than some of my superstar friends/peers and I feel I'm underperforming even relative to my own capability.
I have a tendency to quit things that make me feel bad rather than stick them out, so I can have down time to feel calm again, even if I know I shouldn't quit for some good reason. I think a work project is going poorly because I'm getting stuck and making mistakes, so I ignore it until my boss demands to see progress, even if I liked the project for its own sake at the start. I am terrified that my career is going to stall or even worse that I will get fired, that I'm not good enough to stay in my field and I'll need to find a whole new less ambitious line of work, but that will be "settling" and will also make me miserable. I am a decent cook but constantly feeling guilty about how much I eat out because I'm stressed and busy and just want someone else to worry about the food preparation. Same with exercise; I bike and jog short distances inconsistently but its not enough and I feel bad occasionally that I'm still unfit, and I know exercise would help. I should probably be more proactive about socializing even though I have a bigger social network now than I ever have. But the main goal is to improve enough so I don't risk my job at this point.
So I need therapy, obviously. I went for several sessions. I said that the main problem was that my work was suffering because I couldn't manage my time, I was constantly stressed, not having many good days where I felt calm and mentally sharp, which I really need to do my kind of work, which is intellectually taxing. She said I was just secretly telling myself I sucked and that deep down I think I'm a terrible person all the time, and that I had to stop that (I don't think that was true, but okay, she's the therapist). Then we talked about my social life, and she thinks I am too cold or introverted. I guess this is true, that I am slow to establish intimacy with people, but I think I'm well liked in general but I never want to push closeness on someone who doesn't indicate they want it, so I have quite a few friends I have fun with, none of whom are best friends or people I regularly tap for support. She focused on this problem, and the work stuff was getting ignored in sessions. This made me feel like even more of a failure than when I started therapy, so I quit (see problem with quitting previously mentioned). Apparently I misled her or something, or I was doing therapy "wrong." I feel like most of my worries are totally rational and normal but I just can't set them aside long enough to be super productive, and that's what I want to be able to do.
1) I am putting my career at risk if I don't fix the work performance anxiety eventually. I am smart, I don't suck at my work, on a good day I find it interesting, but I'm not a superstar. My boss just says I need to work harder and be more passionate/committed. That's not helping. We have a plan for some concrete things to fix but if I can't turn around the anxiety, the plan won't work. That means I have a few months to get this under control and find some calm source of inner motivation or I will probably end up fired, broke, and in an even deeper hole. Are there any stopgap measures I can implement RIGHT NOW that will help me avoid this outcome?
2) I probably need to go back to therapy but I don't know how to do therapy right, apparently. I'm not even sure it will help because I'm just realizing how bad the anxiety is and how much it feels like just part of who I've always been, and it's not always at some crazy dysfunctional level, I'm just bad at managing/ignoring it even when it's mild. How do I do better with the next therapist? I won't have much choice for the next therapist, I will get one pretty much at random, and there are only a few available to me that are covered by my insurance.
3) Is there ANYTHING else I can do to get some traction other than trying my best to make therapy work on the second round? First therapist said drugs won't help me, but do I need to demand to try benzos for the short term until this is under control?