Please help me
June 26, 2010 3:13 PM   Subscribe

New to anxiety...

I would describe myself as a confident, self assured person who could handle most given situations without much of a fuss. I think my friends would to, I am the one that gives out advice, or is a shoudler to cry on. etc...

Untill recently.
All of a sudden I am getting palpatations, my hands ball into fists, I obsess about the things that are stressing me out, I am often on the verge of tears and I feel sick almost constantly. I am very very anxious. Just writing this my heart is thundering and im on the verge of tears. I quit smoking 6 months ago but im craving nicotine. I cant eat.

I know what is causing it and there will be no (or little) respite untill me and my partner move out of our flat (beginning of August).

What can I do to combat this? Should I see a doc? What can I do with myself untill I can release myself from this situation!

(UK, 24, female, secure in money, relationship etc, no previous problems with anxiety!)
posted by Neonshock to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Any changes to your circumstances recently?
posted by nj_subgenius at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2010

...that is, anything beyond quitting smoking, which will create a lot of anxiety itself, but I haven't heard of it beign this debilitating. I'd recommend you see a doctor, who ought to be able to prescribe Buspar (that's the trade name in the states) which, in addition to it being an SSRI and possibly helpful with anxiety, is also efficacious as a quit-smoking regime.
But is there anything beyond that - recent promotion or other change of circumstance at work - that comes to mind?
posted by nj_subgenius at 3:19 PM on June 26, 2010

Do you drink much caffeine? Stop.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:21 PM on June 26, 2010

It sounds like you are very aware of the cause, your reaction, and might benefit from some relaxation techniques to combat this. Can you get a few CBT or biofeedback type sessions of therapy? Maybe practice some yoga or meditation?
posted by kellyblah at 3:25 PM on June 26, 2010

Response by poster: I know the circumstances causing it. Its some antisocial behaviour around my flat that I cant escape untill I can finish my 6 months and move somewhere else. Moving before then is not going to be a reality unfortunatley.
posted by Neonshock at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2010

nj_subgenius, he says he knows what is causing it. I would recommend the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, which has concrete suggestions and explains medications if you need/want to go that route. Things that have worked for me:

1. Stop drinking caffeine
2. Get good sleep
3. Reduce/eliminate alcohol
4. Exercise regularly
5. Meditate/practice other breathing techniques
6. Medication as needed
posted by desjardins at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I suffered with a bout of this around my thesis I found deep relief in the suggestion "when you're falling, dive." Dive down into the anxiety on a sensory level. Try to let go of mental judgements about what's going on and really get into it. This is the fundamental theme of the heroic travel to, enter into, the scary thing and come out the other end with real gold.

This works so well that I now remember that terror fondly for what it brought with it: an entirely new level of self awareness and all that comes with it.
posted by Pamelayne at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

Also, if the problem is centered around your flat, do you have the opportunity to get away from it from time to time? Weekend camping trips? Stay on a friend's couch occasionally?
posted by desjardins at 3:29 PM on June 26, 2010

I experienced something very similar to you when I was going through a grueling 6 month lay off process a few years ago. Until that point I had never had issues with anxiety or depression My GP gave me a one time prescription for Xanax. It worked very effectively, and I had no side effects, or problems stopping. I liked it because it was "as needed" so I didn't have to take it daily.
posted by kimdog at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2010

Response by poster: desjardins - am definatly doing this but unfortunately I work 12 hour shifts overnight so with my schedule Im often stuck there during the worst of it because I have to sleep, but of course, I cant sleep...
posted by Neonshock at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2010

Anxiety is often related to uncertainty and ambiguity. As a species, we tend to find it very difficult to deal with these qualities, which is unfortunate, since many important life events are fraught with uncertainty. People struggling with anxiety are troubled by intrusive thoughts (usually about some catastrophe that might happen), by physiological events (sweating, heart palpitations, etc), and unpleasant emotions.

Techniques to help cope with anxiety usually target the behaviors, sensations, or thoughts/emotions that go along with with anxiety. Some examples of techniques include deep breathing, distracting yourself with other thoughts, mindfulness type meditation, challenging catastrophic thoughts, relaxation exercises, physical exercise, changing diet (decreasing sugar, alcohol, caffeine), and, of course, the possibility of medication.

Therapists can help, and there are many good self-help books about dealing with anxiety. I was just at a seminar and heard this author talk about this book, which you could check out if it seems interesting: Things might go terribly horribly wrong.
posted by jasper411 at 3:36 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the same personality type as you, and I still cope with persistant anxiety anyway. It's not the exclusive domain of the stereotypical hugh-strung person. You just need to recognise that this is a physical manifestation of stress, and you are (annoyingly) not immune to it because you are a constitutionally strong person.

Offloading stress can help; exercise, yoga, meditation, pedicures, sex, all that good stuff.

Benzos can help with, you know, the whole heart palpitations and not being able to breathe thing. I relied sort of heavily on my Xanax perscription when I got it, but once I knew that it worked just having it around is a very nice crutch. I now take one or two every couple of weeks and am a huge, huge fan.

I really suggest you talk to your doctor and let her know you are under some extraordinary situational stress manifesting itself as anxiety. By all means, discuss what's best for your particular situation but I would encourage you to discuss drugs as an option.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 PM on June 26, 2010

Response by poster: I really dont know how I will feel if I go to the docs, I dont know how to say things without breaking down and acting a fool?

Just had a chat (and a cry - and Im at work!)with my partner and am going to speak to the agents on monday to see if its possible to end this contract early.
posted by Neonshock at 3:56 PM on June 26, 2010

I really dont know how I will feel if I go to the docs, I dont know how to say things without breaking down and acting a fool?

Firstly, I have cried in front of many a doctor. They see blood and puke and all sorts of things. Crying is no big deal at all.

Second, you can prevent or stop crying jags by looking UP and at something other than a person (like a corner of the ceiling). Looking UP must affect something with your tear ducts because it helps stop the flow. Blink rapidly. Then take a deep breath through your nose. Breathe out slowly. Don't try to talk. Repeat as necessary until you can speak without crying.
posted by desjardins at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

"I dont know how to say things without breaking down and acting a fool?"

This is NOT the end of the world. I burst into tears over unexpected blood tests. The doctor will hardly be put out if you're crying over anxiety and stress! And trust me, I have cried in the office of just about every type of doctor there is. It's just what I do.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:20 PM on June 26, 2010

When I was having terrible grad school related anxiety last summer, I made an appointment with the first psychiatrist I could get a hold of and got a script for generic prozac. (PS, he was a crazy coot, and I bawled the first time I saw him, but whatever). Saved my life/ sanity.

Then, this last week, I started a horrible job that left me in tears several times a day and unable to sleep or eat, and the prozac wasn't doing the job anymore. So I put in my notice. It might seem ridiculous, but I have seen both my mother and sister develop horrible chronic conditions related to prolonged stress, and I refuse to do that to myself. So I my advice is to remove yourself from the situation at any cost, even though I know it is ALWAYS easier said than done.

Regardless, I know that anxiety like this is one of the most physically uncomfortable feelings there is, and you have my total sympathy.
posted by afton at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2010

nth-ing talking to a doctor. I have an intermittent anxiety disorder that wasn't diagnosed until well after it appeared, because i kept thinking, Well, it will clear up on it's own once I move, or I graduate, or I lose weight, or i meditate more consistently... Maybe it will - but maybe it won't. There are easy, mild-symptom medications available to assist you, and you don't even have to take them all the time (somebody above mentioned Xanax, which is what i use to mitigate about 80% of the episodes I might have had). But you can't get any of the help you need without consulting a physician. Even if you do decide to attempt some of the non-therapeutic remedies suggested above, I really, really hope you'll consult your doctor. Even if this is an isolated incident and not the potential onset of an actual anxiety disorder, you have nothing to lose by confirming that with a professional.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2010

But there's nothing wrong with crying. All tears mean is that you feel something - in this case, stress and resulting anxiety - very stongly. After all, you're there to get help because you're upset - it would be odd if you were, in fact, not crying.

For whatever its worth, I have seen doctors in every possible state, from calmly listing my symtoms to literally collapsing on a chair and begging "help me." The only difference in how I was treated or in outcome was how many kleenex I consumed during my visit. There isn't any shame in needing help, even quite badly.

If you know you'll walk in there and just be a puddle of tears, you can send a letter to your GP in advance of your appointment. This would not be an unusual approach for people with anxiety, since the appointment itself can make some people anxious.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:29 PM on June 26, 2010

Crying is a symptom of the problem you're having. It's like if you went to the doctor for persistent cough and started coughing in front of him. All he's just going to say "You clearly need my help" and then help you. If the doctor gives you medication or something and you find that you're able to cope, then maybe try to stick it out for the next 6 months. But if you're still having trouble, then you really do have to put all of your energy and money into getting out of that situation. Your health is all you have. You have to put it above everything.
posted by amethysts at 4:33 PM on June 26, 2010

Response by poster: You're all right of course. I guess I just feel completley taken by suprise by the whole situation, and to be honest I feel like Ive failed...myself or something? I keep seeking reassurance from my bf as if i am less attractive to him for feeling/being this way. I honestly thought i could handle anything.
posted by Neonshock at 4:39 PM on June 26, 2010

Look, I really understand the bit about feeling like you've let yourself down but I don't know what to tell you: the situation is what it is, your body is having the reaction it's having, and that's the hand you've been dealt.

I cannot tell you how much less overwhelming tasks like seeing how to get out of your lease early seem when your anxiety is under control. Your ability to deal with the problem before you resourcefully and rationally without wanting to sob and hide with every setback is well worth a crying fit in your GP's office.

Please see your doctor.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2010

Getting benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, clonazepam, etc) in the UK can be an ordeal. However, I strongly encourage you to adopt the many excellent life style habits/techniques recommended and see a physician. Situational and acute anxiety are disquieting and painful. Make it clear this is a temporary phenomenon. If you have any history of alcohol or drug abuse benzodiazepines are not for you and should not be prescribed ( except in a very specific medical situations ). In the absence of a history they are very safe and effective in managing acute anxiety, particularly the physical dimensions and racing thoughts. A SSRI is the preferred first course of treatment but are often unnecessary if the anxiety is time limited and acute. If the physician insists on prescribing a SSRI I would give it a go but it usually takes 7-14 days for them to be effective and they can heighten anxiety during before starting to manage it. If you are a good candidate for a Benzo do not hesitate to be firm but not demanding. Good luck. BTW, since life is full of stress it can be very easy for persons to attribute it to a specific stressor. Sometimes anxiety attacks just spontaneously arise and may or may not be related to the associated phenomena. We change through out our life. Regardless, this is a condition that can be effectively treated
posted by rmhsinc at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2010

One way to fix it is to remove the source of your anxiety. If, as you say, you are financially secure, then it might be wise to use those resources to get you out of this situation. I can't think of anything more worth spending money on than your immediate health and well-being. Don't discount it just because it's emotional health.

Do work to get out of your contract, but if that doesn't work, or even just while working on it, see if you can find another place to live. Don't think about the sunk cost of your current flat; just think, "which would I rather have? [X] amount of cash or peace, quiet, and emotional health?"
posted by whatnotever at 6:16 PM on June 26, 2010

In addition to the above, are there things you can do to help yourself feel more empowered or safe where it relates specifically to this situation? I know you can't control other people, but you can plan for your own actions, responses, and protections. If you were more specific, we might be able to give you specific coping and trouble-shooting suggestions.
posted by moira at 6:45 PM on June 26, 2010

I guess I just feel completley taken by suprise by the whole situation, and to be honest I feel like Ive failed...myself or something? I keep seeking reassurance from my bf as if i am less attractive to him for feeling/being this way. I honestly thought i could handle anything.

If you fell down a flight of stairs and broke your leg, it would be a surprise and you would not be able to walk normally for awhile, but you would not feel that you had failed. You would also know that it was temporary and that you would heal. Think of your current situation like this. You've had some setback, you're emotionally wounded, but you will heal, and it's not reflective of your normal personality. You wouldn't expect yourself to run with a broken leg, so give yourself time to heal from whatever trauma is causing this anxiety.
posted by desjardins at 6:48 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Getting benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, clonazepam, etc) in the UK can be an ordeal.

Just so you know, this was not my experience. All of my doctors in the UK were very responsive to my requests for very specific drugs. I have never heard of a GP who won't write you four Valium for a transatlantic flight, for example, or a short course of Zolpidem for disruptive insomnia. These are very, very reasonable requests.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:50 PM on June 26, 2010

Darlingbri--I am glad to hear that. Benzos properly used can be extremely effective and helpful. Several years ago there was research conducted in the UK on benzo's which sensationalized the dangers (which can be very real when used improperly) that lead to a real clamp down. BTW, Zolpidem is not a benzodiazepine. Also, I would draw distinction between a few pills for a transatlantic flight and managing an ongoing problem with anxiety attacks. I would hope that with candor and an appropriate history the poster will access the appropriate meds which may well be a benzodiazepines.
posted by rmhsinc at 7:19 PM on June 26, 2010

Absolutely quit the coffee or tea. Stimulants are your enemy during times of anxiety.

Drink a lot of water. Put yourself on a solid sleep schedule and stick to it. Walk as often as you can. Do yoga or work out. Meditate or pray regularly.

DO NOT GOOGLE SYMPTOMS. If you know you're having an anxiety attack, then you're having an anxiety attack. Don't spend forty minutes at WebMD learning about all the ways the human heart can be ill because it will only give you material to worry about.

I rarely have anxiety or panic attacks anymore, but when I do I go straight to Just visiting there and reading the forums can alleviate an attack entirely. Everyone there knows exactly what you're going through.

I also keep two guided meditations a friend gave me - they're from the Linden Method - on my iPod, in case of emergencies.

An anxiety disorder is not due to a situation, it's due to your response to a situation. You may continue to have symptoms even after you move house.

I've had a panic and anxiety disorder for about ten years. I've never used meds.
posted by goblinbox at 7:34 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

may I also add that generally if you have new onset anxiety with episodic palpitations, you ought to get your thyroid level checked out.

yes, for most people it turns out to be just anxiety, but for a few, it turns out to be a very treatable disease.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:13 PM on June 26, 2010

nj_subgenius: "Buspar (that's the trade name in the states) which, in addition to it being an SSRI and possibly helpful with anxiety"

Buspar is not an SSRI (it's an anxiolytic) but it frequently augments them. I can vouch for its usefulness with anxiety, though. With it I hardly ever need a Klonopin.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:50 PM on June 26, 2010

Neonshock, I went through something very similar around the age of 20. It took me a while but I eventually did get it under control. I'm 26 now and I don't remember the last time I had a panic attack.

This is not a personal failure by any means. Anxiety is a part of life. Everyone has it. Sometimes people have less of it and sometimes they have more of it. For some unfortunate folks, our brain chemistry and our life stressors mix in a special way and our anxiety becomes very difficult (but never impossible!) to control. It can happen to ANYONE. It's a risk of the human condition.

Now I'm going to tell you a few things that may not seem very useful or ring true for you for a while. I had a lot of people giving me advice (that I would ask for) when I was in the thick of my anxiety that I can now see were very wise, but they didn't resonate with me for a long time. My suggestion is - try to give the pointers people are giving you a real chance. Fight your instinct to disregard or minimize them. There is a lot of great information here that I heard and blew off at the time. I wanted a magic bullet because anxiety attacks are so horrible. All the little tips were frustrating but in tandem they do help if you commit to doing them, take the process seriously. Approach it with an open mind and even a little optimism if you can find it.

Some suggestions (with a few repeats).

-get out of whatever situation has triggered this ASAP. No need to overthink it - stay with a friend, whatever. Stay away from it as soon as possible, as much as possible.

-Avoid caffeine. This won't likely make a very obvious difference, but it will make a difference, even if you can't really discern it yet.

-Sleep - buy some sort of white noise machine and an eye mask if you struggle to sleep during the day. Make it a priority.

-Exercise - even if it's just a walk. This one made a GIANT difference for me. Exercise is better than any anti-depressant out there. Start small though. I found that vigorous exercise mimicked panic attacks and terrified me when I was at my worst. Once you get this under control, I would recommend incorporating exercise into your life 4-5 times a week. It seriously changes my brain.

-When you start having a panic attack, hold your breath for a few seconds. This will force your heart rate to slow down a little. Take deep breaths and monitor your pulse - focus on making it slow down.

-If you become overwhelmed with a situation, pretend you are watching yourself from a third person perspective and narrate what you are doing and what is happening to you. This technique was suggested to me by my therapist and it really helped me. Something about removing myself from my interpretation of the situation allowed me to stop making false attributions about what was happening and calm down.

-Try to get a benzo prescription for the times when nothing you do will bring you down. Really, there is no reason to suffer through those.

-Seconding not googling symptoms. Dear god do NOT do it.

Ultimately you will have to find what works for you. It's very personal. In my case, it took me a while to get a handle on my anxiety even after leaving the environment that triggered this response. It's like I opened a portal in my mind and learned a new path to take in times of crisis and it didn't reroute overnight. I found that my panic wasn't just anxiety - I was also sad about things I wasn't processing and feeling a lot of emotions I wasn't comfortable with and it was easier to just lose my shit than process that stuff. So much of panic is the part of you that is fighting what is happening in your body - appraising in in your mind, thinking about it, being willful about it. When it comes, surrender to whatever you are scared of. Accept your fear, accept that the worst case scenario may occur. We all want to have control over the outcomes in life and it's frightening to encounter situations where your ability to impact them is limited. With panic, you have to ride it for a bit but it goes away every time and it will go away sooner if you surrender than if you fight with it.

Good luck. Feel free to PM me if you ever need to talk or want more tips.

PS> you'll be fine. :) I am now!
posted by amycup at 10:26 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

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