The Monster in the Closet
December 4, 2014 7:50 PM   Subscribe

My brain has a NEED to worry. If there's nothing legitimate to worry about it will invent things to worry about. I'm tired of worrying. How do I stop?

Last night I accidentally came across the trailer for the movie The Babadook. Now my brain is convinced that the monster from this movie is living in every closet and will eat me if I open the door. This is ridiculous. I am an adult. I know, logically, that there is no monster and I will be perfectly fine if I open the door. Yet I just can't stop worrying.

This has happened off and on all my life. I'll find something to worry about (sometimes reasonable things like finals or buying a house, sometimes stupid things like monsters in the closet or the book House of Leaves), will worry and worry for about two weeks or so, then be fine for months.

I have seen a therapist, she recommended neurotherapy/EEG biofeedback. However, insurance doesn't cover it and I'm seeing varying reports online about it's expense and effectiveness. My therapist is amazing and I'd like to have other options to suggest if I go back and visit again.

I'm sick and tired of worrying. Has anyone else found a way to get rid of it, or at least dial it back? A book, or a specific type of therapy maybe?
posted by peasandcarrots to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered medication?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:54 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: exercise. Not just like a mild walk or swim: lots and lots of hard exercise - running, or raquetball, something like that - til you're gasping and sweaty. Amazing how it quiets the yayas.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cognitive therapy can be helpful in the practical matter of coping/changing thought patterns. Similarly, "mindfulness"-related practices might help.

... although it always seems best to look for unresolved issues -- like experiences in which you never processed your emotions, the stuff we ALL have -- going way back. Worry about random "unreasonable" things seems more likely to be an outlet for maybe another matter (obviously). Then again some would say it could as easily be an outlet for anxiety of biochemical origin?

Xanax is the most common med but is coming under fire for addiction, withdrawal, and concerns about longtime use, however some people seem to get great relief with a very small dose (0.5 mg.) My Mom is a longtime GAD sufferer and recently was switched off Xanax to lorazepam by a doc who hates Xanax (and probably hates benzo's in general.) Mom definitely never processed grief, never talked to anyone, after the tragic death of her father...

Good luck. We all definitely have our "things" in life.

(And the comment above is spot-on about exercise. It stimulates production of serotonin, burns away stress, and when coupled with yoga, stretching, meditation, and/or etc., can relax wonderfully.)
posted by Shane at 8:16 PM on December 4, 2014

Yes you can get medication for this. However, there are other work-arounds to deal with what you are experiencing. I like to remind myself that worrying is like praying for things you don't want. Worrying is an insidious coping mechanism because if things go well, you feel justified that your worrying somehow prevented a bad thing from happening. And if something bad happens, bam! you were right to worry. It's a win-win situation for mentally justifying worrying. Except it's a lose-lose situation for you, because this is a crappy way to feel all the time.

Obviously, you are not going to logic your way out of this every time. The anxiety is bubbling up and your logical mind is trying to find something (anything) to attach those feelings to in order to justify them. So you need to realize that the 'explanations' are not really the source, though they may be a trigger. Aside from therapy for the overall tendencies to anxiousness, you need to address the underlying physical/emotional parts to get this to calm down. Here is what worked for me:

First step: Ask yourself, "can I do anything about this problem right now?" If yes, go do that immediately. If you can't do something RIGHT NOW, remind yourself worrying is not going to help. To stop the worrying if you can't do anything about it, or it is irrational, stop what you are doing and sit down somewhere quiet, and...

Second step: Remind yourself you are experiencing a temporary physical sensation. Try not to pay too much attention to the "why" or the "cause" your brain comes up with. Sit with the physical sensation and remind yourself that this is temporary. If you get spinning thoughts trying to explain it, bring yourself back to simply feeling the *sensation* of worry.

Third step: Focus on your breathing. Like, REALLY focus on it. Count each breath in 4 counts and out 4 counts. Keep doing this and try to imagine yourself relaxing a little more with each breath. If thoughts come up, remind yourself that for right now, they are IRRELEVANT. They are not a true reflection of reality. If it helps, recite a simple mantra or look at a mandala. Not for any deep spiritual purpose (unless that's how you roll) but just to give your busy brain something to chew on while you give your body and adrenals a chance to renormalize.

Forth step: Smile. Smiling causes 'happy' chemicals to be released into your brain. Try it :)

Repeat as necessary when you start to worry. I was a massive, chronic worrier and I managed to gain almost total control over it. It can be done, I promise.
posted by ananci at 8:20 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

IANAD, IANAP. This sounds very much like some form of OCD--incessant, intrusive fears that you know are irrational but can't shake is pretty much the essence of OCD.

Medication helps a lot of people, and so does CBT. It's also perfectly fine to go back and say "I don't think neurotherapy is going to be something I can do--what else do you think could help?"
posted by kagredon at 8:21 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

(It's also totally okay to keep going to this therapist for talk therapy and seek out a second opinion on stuff you can do to tackle this particular issue.)
posted by kagredon at 8:29 PM on December 4, 2014

Someone recently recommended The Journal of Best Practices in an unrelated thread. It's a highly entertaining read which you might enjoy. The author works through multiple issues in order to improve his marriage, one of which is crippling anxiety in situations which he recognizes are ridiculous.

What he ends up with is more-or-less a do-it-yourself version of CBT, which kagredon also mentions upthread.
posted by clawsoon at 8:47 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey I've got this! I am in the throes of it tonight in fact thanks to a medication I have to take to fix my stupid thyroid. For me this is fixation and it's a part of having anxiety + slight OCD. I have gotten better at managing certain aspects of it through CBT and EMDR, but when I just can't let go and stop worrying I do have to take small doses of Xanax to get my brain to knock it off. Triggers for me include: too much sugar, off balance hormones, low blood sugar, and poor sleep. Feel free to shoot me a MeMail if you want to talk about the different things my therapist and I have done to tackle my specific blend of fixating worry. I'd talk about it more here but I'd be better off chatting with you personally if that would be helpful.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:53 PM on December 4, 2014

Not a direct answer to your question, but I am also a relatively anxious person, and the Babadook trailer absolutely terrifies me in a way no other movie trailer ever has. I've watched it multiple times in an effort to desensitize myself, to no avail. I recognize that this is just one instance of an ongoing issue for you, but don't feel alone in the effect that this trailer has - it does an amazing job at evoking terror.
posted by samthemander at 8:59 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is really solid and practical. It has educational information about anxiety, about various forms of treatment, and a lot of cognitive and behavioral exercises to help reduce the symptoms.
posted by jaguar at 8:59 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Interesting timing:

a link at Metafilter
posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:17 PM on December 4, 2014

I found The Worry Cure very helpful.

One thing the author stresses is the importance of *not* seeking reassurance from others or from the Internet about your worries. This is counter-productive; while it relieves you of the immediate anxiety, it actually perpetuates the problem.

Also, making time to worry can be helpful: you set a time each day to worry, worry, worry, until it just bores you or wears you out.

In the end, it comes down to learning to tolerate, and maybe even become comfortable with, anxiety and uncertainty.
posted by girl flaneur at 9:44 PM on December 4, 2014

I find I worry more about dumb shit like this when a) I am bored and not occupying my mind with enough important, interesting stuff b) when I don't learn my lesson and choose to read about/watch things that disturb me.

I can't offer any advice on therapy or medical advice, but I would recommend getting hobbies and interests to fill your time. They don't have to be particularly admirable -- like, it'd be great if you learned a new language or played guitar or volunteered at an animal shelter, but if you want to just burn through all six seasons of Sex & The City or play SimCity to fill your time, that's fine too. The second piece of advice would be to not click on that link that you know may disturb you or make you feel unsettled.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:41 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is what ACT is for. Read "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris.

Besides that, I don't know how old you are, but films like The Babadook are supposed to bypass your adult mind and connect with the child in you so that the sleep of reason will breed monsters, and knowing they're not real means nothing in the face of the other knowledge. I haven't seen The Babadook (and am in two minds about seeing it for exactly this reason) but if it's having this effect on you, it's because it's a really good movie.

Also, if it's any consolation, the numinous fear has gotten less and less as I get older, but I hung onto it for a long time and it is still here. I prefer to have somone else in the house at night, to sleep with a light on, and in extreme cases to bring the cat into my room.

Belief in my own helplessness is probably fuelling the fear; as I've gotten older I've obviously gotten more capable, so there literally is less to be afraid of. I used to sleep better after watching Buffy, because supernatural creatures were basically just a routine nuisance that could be exterminated with a bit of thought and planning. So this brings me to the reason why I'm answering your question in terms of your response to the film.

It feels very taboo to say this, but religious faith at least provides an intellectual basis for not being scared in this way. Obviously intellect won't help you make it through the night, but in a general sense it does help to remind yourself that God's much bigger than [the Babadook | insert scary thing here] and its inflated ego.
posted by tel3path at 2:07 AM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am aware that medication is a possibility, however I would like to avoid it for the time being. I am currently breastfeeding and could possibly get pregnant again in the future. Perhaps in a few years medication will be revisited.
posted by peasandcarrots at 5:52 AM on December 5, 2014

You might want to get evaluated for post-partum anxiety -- people don't talk about it quite as much as post-partum depression, but it's very common (because it's anxiety-provoking to have responsibility for the welfare of a new human!), especially for people who have had issues with anxiety in the past. There may be some new (or newish) parent modifications for some of the interventions that could help, mainly around making sure you're getting enough sleep and making sure you have as much parenting support as possible.
posted by jaguar at 6:55 AM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Here are the things that have helped me ratchet my anxiety levels way down: I got my sleep apnea fixed with a CPAP (it's like night and day!), my insulin resistance fixed with a low-carb eating plan and exercise, and my thyroid medication tweaked.

Meditation and CBT are good for anxiety, but you want to get any underlying physical issues fixed in order to allow them to work. In particular, poor sleep can shoot your anxiety through the roof. You have a baby, so eight uninterrupted hours of sleep is probably a luxury, but if you can get your partner or someone else to take over the night shift at least part-time so you can get some sleep that might make a difference. If you sleep eight solid hours and your sleep is not refreshing, or if you snore or wake up with a dry mouth, then get a sleep test to rule out apnea or another sleep disorder.

If you ever want to try medication, Buspar works for many people and is not a benzo or addictive, so your doctor should not be reluctant to prescribe it.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:16 AM on December 5, 2014

Hi! My lifelong anxiety disorder reared itself full form during the last trimester of my pregnancy. I'd been off my meds, doing well, blissed out on baby hormones until 8 months. I dragged myself over the finish line, got an rx for a medication that was safe for breastfeeding and settled right in.

I'm just mentioning that because I was terrified of hurting my kid but my psychiatrist reminded me that a healthy mom was a real important component of a happy kid.

When I wasn't medicating, mediation and affirmations helped me a lot. My husband read to me from a pack of Louise Hay Power Affirmation Cards that was so ridiculously new agey but so helpful. I reread the Pema Chodron books that always help me. I journaled and exercised and cried and talked and tried not to beat myself up too much. It's always mentioned here, but Dr.Burns' Feeling Good Handbook has saved my life at least twice.

I am a pretty seasoned pro when it comes to handling my anxiety but that Babadook trailer fucked me up FOR DAYS. There's a reason it's being hailed as the most effective neo-horror film to date. It deals with secrets and danger and that shadowy scary "when will the other shoe drop" feeling that those of us anxious folk are real responsive to. Just thinking about it is making me sweaty.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cheri Huber's The Fear Book might be worth looking at.
posted by Lexica at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my experience anxiety about a specific thing / issue can really snowball into anxiety about everything. Having had a similar issue, working on understanding my triggers and acknowledging my anxiety and dealing with myself gently to address the causes, has been really useful in nipping things in the bud.
posted by Middlemarch at 10:50 PM on December 5, 2014

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