Fear has become a big part of my life
May 13, 2018 12:36 AM   Subscribe

In my younger days, I used to be fearful about things going wrong in life. Eg not paying bills on time, paying excessive attention to details, making sure I locked the doors. I would always plan for bad scenarios. Then I sorta relaxed and became more at ease with my life. I attributed much of this to my passage of becoming an adult and don't really look back on those habits. For over a decade I have been much less worried about these things. But I think the fear is back now. Details inside.

While it's not as bad as before such as forgetting to pay bills, getting into trouble for procrastinating and breaking rules etc, I seeworry while going in public transportation, when I am walking on the streets. I am clutching my pepper spray when walking around homeless/crazy people. I am really surprised and hate this way of being.

It seems specific to a safety concern. It may be perhaps related to excessive news consumption. I live in a large city and homelessness crisis and opiod crisis is everywhere. I am constantly vigilant in public spaces. I think about how our systems are not designed to handle a large amount of people. I often drift into how no matter what you build there are bad actors (eg busses, trains, democracy, homes, apartments). I have also become increasingly concerned about my online security.

I am surrounded by people who don't think about privacy and safety as much as I am. And I am wondering if something is wrong with me.
posted by gadget_gal to Human Relations (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like anxiety and intrusive thoughts. There are a lot of treatment options through therapy including self-directed exercises (When Panic Attacks has been very helpful for me) and medication.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:42 AM on May 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Well, I mean, I have a certain amount of fear going out in public too. I have pepper spray on my keychain and hold it if I am around sketchy people. The thoughts of it being possible for something bad to happen cross my mind. Etc. The thing is, I don't let it stop me from doing stuff and I feel like a lot of people have these thoughts. So I don't think something is wrong with you or what you describe is all that unusual. But I will concede it's not necessarily a pleasant way to live.

I personally stopped watching or reading the news, specifically local news and stuff about crime, because it makes me feel unsafe and like I can't trust people. It is helpful for me. If you consume local news, which tends to focus on crime, or even national news that talks about those topics, I would try to cut it out completely and see if it helps.

A certain level of precaution is not paranoid. Having pepper spray or putting tape over your webcam are good precautions and you shouldn't feel guilty about that stuff.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:16 AM on May 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with Apple Turniver. I don’t consume much news anymore because it amped up my anxiety about things I couldn’t change anyway. I still think a certain amount of awareness about your surroundings is healthy though, in a ‘be alert but not alarmed’ way. Also, I wonder how many of these people you refer to who are not concerned with personal physical safety are actually men? Because men get to exist in the world in a completely different way to women, whether or not they actually realise it.
posted by Jubey at 3:06 AM on May 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

1) Exercise! Break a 30 minute sweat each and every day to help get rid of your excess anxiety.
2) Quit news, both online and on TV. That shit's poison. If you need help, read Rolf Dobelli's "Avoid News"; it's a great reasoning why news is so bad for us. (direct link to PDF above)
3) Don't Pre-worry. Part of this stems from the fear that if something happens you won't be able to handle it. You will. You've proven that you are perfectly capable by making it this far in life.
4) Check out David Burns' "Feeling Good", especially his list of Cognitive Distortions. (direct link to PDF)
5) Right now, you are coming from a global point of view that "People are basically bad.". Think about examples that are the opposite of that; "People are basically good." Look for the good in people, you will find it, in abundance, no matter what the news and internet say.
6) Take it easy on yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day, and this anxiety won't go away in a day, but you can take concrete steps to making your life better, your fear level lower, and having much more joy in your life.

Go get 'em tiger!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:23 AM on May 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

I am not an expert. In anything. But I have a pet theory about this very phenomenon that might have some truth to it (experts, please weigh in!) I think this is a feature, not a bug. I see 'younger days' and 'gal' in your post, which hints at ~middle age woman. I think that women our age have an instinct of some kind to be more vigilant, perhaps to allow the youngsters in our troupe to focus on the babies. This happened to me as well, about at peri-menopause/mid-40s or so. I got on HRT (a bit helpful,) and I still try to be mindful of not letting my awareness blossom into paranoia (a lot helpful,) which it really wants to do. Enlisting a good therapist nowadays is helping as well, though this is for other issues. I think you're just fine, personally. Just please continue being self-aware as you are, and get help if your thoughts really teeter to the point of messing up your overall happiness.
posted by JulesER at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think your concerns aren’t unfounded. You’ve lived long enough to see how people and systems fail.

The questions are: how often are they *likely* to fail in a way that personally impacts you? (And - do you feel just as anxious in places with fewer risks?) Whatever the risks are, how uncomfortable are you in your milieu, and what are you willing to do about your discomfort?

Eg., would you move to a less challenged neighbourhood? Take an alternate route, if you know the city’s been dragging its feet to do something about a dangerous chunk of road or crowding on transit? Those are reasonable steps a person could take (as long as they don’t cost you so much you’d be blocked from doing things you want to do).

As far as walking around with pepper spray - I don’t know, that *level* of concern does seem strong to me (but maybe I’d feel differently if I lived in a place where people had ready access to guns etc). Maybe take a self defence class so you’ll feel better equipped to assess danger and thus feel more relaxed about it?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:52 PM on May 13, 2018

The things you’re anxious about are real problems which deserve careful consideration and maybe preventative action. But if your fears are getting in the way of you doing your usual routine around work, family, friendships or hobbies, or are just making you unhappy, then that’s too much fear. For me, cognitive behavioural therapy helped bring my fearful habits back into the ‘normal’ range that most people have.

I’ll second the recommendation for reading Feeling Good by David Burns. I think if you try his techniques soon you can prevent your anxiety about your anxiety from snowballing into something that takes over your whole life. Think of it as preventative action against too many fearful behaviours :)
posted by harriet vane at 8:25 AM on May 14, 2018

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