Does pet ownership make your anxiety worse? How do you manage this?
January 24, 2023 1:00 PM   Subscribe

My beautiful dog is 5 years old and since we got him as a young puppy, my (diagnosed) anxiety has focused on him in what I feel is an increasingly unhealthy and unsustainable way. I had a strong realisation of this only recently, coupled with new and disturbing thoughts that while I love him deeply, my life would actually be easier and simpler without him. These thoughts are disturbing to me because I’m totally committed to, and capable of, being a responsible pet owner and giving him a safe, fun and happy life. How can I better manage and cope, and keep things in perspective?

I went to my doctor last week for a medical certificate, due to what I would characterise as a small mental health crisis, triggered by a minor injury my dog had - I’ve had insomnia, felt unable to work or function, collapsing in tears regularly, feeling unable to think or or talk about anything else, obsessively “researching solutions” when I should be doing other things. The doctor noted that the last time I presented with similar symptoms over a year ago, it was also triggered by my dog being injured. She is a good doctor and has been very helpful with my anxiety disorder. Last time things got bad, my dog was viciously attacked (I was not present, my husband was) and required minor surgery to repair his ear and cheek, with 2 weeks of meds and the cone of shame. This latest time, it is a fairly minor paw wound but needs constant supervision, a twice-daily med regime etc, and there is a worrying and puzzling pattern emerging of healing the wound, only for him to lick it back to a problematic state again. So we’re back to the vet again today.

I am sure pet injuries make any pet lover a bit anxious, but I feel almost distressingly unable to cope and struggle to think of anything else. Even though I have a very flexible workplace, a very short commute, minimal family responsibilities (no kids, parents in good health), am blessed to be able to afford regular vet care, and have a fantastic husband who is supportive and equally contributes to all aspects of the household including pet care. I have also secretly been slacking off on my work (which is demanding but boring), which I am worried will soon become apparent to my boss and colleagues. I am mostly using that time to focus on my dog, whether he is well or not, but it becomes worse when he is sick. I simply can’t imagine how I would handle a really significant medical issue with my dog such as orthopaedic surgery or cancer or palliative care or incontinence, the thought of that is terrifying and also sort of inevitable; even though, again, I recognise many people do exactly that, with many more life obstacles and less privileges/resources than me, and seem to cope much better.

Aside from actual medical issues with my dog, I have changed my lifestyle and routine a lot since getting a dog, and not entirely for the better. I read somewhere they become an “organising principle” for one’s life and that is certainly true for me. I’m certainly more active, but my world also feels a lot smaller. I’ve cut back on my work hours so he’s alone less, and I don’t like going out at night because I worry he’ll be bored and lonely. Travelling is out of the question unless we have my mother or a trusted friend come to stay. When I’m working from home I spend a lot of time tending to him and trying to keep him entertained and comfortable. I don’t know that he needs it, it’s just a habit I’ve developed. He is reactive to most other dogs and certain people so walking him can be a slight chore, and we no longer take him to busy places like cafes or swimming holes, although thankfully he’s nowhere near as bad as some stories I read on reddit/reactive dogs. I would say at least half his walk pass happily without stressful incidents, and the other half, the incidents are pretty minor (some barking and freezing at a distance, a bit of a lunge on the leash). Overall he’s pretty sweet and well-behaved, though I would admit he is a bit spoiled and I am not consistent at setting boundaries (for example about begging for food or not pulling on the leash). I do my best to give him a small amount of training most weeks and he gets at least 2 or 3 good walks a day, the odd play session, and a lot of love and attention from us. But still, I feel an almost extreme empathy or co-dependence with him where I worry frequently that he is unhappy, bored or not having a good life. Intellectually, I know that we are responsible pet owners and doing our best. But I feel a lot of vague, ambiguous guilt - maybe it was that couple of frenzied, chaotic visits to the dog park as a puppy that made him reactive? Am I not walking or training him enough? Maybe we didn’t socialise him enough? I always regret that I didn’t intervene when a neighbourhood dog humped him each time they met, because the owner assured me, they’re just playing, they’ll work it out. Is this guilt just a pretty normal part of most pet parenting?

Please help me, I feel like my anxiety is sucking the joy and fun out of pet ownership, and that I am creating mental limitations on my life that I blame on my dog. I feel weirdly co-dependent on him, and I feel embarrassed to admit that. Do you have any tips for how I can think differently about my canine companion, and become a little more relaxed about him, while still being a really involved and responsible pet owner? Please be brutally honest. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any pets. I raised three kids and don't need any other living beings so totally dependent on me again; we had pets when they were young but, as my youngest is 47, that was a long time ago. I just spent a month house- and cat-sitting for a friend. Lulu the cat is accustomed to wandering around her suburban neighborhood and asks to be let out several times a day. It ended up making me feel very anxious if she was gone for more than a couple of hours, and I totally freaked when she didn't come back one night. I was very relieved when she showed up demanding to be let in at the crack of dawn. I felt like I couldn't leave the house for long and curtailed some of the things I had planned to do while visiting that city. I was very relieved to cede the responsibility for her care a few days ago.

We don't all need pets, especially if caring for them impinges on our lives. Find a nice person to take your pet and don't feel bad about it. You did your best and pet- or at least dog-ownership is not for you.
posted by mareli at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh, gosh, you poor thing. I mean that with kindness. This sounds really tough.

But still, I feel an almost extreme empathy or co-dependence with him where I worry frequently that he is unhappy, bored or not having a good life.

I want to say, very gently and as kindly as possible, that this is not empathy, and it's not helpful to think of it this way, because these are human emotions, and I believe this is projection of your emotions onto your dog, who is well-loved with an enviable amount of attention and exercise.

Also, if I can absolve your guilt about feeling like life would be easier without your dog: yes, dogs give us lots of love and affection, and that makes life better for many of us, but I can say, as a lifelong dog lover and current dog parent of an elderly dog I've had since he was two months old, the understanding that dogs do take some time and work seems incredibly healthy to me. Don't feel bad because you can see that dogs take work. I love my houseplants and often I feel burdened by them. Same with my wonderful pets, even more so. They give much, and they require much. That's part of the deal.

Next, I want to test a theory. Is it possible that, if only deep down, you blame your husband for the attack on your dog? Or you blame yourself for not being there? That attack and the aftermath sound like an incredibly stressful situation, and I can imagine that you would want very much not to go through that. Perhaps, somewhere in your head, you've convinced yourself that being around your dog all the time means nothing like that would happen again. That would be pretty motivating! No wonder you are paying so much attention to your dog.

Now, let's take an even bigger step back. I don't think this is about pet ownership or your dog, but about your anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. What else is going on in your life right now? Is work extra stressful? Are you having stress in your family or friendships or other relationships? Lord knows this never-ending pandemic is quite stressful. Where are you feeling a lack of control elsewhere in your life?

I am wondering if your hyperfocus on your dog is an avoidance of something else. I can't guess what that other thing is. But perhaps you are channeling your anxiety into worrying about your dog because you feel a bit more mechanism of control there, as if you *should* be able to control your dog's environment enough and behave towards him a way that makes your dog's behavior a direct response to your choices and behavior. And so when your dog has something bad happen to it, or behaves in a way you don't like, you blame yourself. If you have a pattern of blaming yourself and taking responsibility for people behaving badly towards you (a parent or other caregiver, perhaps?), then perhaps this unconscious approach to your dog is a continuation of an earlier thought pattern. "This time I can get it right," you maybe told yourself, except that we don't really have all that much control over life, or other people, or our dogs.

I'm wondering if you are reverting to old relationship patterns and choosing to see your dog as the manifestation of you, to avoid dealing with your anxiety and stress and lack of control in other areas of life.

My suggestion isn't to figure out pet ownership, because by all accounts, your dog is well taken care of and well-loved. My suggestion is to figure out how to take care of you. That empathy you are directing towards your dog, worrying about if he's bored or unfulfilled or not having a good life? What happens if you direct that empathy and concern and care towards yourself? What if you focus on managing your anxiety beyond your dog, knowing that, ultimately, this isn't really about your dog, but you?

You have my compassion. I can read the stress in your words. Take care.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:22 PM on January 24, 2023 [16 favorites]

I think the pet ownership issues are a red herring, and the issue is that you’re having anxiety that is impacting your ability to enjoy your life. I wonder if your anxiety would find other things to focus on that are not fully within your control- your own or your loved ones’ health, your career, your relationships, etc. etc.- if you didn’t have a dog. What was your anxiety like before you had a pet?

I would say that some level of second guessing/worrying/guilt is normal when you’re responsible for another living thing, but what you’re describing is not “a pretty normal part of most pet parenting” in my experience.
posted by MadamM at 1:23 PM on January 24, 2023 [34 favorites]

It is true that owning a dog does set some limitations, or perhaps challenges, that non-pet owners don't have to think about. No blame to anyone who would rather not take on that challenge. That doesn't seem to be what you've described, though. It seems more like your anxiety has latched onto the dog as a means of expressing itself. There are people who have pets who still go out at night or travel, y'know?

If you have access to a therapist, this would be a great thing to bring up with them. I agree with MadamM that this is not a "normal" level of worrying; more importantly, it's not at a level that seems helpful for you--or your dog.

As a non-therapist, long-time dog owner, in the short term I'd recommend you focus on training. By which I mean you and your dog working together to make both of your lives more enjoyable by learning to remain calm and manage your emotions in stressful situations. For your dog, that's going to look like being able to see whatever they are reactive to without flipping out. For you, maybe, learning about dog behavior or first aid so you can accurately assess their health levels. But it's something you can work on together and hopefully, the work itself (aside from achieving training goals) can help you feel more connected, more effective, and more in control.

Lastly, if you feel like having a dog isn't helping you, isn't making you happy, isn't enriching your life, you have permission to find your dog a new home. If you need to let them go and focus on you, that's ok.
posted by radiogreentea at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I understand your feelings, 100%. I have 2 cats and a dog, and I occasionally feel sad because perhaps they could have had a more exciting home (for the pup) or perhaps one of the cats would have been better adjusted as an only cat (she was 1 of 3 for ~12ish years). Or what if the dog has a bad experience at daycare and it causes lasting damage? And lets not get started about the guilt I'm still feeling after I tripped and fell and landed directly on top of my 12 lb dog a couple weeks ago. (I rushed her to the vet and she has been declared totally fine, but that doesn't make me feel any better!). But I've also had the experience of working with cats and dogs in shelters, and my non-anxiety-ridden brain knows all of my animals have a great life compared to those less fortunate. And the fact that when I go to sleep all 3 are literally within arms reach on the bed tells me they don't think they have it that bad either.

So, you're not alone. But I do think this could be a manifestation of anxiety, as I know my worry around these types of things was drastically reduced (but not eliminated) when I started treating mine.

In terms of actionable insights for today - I love, love love trickwoof's Instagram channel. It does an amazing job of looking at dog-training related human anxiety through a dog's point of view, in cartoon form. And reinforcing that we are all doing our best, our dogs know that, and love us just as we are.
posted by cgg at 1:38 PM on January 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

The dog is a red herring. You have severe anxiety and if you didn’t have him to worry about your brain would latch onto something else. You need to find better treatment for your anxiety, i.e. a different kind of therapy or medication. Once that improves this will soon follow. Good luck!
posted by Amy93 at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2023 [21 favorites]

The nurturing instinct happens along a continuum. Human mothers naturally feel quite protective and preoccupied with their infants and anxious for their safety, and in the usual doses it's fine. But in some people it becomes extreme, to the point where they are obsessing about harm that might befall the baby, ruminating about their failures as a parent, and sometimes thinking the the child would be better off without them. I think this same derangement of the maternal instinct can happen with people who love dogs, too.

We are 100% responsible for our dogs but only about 20% in control of them, and that's a recipe for anxiety. And it only gets worse the more you love them. You may have been on an even keel before the dog but your intense love of him and the vicious attack made you realize how vulnerable you both are, him to harm and you to heartbreak. Of course you feel anxious. You're not crazy. The fact is that you are vulnerable. But you need help learning to deal with this vulnerability so that you don't lose the rest of your life to this anxiety.

And yes, your life would be easier and simpler without him, I mean nobody gets a dog because they make life easy or simple! If this is not a healthy situation for you, then there is no shame in responsibly rehoming him.
posted by HotToddy at 2:07 PM on January 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I just want to say, as someone who is also a very (possibly over-)involved dog parent, I completely understand why all of this causes anxiety, but I don't think the anxiety is a NECESSARY aspect of being a very involved dog parent. By which I mean, I think there is probably a way you can treat your anxiety that doesn't involve rehoming your dog, if that's what you want to do. I am not a therapist or mental health professional, so I may be wrong about that. But since it seems like this dog is really important to you, I would start with therapy - are you seeing a therapist for your anxiety?

I also second the advice to focus on training. Dog training can be tough and come with its own anxiety, but I do think it can help you feel more in control of the situation.

Finally, it is ok to rehome your dog if you need to. I'm sure you'd put in the effort to make sure he went to a good home, and there's no shame in realizing dog ownership is just not for you at this moment in your life.
posted by lunasol at 2:32 PM on January 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

Aw, I'm sorry to hear that.

Meds did wonders for my anxiety. I also tend to stress about my pets' quality of life. Because of the meds, I've been able to find some beliefs that now feel true to me. You might need medication or therapy to achieve that, too. But you said this:

"Do you have any tips for how I can think differently about my canine companion, and become a little more relaxed about him, while still being a really involved and responsible pet owner? Please be brutally honest. Thank you."

So, I'll share my thoughts:

- did you know that dogs need 16 hours of sleep? They need this every day, and it's difficult for them to sleep while we're moving around, because we are basically their favourite TV channel and we sometimes handle food. I bet you don't sleep 16 hours. You leaving the house is likely a welcome chunk of napping in the sun for your pooch.

- animals don't need as much mental stimulation as we do. How do I know? Because if they did, they would have evolved to read and write and build rockets. Instead, they are excellent at observing the household and environment. If you're worried about enrichment, build your dog a perch to watch birds, fill Kongs, sprinkle treats in the grass. Let him do dog things without you! Even (especially) when you're not home. He's an adult.

- reactive dogs are not a lost cause at five years old. All you need to do for this light case is sprinkle awesome food on the ground every time your dog sees another dog. Make it so that the dog is gone when he looks up. Within a few weeks, he will get that dog=food and that the other dogs will move away even if he doesn't bark or lunge. Both awesome rewards. Get the book "Feisty Fido" by McConnell. Seriously. This is a very easy problem to fix! You don't need to get him to a level of loving strange dogs. But getting him to calmly pass dogs and focus on you for treats? Doable.

Your thoughts on only leaving your dog with responsible people just sounds like good pet stewardship to me. Also, I bet this injury is so scary to you because you're remembering the last one. Attacks and bites are legitimately terrifying!
posted by toucan at 2:47 PM on January 24, 2023 [6 favorites]

Apart from the anxiety, you're bored at your job and are fixating on the dog because he's emotionally much more important and interesting. New job?
posted by kingdead at 3:49 PM on January 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I feel an almost extreme empathy or co-dependence with him where I worry frequently that he is unhappy, bored or not having a good life

you are projecting your own FOMO onto the dog; and also generally spiraling because you are anxious, and focusing that anxiety on the dog.

Is this guilt just a pretty normal part of most pet parenting?

from what I've seen, it is very common for people to project their own feelings, especially negative and hard-to-acknowledge ones, onto their pets. (The cat's too fat! The dog feels left out! The bird hates my husband!) Couple that with an anxious mind that is looking for something to latch onto, and it's no wonder you're obsessed with the dog.

Anxiety treatment for you first (meds can be wonderful); then maybe some additional training to make your walks less fraught.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:22 PM on January 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone who has mentioned that this is not about dog ownership per se but rather intrusive thoughts that happen to be related to your dog. I have OCD and while it manifests itself differently for me, I can relate to having our worries latch on to whatever topic is "conveniently available" if you know what I mean. Since your doctor is so observant, I'd ask for a recommendation for a therapist and/or psychiatrist. You deserve as good care as your pup does!

FWIW, as someone with anxiety, my cats really improve my quality of life. The annoyance of daily care plus the challenges of pet illness and death are sadly par for the course but are minor compared to the joy they provide. They have been limiting in some ways but it's absolutely worth it and I've never had any regrets. That said, it's totally fine to rehome a pet that's no longer right for you!! I'm sure you can find him a home that will love him and treat him well. A lot of people get dogs without realizing the stress and limitations they can bring. For you with your anxiety it's an almost unbearable stress, and you deserve to feel better!!
posted by smorgasbord at 6:55 PM on January 24, 2023 [3 favorites]

I have severe anxiety and while I had a dog, that was a big focus of my anxiety, in very similar ways to yours.

He died 3 years ago and I haven't felt ready to get another dog.

The fact that I had no dog did make my life simpler in some ways, but it did not ease my anxiety at all.

I started seeing a therapist, which helped me quite a lot to manage my constant ruminating and other harmful coping mechanisms.

While I didn't feel ready for a dog, I did desperately miss having a pet to care for. So I got some pet rats.

I was extremely anxious about this choice and in some ways rats are the worst possible choice for someone like me whose anxiety is exacerbated by having to medicate a reluctant pet (rats get sick and are hard to medicate).

Rats also don't live very long so I was setting myself up for having to deal with pet death much more than I would with a dog.

So at first it was tough. One rat did, indeed, die. And I had to learn to give medication to another one because he has respiratory problems.

But the difference is that I am now aware of my anxiety in a different way, have tools from therapy, and eventually, started taking medication. Meds made an enormous difference.

At the moment, I'm able to have the emotional benefits of having my pets and I can manage the anxiety.

I now know that it's essential for my mental health and happiness to have something to take care of. That thing doesn't have to be a living animal though, I also get a lot of joy from gardening, and doing things to improve my environment.

Only you know what you can handle emotionally, and what your needs are, so any choice you make about pet ownership is totally your call, and valid.

But know that anxiety will base your choices in fear of what you can't control, rather than in trust of your own resilience to weather whatever might happen.

Whatever you choose, the anxiety needs to be dealt with directly. Things like pet ownership can contribute, but are peripheral to the underlying cause of your unhappiness.

Sending you all the love and compassion, and I hope that you can turn some of your nurturing, kind and caring on to yourself, as you deserve to be at ease.
posted by Zumbador at 8:36 PM on January 24, 2023 [4 favorites]

Size up the cone so the dog cannot lick the paw. You might have to take it off for drinks and eating. Your problem has a solution, hang in there.
posted by shock muppet at 1:25 AM on January 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

Chiming in as another person with anxiety and it manifested pretty much exactly the way that you described it. Part of it was also having a not-interesting job. My anxiety about not being a good partner, having the right partner, and possibly not being a good future mom, got focused in on our doggo. My identity that used to be overly tied with my job got somehow transferred to how good of a dog mom I was. Dig in through therapy and use any other methods that have helped you in the past. My partner and I had a lot of conversations over time, to work out how we were going to be a family together and care for her.

Everyone has touched on the bigger root issues that need to be figured out, and that is where long-term relief is.
There were a few tactical things that helped me, though comes from a place of privilege:
- got off of r/reactivedogs. got off of dog training IG (unfollowed some trainers that didn’t give a lot of grace to mental health or were insistent on doing things perfectly, turned off notifications).
- my partner asks me while I’m scritching her tummy and nuzzling her whether the five minutes of feeling her unconditional love worth the 90m walk and anxiety and self-doubt, and it’s hard for me to say no
- did hire a dog-centered dog trainer and focused on doing just the things that were in our plan. I also love the two online classes offered by Amy Cook, which are a bit more affordable to audit and they have TAs monitoring a Facebook group for questions. It is a lot though, so I would suggest holding off until your anxiety’s come down a little bit. One is on management (amazing short term) and the other is on building up social play with your dog (helped rebuild my own ability to be utterly silly with my dog and enjoy playing with her in her own language).
- as part of the training plan, we actually nixed neighborhood walks for months. it’s okay even though we live in an apartment — we did hikes where there weren’t many people or dogs, learned how to play, and provide different types of mental stimulation indoors.
- how is he off-leash? sometimes it’s more around leash reactivity than dog reactivity. we hired a dog walker that does offleash adventures on private property. some trainers do private walks. I have found my anxiety has gone down after offloading some of the walking stuff (don’t get me wrong, I still look for updates during work and worry about her getting hurt, but I feel less emotionally-rollercoaster-y). Fable is somewhat dog selective and I don’t like putting her into situations that are unsafe or would make her feel unsafe — so the walker that does her group walk took 2 weeks to get to know her and slowly acclimate her to a group that would work best.
- relatedly, find your people — maybe you can find a neighborhood friend that your dog gets along with and their owner has a similar take on how to handle dogs (this was hard to find for me). It’s nice to have someone to chat with about weird dog stuff and finding walkers and training. We would probably trade dog care for vacations in the future (we’ve been lucky to have family in the area that love watching her). I ended up finding her friends through her dog school.
- remembering that his reactivity is probably not your fault, particularly if he has herding in his background (sorry, the one type I’m most familiar with) — they were selected to be extra-sensitive to their environment for generations. many other dogs around the neighborhood are reactive but some of their owners don’t seem to care, and remind yourself that you’re doing an amazing job for caring and working hard. progress is slow and it is hard and you’re working through it all. (not that there’s anything wrong with rehoming if it just becomes too much)
- reading parenting books helped keep some of my parenting anxiety away
- watching her be so totally present has been the best gift. she is so on top of every little thing and throws herself into whatever is happening at the moment. she loves to sniff the flowers, and on our walks, we don’t go anywhere I actually need to go because they’re for her (also makes me chill out a bit). reminds me to stop worrying about the past and the future and to just be with her. this has probably helped the most.
posted by sincerely yours at 2:15 AM on January 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have two dogs and I totally relate. I also have an anxiety disorder. During the first year of COVID we only had one dog and I was OBSESSED with her, to an unhealthy degree, especially her "emotional life." For me, learning more about dog psychology from an evolution standpoint was helpful to stop projecting human feelings and experiences on my dogs. They don't think like we do, they just live in the moment and respond to the signals their senses send them on a minute to minute basis. By the same token, they don't experience health issues in the same way we do. When the issue stops feeling bad, they stop thinking about it. When the issue is present, they obsess so you have to put a cone or otherwise restrain them. Sometimes something will remind them of a past discomfort but I promise you, once your dogs paws feel better, they will not think about it, and until then they just need a bigger cone.

Just my own experience, not recommending this for you necessarily: getting a second dog resolved my concerns about her being understimulated. She loves her sister and they play together sometimes and they have companionship when my wife and I are out, but mostly they just sleep when we aren't home. They could be playing but mostly they just hang out, they're boring animals, frankly.
They don't need exciting complex lives like we do. Their primary joys are being with you, going outside and eating. As long as they get those, they're happy.

I challenge you to do less for your dog. Taper to two walks, spend more time away from her. I promise you are taking good care of her and she has a good life! She's taking up too much space in your mind though, and you have the ability to set boundaries by not researching her health and choosing yourself. It'll be better for both of you.
posted by Summers at 4:17 AM on January 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

Your life may be less complicated without a dog. But your anxiety will probably find something else to latch on to. I would focus on dealing with the anxiety, through therapy and/or medications, than on dealing with the dog.
posted by unicorn chaser at 4:24 AM on January 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I have two sweet-but-anxious rescue dogs, one of which has cancer and had to have a leg amputated several years ago. So I've experienced some pretty intense dog-related stress and anxiety.

I also have OCD, and what you're describing sounds MUCH closer to my experience with that than anything I've ever felt about my dogs (for whatever reason, my OCD has never latched on to the dog stuff). I'm not trying to diagnose you with anything, of course, but I agree with others who are suggesting that (additional?) mental health treatment of some kind should be the first thing you explore here. Your PCP sounds great; can you start with her? (My PCP is also great and was the first person to be like, "ummmm this is the third time you've been in here talking about [random thing I didn't need to be worried about at all]... this really sounds like OCD to me," and then promptly got me into treatment.)

I'm so sorry you're going through this! I know that feeling of fear and obsessive rumination well, and it is absolutely one of the worst things I have ever experienced. The good AND bad news is that you can feel this way about literally anything; the dog is just the most convenient vehicle for it at this exact moment. If you can put the dog worries aside (I know! Easier said than done!) and focus on your own health, I really believe it'll start to lose its power.

Oh, one other thing: stop googling. Seriously, just stop entirely. You aren't learning anything and it is almost certainly making your anxiety much, much worse. The more you feed that impulse, no matter how "reasonable" it is or how much it feels like "research," the worse you'll feel. It sounds so simple, but it took me several episodes of full-blown mental health crisis to figure it out. I wish somebody had told me this like, a decade ago.
posted by catoclock at 12:39 PM on January 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

This sounds like OCD to me. Do you have other compulsive fixations?
posted by asimplemouse at 2:29 AM on January 26, 2023

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