Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Worry wart

Like many other people, I'm prone to anxiety. I worry about all sorts of things I don't need to worry about, but I'm unable to stop. However much I try to reassure myself that I'm a capable person and everything will work out, the anxiety continues.

It seems an awful lot of people don't like to admit they're affected by anxiety. They find it embarrassing, or they think they'll be shunned, or they think nobody will understand. So they keep quiet and hide it behind a fake facade of confidence and poise.

But it's estimated that four in every hundred people are affected, and that social anxiety is the third most frequent psychological problem after depression and alcohol dependence. That's a pretty big hidden problem.

Luckily my anxiety is fairly mild. It's purely internal and I don't get the physical symptoms of sweating, shaking or nausea. I don't get paralysed. I don't get panic attacks. I just worry needlessly. And have bad dreams.

There were calls this week for more research into this widespread condition, as little is still known about the causes. In my case, it probably goes back to my insecure childhood, but my whole family is anxiety-prone so it may also be genetic.

One of my blogmates, who's a therapist, says that nowadays there are lots of techniques for curbing anxiety and nobody needs to suffer. There's a long waiting list for therapy on the NHS though, and long-term private therapy can be very expensive. But as my anxiety is quite mild, and as I've developed my own ways of overcoming it, I don't feel any urgent need for treatment. It's simply another personal foible that I deal with.

I wonder what it's like just to take things as they come?

38 comments:

Ursula said...

Commiserations, Nick. However, I do believe we need to distinguish between "worry" and "anxiety". Some people are natural worriers who see clouds where there aren't any. My parents-in-law were a fine example. Everything was blown out of proportion. Mind you, their son wasn't much better.

So, no, I am not a worrier but I sure have had the odd anxiety attack. It's not called "attack" for nothing - your heartbeat goes through the roof, your stomach churns with nausea and retching on its heel, your hands tremble like an alcoholic's on sudden withdrawal and, worst case scenario, you start hyperventilating. In my case it had nothing to do with "social" anxiety you mention which, luckily, I have never felt. It's when a real life problem with no immediate solution in sight floods you, literally floods you and your body plays out the turmoil - hence the wonderful concept of "psychosomatic". I am lucky in as much as any anxiety of mine always has a plausible cause. Unfortunately for some people it appears their anxiety is rooted in something far deeper (as you are alluding to) - out of the blue as it were.

Deep breath,
U

Rummuser said...

You are like most of us, normal.

Nick said...

Ursula: That sounds more like a distinction between what's called "free-floating anxiety", based on nothing in particular, and a "real" anxiety that stems from a genuine crisis you don't know how to solve. Your panic attacks seem to be in the second category.

I think part of my problem is the blowing things out of proportion that you refer to. Where other people see a fairly routine activity they can easily cope with, I see something that's a bit daunting and likely to go horribly wrong if I'm not totally on the ball.

Nick said...

Ramana: I don't know about "most of us", but four per cent of the population is a large number of people - in the UK it amounts to around 2.6 million people. Which I guess could be defined as an epidemic in need of urgent attention.

Wisewebwoman said...

I used to have panic attacks (hospitalized a few times) years ago, terrible, awful attacks.

Free floating anxiety I learned to deal with in recovery groups. Biofeedback techniques which worked.

Worry: I think I have stuffed a lot of that down. Money. Health. Loss of mobility. Friendships.

XO
WWW

kylie said...

Nick,
You make casual references to things I cannot afford so from my end, it looks like you might be able to afford therapy if you actually wanted it (this isnt the first time you have mentioned that you might benefit from some)
I often see people bemoan some issue they have but "cant afford" to get help with and I always wonder, how much money would you need to have before you could address it?

I know a good number of anxious people, I think 4% would be an underestimation

Nick said...

www: That's good that you managed to deal with the free floating anxiety. And I know you're doing therapy at the moment and getting a lot out of it. Perhaps I should toss aside all my reservations and try some more therapy myself.

Nick said...

Kylie: You're right, I'm not badly off and I could probably afford a longish course of therapy if I decided to take the plunge. Perhaps it's just a residual urge to solve my own problems and a refusal to admit that I need some outside help.

kylie said...

I have a friend who is a psychologist, we have had a lot of therapy type conversations and it is quite beneficial. I think that as a culture we see it the wrong way. Lots of us dont "need" therapy and function well enough but it can take us up a level.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that our society creates a great number of anxiety problems. We have to be like this or like that ....girls must be extra slim and guys like I don't know how. Successful in your job and the list is long. The most important is to try to explore why we are worrying or are anxious ..therapy is the very last issue to consider. I have a good friend who is in therapy for more than 8 years ....the therapist get richer and richer. Don't worry, be happy.Sorry in my mother tongue I would say much more but it's too difficult in English.
Mia More

Nick said...

Kylie: Interesting that you and Mia have very different opinions as to the value of therapy! It may be that the effectiveness of therapy depends (a) on finding a therapist who is attuned to your personality and (b) on how open and honest you are prepared to be. Maybe therapy is a wash-out if those two conditions aren't met? And can therapy take you up a level or does it simply help you to understand yourself?

Nick said...

Mia: See my comment to Kylie. I think you're right that a lot of anxiety is related to society's impossible expectations of how we should look and behave. It's not easy just to be yourself and shut out all those expectations, they're so widespread. Interesting that your friend seems to have gained so little from so much therapy. But sometimes it's hard to work out why we're anxious, the anxiety seems to come out of nowhere and for no particular reason.

Nick said...

Mia: Sei italiana? Parlo un po la lingua.

Anonymous said...

No I'm German and speak fluently French.
Mia More

Nick said...

J'ai étudié français à l'école, mais j'ai oublié la plus grande partie! (Merci à Google per la traduction!)

....speak French fluently....

Nick said...

....pour la traduction....

Anonymous said...

Your French is great. Have a nice evening.
Mia

Bijoux said...

My only anxiety concerns anything medical. Even if if was just taking my kids to a dr appt, I would have to spend time in the bathroom beforehand, dealing with the physical effects of anxiety. No fun.

Nick said...

Bijoux: That sounds awful. Did you have an upsetting experience with a doctor when you were young?

Secret Agent Woman said...

4% is the incidence in the U.S. for "severe" anxiety. The NIH says anxiety disorders have a 18% prevalence rate in the U.S. That would include panic disorder (what some people call anxiety attacks although the technical term is panic attacks), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and others.

I laughed out loud at the idea of a therapist getting "richer and richer" - I wish that was true! But anyone who is actually wiling to work in therapy can make significant improvements in their ability to manage anxiety.

Nick said...

Agent: Ah, 18% seems much more likely. And I'm sure there are therapists who are anything but rich, especially as there are so many therapists nowadays and some must be barely scraping a living. But I guess what Mia meant was that her friend had paid out a lot of money and didn't think she had benefited very much.

Shawn Maeder said...

I can't imagine what it's like to glide through life without always looking over my shoulder to see if someone else is doing it better. I am anxious the moment I leave the house - not anxious that something will befall me, but rather that I will not succeed at whatever I am trying to do. When it gets bad, I am sure that I have failed at everything, but generally I can keep it under control. It's never debilitating. I'm surprised the number of sufferers is only 4/100.

Nick said...

Shawn: I can identify with all that - someone else might be doing it better, I won't succeed. Even when I recall all the things I've handled quite capably, I still think I'll mess up similar things in the future. But like you, I can manage it sufficiently that it's not debilitating.

Secret Agent Woman, who's a therapist, says 4 per cent only refers to severe anxiety, and 18 per cent is the true figure for anxiety disorders generally. That makes more sense.

Bijoux said...

Maybe the penicillin shot in the butt every visit to the pediatrician did it to me. Who knows?

Nick said...

Luckily I've never been subjected to that. It sounds nasty.

Maria said...

I am going through a phase of life that brings me to take things as they come; I find myself worrying less. I am more connected to the outside world when I'm less self-absorbed in my own worries and it make everything so much easier and happier for me.
Greetings Maria x

Nick said...

Maria: I know what you mean. My anxiety usually disappears when I'm fully involved in some external activity. But what to do when I wake up feeling anxious? I know people who jump up and throw themselves into some housework, but I don't fancy that. Reading a book generally does the trick.

Dave Martin said...

I'm lucky that my employer has its own counselling service which was a godsend when I was going through a period of difficulties - the waiting list with the NHS is very long and mental health isn't well catered for.
Anxiety, depression etc are more common than many realise and I think more people would seek help if they knew that they didn't have to suffer in silence.

Nick said...

Dave: Yes, you're lucky your employer has a counselling service. All big employers should provide access to counselling, as mental health problems can drastically affect work performance. Otherwise, as you say, there's a long wait for NHS therapists.

Anonymous said...

I did not say that all therapists are rich. I know that those consulting in hospitals are not, but the independant one my friend is consulting owns à big villa, drives à big car and has children studying in well known universities in the States. She must pay him cash, which is an unspoken law between the person and the therapist and as far as I can judge she seems not to feel better. There is some strange dependance , as if the moment will never come to get out of this cercle. For the moment I have no anxiety problems, I try to handle my life in not worrying about what people may think about me and my way of life.I am not running after success, may be that's the way to find mental tranquillity.

Anonymous said...

I forget my name.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: Yes, I thought you were referring to your friend's therapist and not therapists in general. He certainly looks rich to me! I've never run after success, I've always been happy with low-paid but enjoyable jobs and I don't fill my house with prestigious, expensive objects. I do worry about what others think of me, but only from the point of view of whether I'm being rude or insensitive. So I think my anxiety must stem from something else.

Anonymous said...

Yes I know that sometimes just a little remark can provoke positive or negative feelings or hurt us.To be rude or insensitive with others depends on what you consider to be a rude or insensitive behaviour and the feedback you get from people about that. It's complicated anyway.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: You're right that little throwaway remarks can quite unintentionally cause negative feelings. When other people surprise me by saying my words have offended or hurt them, it makes me more cautious about what I say, in case I unwittingly offend someone else.

Anonymous said...

We are all different and it's just impossible to do it right for everyone. My friend who is consulting is such a difficult person. When I say oh you look great and ok today she will answer no I'm not....When I say you look worried , what's going on, she will surely reply I 'm ok. So sometimes we must be a bit selfish to protect ourselves. You should think about if other people are so careful as you are with them.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I think other people are careful with me. It's very unusual for me to feel offended or rejected by something that is said to me. Of course that may be because I'm not an easily offended person. Someone has to be seriously insulting before I get upset. And I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt if the remark is ambiguous.

Jenny Woolf said...

I definitely think it is innate. I think I have a tendency to worry, and I notice that some people never seem to worry about anything, and I have to say they don't seem to have particularly bad lives! Some cultures are fatalistic so I suppose that is rather helpful to the people in that culture who are prone to worry, since you are raised with the notion that there is very little you can do whether you worry or not. Interesting post.

Nick said...

Jenny: My Jenny worries very little and definitely enjoys life more than me. Interesting point about fatalistic cultures reducing worry because you can't affect what happens. I'll have to convert to fatalism!