Living In Constant Fear (Help?)

This is my first thread. Hopefully this all makes sense. I just wanted to hear people’s opinions. Here we go:

I’m a 20 year old female who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My depression kind of is a “tag-along” of my anxiety. I’m depressed because I have anxiety. Here is a little background as to why I have this. My sister, Natalie, got sick my sophomore year of high school. It was extremely unexpected and she was given a 50% survival. She pulled through. Ever since then I have been extremely fearful of death. I was (and still am) scared of a lot. I hate the dark, driving long distances, hospitals, being alone, etc. This past January I lost my grandfather unexpectedly. I actually was the only one there when he died. I feel like I could have done something, but all I could do was call 911. He died from a heart failure. I believe in God and I’m a strong believer in Christ, but I have a hard time trusting that there really is a Heaven. I’m so scared to die and for anyone I love to die. I hate watching the news or scary shows/movies because I start thinking it could happen to me. I know my fiance and my family have a hard time understanding, but especially friends. I have to cancel a lot of things because I feel bad or don’t want to drive. My first year of college, I had to withdraw because I started having panic attacks and couldn’t drive. I’ve been to psychologists and take medicine, but I still can’t overcome this. I pray all the time.

Does anyone else deal with this? I get a tight chest, dizzy, feel faint, and just freeze up basically. I usually start feeling bad, like headache or pain and think I’m going to die. I need to know other people deal with this and have overcome it. Please help!!

When I was in high school one of my friends was killed in a car accident and it made me think way too much about death.

I would have full on panic attacks about me dying or people I care about dying. Although, mostly me. My brain would run away with me with the “OMG someday I am going to die and there is nothing I can do about it. It will happen one day and nothing on earth can stop it.” My pulse would quicken, my chest would feel tight and I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath. Panic attacks are no fun and I really do feel for you.

I taught myself meditation tricks and was usually able to calm myself down. You might look into that yourself, meditation can do a world of good for focus and calming.

What eventually helped me was working at a nurse and being a witness to so much death. I went from being completely terrified to not even really nervous about it anymore. Now it seems just perfectly natural. An end to our bodies.

Have you talked at all to your pastor/priest? Don’t be embarrassed or shy about it. That’s what they’re there for! If you don’t have a church of your own that you attend, maybe look around your area and see what place feels comfortable to you. I would think it would help to talk to someone with similar beliefs.

I’m hoping you don’t get too much grief about the Christianity thing. This board seems to swing heavily to the atheist side. Most IMHO are quite respectful, but there are some who are worse than a nightmare of a fundie Christian. But, like I said, most are pretty chill about it.

Good luck

Besides what SwB said, have you told the doc who prescribed your anti-anxiety medication that it isn’t working? They don’t always get the medication right the first time.

I haven’t been down your particular path, but I’ve had a difficult road to travel (agoraphobia, panic attacks, severe depression, etc.) and the biggest piece of advice I can give as someone whose live has been dictated by fear for the past 14 years is… don’t give into it. Fight against it as hard as you can, despite how it feels, so that you can continue to live normally. Because once that stuff gets ingrained, it’s almost impossible to shake. Just stay strong and you’ll come out on the other side. Best wishes. I’ll be praying for you.

I am an atheist who was formerly a devout Catholic. I’ve also suffered in the past from debilitating depression/anxiety. Here are a few things I’ve picked up from your post.

I think I can see where you are coming from, but I don’t quite understand it. If you trust Christ and the gospels, then why such doubt? Doubt is natural, but to be a strong believer and also have strong doubt about such a fundamental tenet strikes me as odd. Then again, some of the world’s greatest saints also had the strongest periods of doubt called the Dark Night of the Soul.

So did I, at that time. Prayer did not overcome it, and it is one of the reasons I am an atheist now. I couldn’t keep believing in a God who would allow such pointless suffering. Sorry, I sound like I’m preaching. But, the point is…the fact that your prayers are not succeeding in healing your afflictions does not make you a bad or weak person. It doesn’t necessarily mean that God isn’t real either… that’s just my belief (or rather lack of).

Anyway, you say ‘been’ to psychologists, in the past tense. Are you seeing one regularly? A good psychologist is IMO more important for this kind of anxiety/depression than the right medicine. You need to find somebody who you feel comfortable with who you can talk to about what’s bothering you in a professional setting. As for meds, I used to take SSRIs and they did seem to work, so perhaps talk about those with a psychiatrist. Celexa/Lexapro is always what I recommend, as it seems to have the least side effects. Again, I’m just a layman so take this with a massive grain of salt.

Sounds like a textbook case of a panic attack to me, which would also contribute to why you are often afraid to drive. A panic attack while driving is truly a terrifying experience. Meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy can work wonders in identifying the triggers for these attacks and in reducing the severity of their effects.

In summation, I think what you are going through is quite normal. Anxiety/depression, even cases where it interferes with daily function, is not rare. Whatever you are going through, you are not a freak, and you are not a weak person. You will get over this, and perhaps even come out stronger for it.

A 33 year old female here. I’ve been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety since my mom died horribly from cancer when I was 21.

I have/had much of the same experiences and fears as you have - driving, scary movies and particularly the dread of death. I had no real idea at the time of my mom’s death that bad, awful, horrid things could happen to someone I loved so much, and certainly no idea that it would happen to me.

It has been up and down in the last 11 years with my panic/anxiety. I would go months without anything, and then be hit by it again. This summer has been really bad, kicked off by a vacation (totally normal vacation, BTW), and now I have anxiety that I am going to have a panic attack. It seems that my recent switch to self-employment has done a number on my head, with my fear of failure manifesting as panic over random back pain, oncoming thunderstorms and simple things like that.

I have dealt with it by learning as much as I can about anxiety/panic, analyzing my head post-panic attack and using what I’ve learned to reason with myself about what’s going on in my head. The thing to always remember, for me, is that when I’m coping with anxiety or feel a panic attack coming on is that it is not real fear. Even when I feel like I want to open my head and scratch out my brains just to get rid of the constant dread, I know in the back of my brain that’s IT’S NOT REAL.

Steve Martin had a wonderful passage in his recent biography about his panic/anxiety - when you feel that way, it is your body producing the chemicals that create the “Fight or Flight” feeling. Since there is no outside threat, it feels weird and wrong and crazy. But it’s just chemicals - you are in no danger, of death or illness or of going crazy and never feeling normal again.

And, yes, it can be dealt with and conquered. I am learning everyday to be strong and smart, and to identify and outsmart my anxiety. Do not be afraid or embarrassed - anxiety/panic is so common, it’s not even that special, and there are lots of ways to deal with it. I highly recommend research, group counseling and CBT therapies. Even simple things like exercise and music can make a big difference.

And most of all, TALK ABOUT IT with people you love and trust. It was very hard to tell my husband about it - it took almost a year, with me dealing with it almost everyday, to tell him about it. I was embarrassed and ashamed and afraid to talk about it, since I was convinced I was going crazy. But since then, I have learned that it’s very helpful to talk about it. If something is weird with me, I will look at him and say, in the middle of the supermarket, “I am having a panic attack.” I am calm, but nuts inside, and just talking about the fact that it’s going on robs it of its emotional power as we discuss it.

Good luck, and here’s a link to a recent thread I started on the same topic - lots of good stuff in there! -

First of all, thank you all who replied. Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

I don’t know how to quote quite yet, so I’ll say what I need to say to all.

I understand I will probably get some grief about being a Christian, but this isn’t really why I posted this. There are other forums for debate about Christianity, but I will answer the questions.

I wouldn’t say I’m quite devout in Christianity because I don’t have all the answers. I believe God allows us to go through obstacles to grow closer to Him. It really isn’t even about religion, but a personal relationship with Him. I think he has allowed me to go through these things to help other people and cope. He gives us people to help us through hard times because this world is not perfect and we are not perfect. We sin and therefore we must bear the consequences.

Again, this post really isn’t about my relationship with God, but I don’t mind talking about it at all. I’m also open to hear about others beliefs, but I don’t think it’s very respectful to hatefully criticize anyone’s viewpoints and spirituality. We are all grown ups here. :slight_smile: I’m not saying anyone did that, but I’m hoping no one will.

And yes, everyone doubts. I doubt because I need to strengthen my relationship with God and understand, but no one can fully understand God’s will.

I just moved so I am trying to find a new doctor. Maybe they will have better answers. I also need to find a home church so I can find people who I can connect with.

Sateryn76, thank you for your post. I’m sorry you had to deal with that at such a young age. Death in the family is hard to deal with. It has helped me A LOT to research. When you know what is going on, it’s easier to deal with. I know I’m not dying, but it sure feels like it! I can also look to my fiance and tell him “I’m having an attack” and he helps me and calms me down. He’s so sweet about it. It’s nice to have moral support. THANK YOU.

I’ll just say this:

You aren’t your fear. Next time you feel like that, notice the part of you which hangs around at the “back” of your mind, and watches all your emotions and experiences calmly and dispassionately. Become that.

From a very young age, I too, have had a fear of death. I used to lay in bed with my dad and just cry and cry worrying about someone I loved (or myself) dying. I was raised Catholic and firmly believed in god until I was in my late teens. With such a strong believe in god, why would I be so worried about death?

Because heaven seems unresonable and unlikely, no matter how much I (wanted) to believe in god.

After I finally came to terms with the fact that I was agnostic (and later athiest), the fear did not subside.

Then, 6 years ago, my dad died in a horrible car accident. He was only 50.

Somehow, since then, things have came around. I miss him terribly and I wish to have him back more than I wish for anything else. I wish he could have met and known my son.

I do not believe hes in heaven or hell or purgatory or reincarnated.

I believe our bodies are obviously physical and part of the earth. When I die I will decompose. My “soul” and personality are nothing more than brain function. I will die and become part of the earth.

I can’t avoid it. I can’t stop it. Every single person on this planet has THIS in common. We will die.

Please do not waste your time here worrying about the inevitable. Live as you would wish your children to live.

And perhaps change your medication. Your personality and anxieties are your brain, and if your brain is fucked up, then YOU are fucked up. Meds and therapy can help fix quite a bit more than you realize.

… Um, I forgot my point…

Having dealt with my worst fear, death, made me realize if I could get through my dads death, I could get through anything. He was the closest person in my life, it happened so unexpectedly that I never even had time to WORRY that it might happen. Just one day he was suddenly dead, and I was suddenly alone.

I guess facing my fear made me overcome it. I hope you can overcome it without facing it.

Suffering can make one a better person, but I personally believe depression/anxiety is an insidious condition that rarely helps anyone, and often destroys people. How is your depression/anxiety helping you to help other people? I hope you can find meaning in your condition… Personally, although based on some real-life factors, I found my struggles with dep/anx to be largely meaningless, and in any case it’s far from the ideal way of coping.

As for God, if He exists, allowing somebody to go through depression for a remote chance of self-improvement is something I view to be horribly cruel, especially when God doesn’t own a cell phone. At least in Job He had the decency to make an appearance. In any case, I hope you don’t think that sin, especially any of yours, is responsible for your condition. If I keep on talking about religion, it’s because I have a suspicion that it’s linked somehow to your condition. That and I used to be in shoes similar to yours so it is kinda painful for me to hear what you are going through.

After reading your OP a few times, I think your belief in God is the problem. If a professional psychiatrist and medication can’t help you, your anxiety is irrational. Irrational fear is treated through religion. Since you fear death, you obviously don’t truly believe in heaven or that heaven is somehow better than what you are experiencing here on Earth. In other words, even though you go through the motions of faith, you don’t truly believe.

My advice: God helps those who help themselves. Rather than wait for him to give you a cure, search for the strength within yourself.

I know what you’re going through, and you have my deepest sympathies. I’ve got OCD with a nice, fat side serving of generalised anxiety. Had it for the last 7 years now. It absolutely sucks. As one sufferer to another, here’s a few suggestions which might make you feel better:

  1. If you haven’t already, investigate Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It’s rapidly becoming the treatment of choice for anxiety and has a very good track record. I only found out about it fairly recently and I’m going to be starting it soon. Other people I’ve spoken to who’ve used it all say it’s helped make things at least a bit easier.

  2. Exercise is great. Not only does it release endorphins which stabilise your mood but it also makes you feel more empowered. If you’re scared of dying, what could be better than doing something which is guaranteed to increase your life expectancy? Check out the couch-to-5k program.

  3. Change your diet and get rid of anything stimulating like caffeine or processed sugars. Start eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Same as point 2, this is empowering and helps you feel like you’ve got more control over your life. Also, it’s very good for you and you’ll be getting more vitamins and minerals which has been shown to help stabilise mood.

Also, if you incline towards hypochondria, do not use the internet to try and diagnose yourself. I’ve made this mistake a few times and it is literally the worst possible thing you can do. If you think you’re ill, just go to the doctors.

I have had the problems of self diagnosing myself which is NOT good. Research can be helpful to learn about depression and anxiety, but WebMD made me paranoid.

As far as my religion (or as I call it, relationship) goes, I will be honest and say again I doubt. Everyone doubts at times. I’m just going through a rough patch. But I will tell you all why I honestly believe there is a God. You can say it’s coincidence, but I call it a miracle from God. My grandfather, who I loved with all my heart, passed away January 25, 2010. January 24, 2010 I got baptized. The lady that Sunday told me that I would go through rough times, but God is always there. God knew that very next day I needed Him. That’s God! I also wasn’t even supposed to see my grandfather, but happened to passed by his car at the drugstore and talked to him and then he passed away right in front of my eyes. I believe God allowed me to be there so I could try to overcome my fear of death. He wasn’t trying to punish me, but be there when my grandfather needed someone. The devil tries and puts things in front of me to take my attention away from God. I honestly believe all this. I know to some it sounds silly, but I know God is not the reason for my depression and anxiety. It IS a mental illness. It is caused my an imbalance of hormones, and that is why there is medication to treat it. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, a person with an hormone imbalance needs medicine to help regulate the instability of hormones. I never have once blamed God. He is a comforter. When I have my anxiety attacks, I pray and it helps me a lot. God knows the depths of my heart and my sincerity when I pray. I just doubt heaven sometimes, because it’s not something tangible. I can’t touch it or see it. That’s why I have doubts sometimes. But I read the Bible and do devotions and it helps me see God’s will. I have this disease in hopes that someone can talk to me about their problems. Maybe one day when I overcome it all together, I can help talk someone else through it. I see it as a blessing, so I can help others. But right now, I’m the one that needs help and comfort and advice. But please don’t blame my relationship with God to be the reason why I feel so much guilt and anxiety. That is a personal choice.

*not disease, but illness

For the record, I wasn’t blaming your religious feelings for your anxiety. I was merely suggesting they’re connected somehow, which could really mean anything. In my case, the fact that God would not listen to my prayers and help remove my anxiety only ended up compounding my anxiety. Of course, this was not the only reason for my loss of faith. If it was, it would be as arguably irrational as being religious in the first place. In any case, I’m glad to hear that your faith brings you comfort. I for one will stop talking about it except to mention there’s nothing wrong with blaming God. The buck stops with God. Blaming God has a long and noble Biblical tradition, and honestly if you aren’t the least bit angry at God for not helping you when He has every ability to do so, well, then I’d say your faith is truly remarkable.

Oh, and depression/anxiety is sometimes caused by instability of hormones/neurotransmitters, but it’s far from an open and shut case. It is not as simple and understood as diabetes unfortunately. Drugs can help, but IMHO for moderate depression/anxiety, they are only a part of the solution.

TGIF, what a ghastly time you’ve been through, with the stress and worry of your sister’s illness and then your grandfather’s unexpected death.

However, I think you have gotten yourself into a pattern of spiralling into more and more anxiety of things, like what you see on the news when, let’s face it, these things are pretty unlikely to happen to you. Yes, bad things happen to people (as you have experienced), but most of the time people go about their lives uneventfully, or with good things happening to them.

You’re only focussing on those bad things, becoming more and more anxious and constantly putting your body into ‘flight or fight mode’, which is taking its toll.

Are there any Cognitive Behavioural Therapists in your area? CBT therapy is about getting you to challenge the thought processes which result in these anxious feelings, in a very practical way.

Also, have you checked out your local library for self-help books? Some people gain a lot of benefit from reading about their disorders, so that they can better understand them and recover from them.

The depth of ignorance in this statement is almost too much for words to describe.

Forgive me… I have only read up to this post and am responding to it.

This board does indeed swing heavily to the atheist side and I am a definite atheist.

However, when I hear of someone who is is a bad place and is looking for strength-- whose normal source for emotional (etc.) strength is religion (in this case Christianity), I am much more concerned with the individual’s well-being than I am in the academic discussion over the existence of God or the usefulness of religion.

TGIF – find whatever solace you can in your beliefs. Any discussion over whether those beliefs are factually warranted can wait for another day.

Go Jesus! Do your Jesus magic to this person, if that’s what it takes.