By Kurt Smith
Anticipation is a funny thing. If you are anticipating something fun it can seem like you can’t focus, you might think about it constantly, you might talk about it to anyone who will listen, all with a big smile on your face. Anticipating something stressful, however, can do all of the same things — just without the smile. In this case rather than being excited you are filled with dread over what you think is about to come.
But what if you feel that sense of dread all of the time, whether there is something good or bad ahead of you? Unfortunately, there are a number of people who live day-to-day in a near state of panic, dreading almost everything about their life, waking up every morning with the sense that something terrible is about to happen, or that everything they have to do or want to do will go badly.
The constant feeling of dread is a symptom of an anxiety disorder and can often go unrecognized. This lack of awareness of a problem can happen because these feelings have either slowly become more frequent and intense or they have always been present so they seem normal.
It is important to note that although they can be linked, there is a difference between anxiety and depression. A person who is suffering with depression can have no feelings at all and believe that no one cares about them. They feel hopeless. Someone living with anxiety on the other hand, cares and worries about everything and may think that everyone cares about them — just not in a positive way. It’s like living in a state of perpetual fear.
Unlike those dealing with severe depression who may find it difficult to get up in the morning or leave the house, people dealing with anxiety can be very high functioning and may even be over-achievers. It’s not uncommon for them to feel the need to control everything around them because they fear if they don’t they may actually lose control themselves. In this way they are able to mask their continual anxiety through activity and work. What people don’t see in these individuals is that they are constantly worried about, well, everything.
Dealing with anxiety can be a constant fight to get past a suffocating feeling of dread. You may worry about things that haven’t happened, aren’t likely to happen, or are flat out impossible. Living in fear even though there’s nothing to be afraid of is the norm. For example, I once treated a woman who had gotten to the point that she needed to take a picture of her oven, hair tools, and front door just so she could look at them and remind herself that they were turned off. Without doing that she would spend the day with a nagging fear that her house would go up in flames before she got home to check everything — again.
These feelings of worry and dread can also have dire consequences on your physical health and relationships. Physical responses in the form of panic attacks, high blood pressure, and nausea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are all common. And unfortunately this can begin a cycle of worsening problems with the physical symptoms that result from the anxiety causing additional anxiety over health concerns, and even worry about death.
So how does someone cope with feelings of dread, worry and fear? Well, that depends a great deal on the severity of those feelings. There are certain things that can be helpful on a day-to-day basis, but some people will need the help of a counselor to learn techniques for managing these feelings. If you recognize that you are suffering from anxiety some of the following can help.
- Try to identify the source of your worry. Then ask, is my concern rational or am I over thinking this?
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply for a minute. Concentrate on controlling your breath and focus on slowing your heart-rate.
- Take a walk and remove yourself from the situation. Often a change in scenery will allow your thoughts to reset.
- Steer clear of your known triggers. If reading about someone with a rare form of ear cancer convinces you that you also have it, make a point not to read articles of that nature.
If you are an anxiety sufferer it may always be a part of your life, but it doesn’t need to overtake your day-to-day. Even the most extreme anxiety disorders can be treated so that the symptoms aren’t overwhelming. If you find that your life, relationships, and happiness are being compromised by constant dread and worry it may be time to do something about it.