My therapist recommended this book to me and I love it. I’m only 3 chapters in and I already have a much better handle on what I’m dealing with. The book is called The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J Bourne, PHD. In the first chapter, there’s a diagnostic self test for you to take. Mostly it confirmed my suspicions, but now I have a name for my freakouts.
They are spontaneous panic attacks caused by Panic Disorder with a side of Agoraphobiathat include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, shaking, sweating, nausea, dizziness, fevers/chills and a fear of losing my mind. The books describes the spontaneous attacks as peaking quickly and subsiding gradually over an hour or more. It does sound like I was having an excessive amount of panic attacks, the book describes severe cases as several times a week (which is about where I’m at now with hard work and medication). The agoraphobia makes a lot of sense to me because it’s not so much being afraid to go out, as it is being afraid someone will see you have a panic attack. I am always working myself up that I’m going to ruin something if I get sick and that I’ll be embarrassed. Agoraphobia is also characterized by anxiety about being away from a ‘safe person’ or safe place. I find that especially interesting given my issues when The Sweetness has to leave for more than a few hours. It also says agoraphobics tend to be anxious most of the time. The restrictions and feeling powerless over your condition also causes depression. Currently, my depression comes and goes and is usually based in feeling hopeless in this situation and that I’ll never be normal again.
The next chapter discussed the causes, which I got a bad deal on. I have been dealt pretty much every item on the list that is thought to cause anxiety. I am predisposed to anxiety because of heredity and upbringing. I was raised with high expectations and constantly tried to get their approval. Neglect, abandonment, alcoholic parents and divorce are key triggers in creating a basic insecurity that sticks through life. This basic insecurity causes you to find and become dependent on a safe person. It also, in my case, makes me obsessed with control, avoid my feelings, not trust others, engage in all-or-nothing thinking and be excessively eager to please, at the expense of my own needs.
Another big problem for me is Cumulative Stress Over Time. I took a short life events survey to determine my cumulative stress. Death of a Spouse is rated 100, all the way down to Christmas at 12. The book suggests that a score over 300 would produce detrimental effects. My score is well over 500.
So, what do I do about it? First, I’m going to show my therapist what I’ve done in the workbook. Second, the workbook itself has lots of ways to fix yourself. The simplest suggestion is to just try to ride out the bodily symptoms without fighting them or feeling sorry for yourself. They should subside in a short time. I am going to ask my therapist to help with with some techniques in the book like eliminating self talk (what if? questions, etc), assertiveness training, mistaken beliefs, self nurturing and avoidance of phobic situations.
This has been long, but it feels great to have a direction and a plan. It makes me feel like I might have a chance at being normal, which is a long way from where I started. I was feeling like I’d be forced to be housebound, disabled and never be able to enjoy life again. I am still very apprehensive about getting better, like I’m going to have a relapse or something, but I have to think that I’ll get better. It’s just too depressing to think about failing.