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Addicted To Anxiety

Addicted to Anxiety
If you suffer from constant anxiety, fear and panic attacks, you may be addicted to the “rush” these feelings provide and are most likely using the rush as fuel. I was addicted to anxiety for years and did not know it. I thought my anxiety was something beyond my control, an external force that came upon me without notice or apparent cause. I blamed my anxiety and panic attacks on many things, my childhood, my parents, my inability to control life, the subway, the city, large crowds, spicy food, you name it and I could find a reason why all these things made me anxious. Deep down, I felt helpless/powerless and out of control, and yet, when I looked at my life and what I was able to achieve and accomplish I saw a huge discrepancy. How could I be so successful and be powerless and out of control? Something in my belief did not match with my reality.

I began to question my beliefs and measure the experience of my feelings (constant anxiety) with the experience of my daily life (super achiever) and I saw a very interesting pattern. My anxiety was often proportionate to my daily workload. Not only that, I would often experience intense anxiety before undertaking any task that required a lot of effort or energy output. It’s important to note that up until this time, I was completely unaware of any connection between my emotional reaction and my daily work load. I always associated my anxiety with specific events like riding the subway or nervousness before a performance of some kind. Then one day I saw my mind in action and many things became suddenly clear. I was thinking about the day ahead and how much I had to do (teach three classes, work with two private cliåents, pick up the kids, get groceries, make dinner,  and update my computer files) and a huge rush of anxiety kicked in. My body began to shake, my breathing became tight and rapid and my heart started beating very fast. All the classic signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Almost immediately after the anxiety kicked in I experienced another rush of energy in the form of anger. Anxiety and anger mixed together is a potent combination, the affect was like ingesting some form of rocket fuel, and BANG I was off and running.  I felt like the energizer bunny, charged and ready to tackle my day.

Thats when I saw the pattern. Thats when I saw my addiction to anxiety. I was using the rush of energy I got from anxiety as fuel. I was using the force of my emotional reaction like a drug, and like any addict I needed my drug to function. Its a powerful thing to see ones subconscious made suddenly conscious, to see the hidden agenda revealed, and in that moment of realization I saw some other things I did not care for. I saw the price tag attached to my choice of fuel. I saw the years of physical and emotional stress I endured as a result of using anxiety as fuel and how incredibly unhealthy it was and is. I also saw the toll it took on my family and the stress it caused them as well, and then I felt sad and suddenly tired. Time to make a new choice.

There is such a sense of power that comes from making a conscious choice, especially when you make a new choice that changes a long standing pattern. It feels exciting and a little scary, it feels like a new beginning. I see myself differently now, I used to feel victimized by my anxiety, I now see it as a choice. I can choose to stimulate myself with the energy of anxiety or I can choose the energy of love, or acceptance or creativity. My choice. I also see how I used to overload myself sometimes as a way to stimulate anxiety so I could get that familiar rush and surge of energy. I  saw how after years of using anxiety as fuel and becoming addicted to the rush, it took on a life of its own. I would trigger anxiety at any time or place like a smoker who needed a cigarette. Once the rush of anxiety wore off I would start to feel tired and needed another hit, and like any drug you build a tolerance to, over time you need more of it, and you need it more frequently to get the same rush effect.  

Once I became aware of this pattern in my self I began to see it in many of my students and clients as well, and what I see is a pattern that began in childhood and continued into adulthood without conscious awareness. When we live with a pattern for so long we tend to forget that it is still a choice, we choose to use anxiety as a form of stimulation/fuel the same way we choose to use anger or sadness or confusion to fulfill specific needs. The key is to become aware of our own behaviors and to recognize the choices we make both consciously and habitually. If a pattern/choice is no longer serving you the way it once did, perhaps its time to make a new choice.