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Cannot stop terrible thoughts

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Hi everyone. Over the past couple years my anxiety has increased to an almost unbearable level. Some nights I get no sleep at all. It affect my work and social life. Basically any idle time i have I fill with "what ifs", especially around my kids. Both are in college out of state. I start thinking of all the bad things that could happen to them, and it just freaks me out. The more I try to stop thinking about them, the more I do. I worry about accidents, abductions, just anything bad. I also feel like I do not measure up anymore. No self confidence. Even with old friends, I feel a bit out of place, like there is something wrong with me. I basically cannot enjoy myself anymore, I feel inadequate, different, rejected. Can anyone relate? If so, what helps  you? 

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Hi Jeffreyd,

   I am so very sorry for the ordeal you are going through with anxiety about your children. 

   You probably already know this, but there is productive and then there is unproductive anxiety.  Sometimes unproductive anxiety can be a sign of illness.  Have you consulted with a licensed physician?  I was helped enormously by consulting with a physician. 

Many years ago I read a book by a cognitive therapist called the "Worry Cure" I think.  I can't remember the author.  Sorry.  The book helped me so much.  There may be better books than this out there, but this was the one that helped me the most.  I sure hope you get some relief from your terrible anxiety.

     Do you think it might be possible that you are depressed too?  You sound like you are feeling very low.  

   The portrait you paint of yourself is so negative.  As a mother, I am sure you have done countless wonderful things for your children, things that involved often unappreciated or underappreciated self-sacrifice on your part.  I imagine the number of those things is beyond reckoning.

     Sometimes when someone is feeling low , they put themselves on trial.  They have a judge, jury and prosecutor but forget to get a defense attorney.  How can that be a fair trial?  How can that be just?  It can't.   You describe yourself in negative and derogative terms, but what about your countless strengths, insights, kindnesses?  You are person to be admired, cherished and treasured.  If you are going to put yourself on trial, please try to be fair to yourself.

    My deepest apologies if anything I have said has not been helpful to you or if it has made you feel worse.  It is so hard to know what to say to someone who is suffering.  I wish you only the best. 

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Hi @jeffreyd. I am sorry you're going through a difficult time right now. I can relate to uncontrollable worry, doubt and fear. I have an illness called Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I've lived with it for many years. I have no idea what is the nature or cause of your condition, I can only speak about my own.

Intrusive, repetitive, uncontrollable and alarming thoughts are a symptom of my illness. My brain is basically telling me to be afraid of everything, which is as absurd as it sounds, yet reason doesn't enter into it. Instead of being processed in the part of the brain that can use sound judgment, my thoughts sometimes end up in the part of the brain that handles fight, flight, and freeze reactions. People always told me to relax, to stop worrying to much, that there's nothing to be afraid of - it's nice they cared but none of that was helpful. Such advice kind of irritated me, to be honest. 

For a while I took prescription medication to prevent panic attacks, chronic insomnia and I still take it but rarely need to. A therapy called CBT helped me develop a part of my ego I call the observer where I can just watch these thoughts come and go rather than get involved in them. I've also learned where anxiety is held inside my body and how to soothe the physical sensations.

And finally, it helped to accept that my uncertainty about something isn't evidence of that thing is the most important "what-if" of them all. Simply because I fixated on certain worries didn't mean these worries were somehow more uncertain than other areas of my life. My brain just happened to pick those.

This takes a lot of practice, effort, I have to work at it. For me, I feel that's a better problem than trying to control my thoughts or trying to control other people in an effort to manage my own anxiety. I'm sure there are other ways in which one can manage anxiety, this one happened to work for me.  

Wishing you some relief from anxious thoughts.

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@Epictetus, thanks for your reply. I will check out the "Worry Cure". I have been diagnosed with depression as well, although lately it seems the anxiety much stronger. I believe they are related.  have been told from my psychologist that I have a very strong "inner critic", that gained power through my childhood. I know I am tough on myself, and need to start defending myself against this critic. Thanks again for your kind words. 

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