Always extremely anxious with intense and constant panic attacks and have been for over 40 years

I am a 46-year-old male who has been dealing with severe anxiety and depression for over 40 years. I say that because my first memory of this was when I was four years old, just after dealing with spinal meningitis and losing about 80% of my hearing. For most of my life, I have dealt with spiraling depression which, up until I had an auto accident that threw me over the edge and I started taking anti-depressants, nearly threw me into dark places I didn't intend to go.

The anxiety, however, remains to this day. Most of the time, I can keep it at bay on the outside by taking L-Theanine, Valerian Root, 5-HTP, and drinking lavender/chamomile tea or other methods. I was once diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and OCD, but because I was so anxious in talking to the psychiatrist to get away from general practioner's "diagnosis" for Bipolar Disorder, I was putting on a front to try and act "normal".

I am always anxious, feeling afraid and nervous about everything in my life. My wife and everyone in my life do not understand what a prison this is and simply tell me I have nothing to worry about and just need to "get over it". Recently, I have come to grips with the stark reality that I am socially anxious and it is now affecting my work (though others will say it doesn't show, but I know it does). I get choked up and start stuttering and subsequently start acting awkward, which makes the other person start to feel uncomfortable. Even in front of my family, I can't act "normal" and it comes across as a lack of confidence, even though I am very confident in who I am and what I do.

I am in the midst of trying such strategies as prayer, mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc. after reading books to learn how to overcome anxiety and panic attacks (as well as social anxiety). I am most certain I have just about every type of anxiety you can think of and there are times I want it to go away so bad that I will go to extreme measures to find ways to feel nothing or to not have any recollection of my anxiety.

I know in my head that I am not a basket case, but my body tells me differently. It constantly hurts my work and I just don't know what to do. I don't want to see a therapist because my family tells me it's not necessary and it's embarrassing to have to admit this openly. I have told a couple of friends about it and they just say that it will pass...etc. The only thing is that it has never passed...I am always anxious and even two years ago it has dramatically affected my health. I have had a serious operation to take care of the loss of my esophageal valve to the stomach and am now dealing with IBS to where just about everything I eat causes pain and suffering.

I see other people as more important and deserving than me. Most of the time, I will sacrifice everything just to give (not a bad thing entirely), but I will never do something just for myself without intense anxiety and guilt.

Is there anyone out there who has dealt with any of this? I may be handling it the best way possible (perfectionist, yes), but am open to hearing any suggestions from anyone who deals with this same affliction.


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30 Replies

  • IMHO you are living with too much anxiety on a daily basis. I don't understand why you don't get treated for it and get control of your life. I have GAD and you seem to be describing it here because you say you're afraid and anxious of everything in your life. Well, GAD is free-floating anxiety that your brain will try to limit by channeling it to any specific anxiety in order to give you a sense of being in control of it. Example: If you develop a fear of doorknobs, all that free-floating anxiety is now reserved for only the moments you need to hold a doorknob and the rest of your day you have very little anxiety. So by developing a fear of doorknobs, or heights or bridges, you are free from debilitating anxiety for the rest of your day. A very good psychiatrist explained this to me and I can feel it happening when I'm not on my meds.

    Which brings me to the next question: Why wouldn't you get treatment and be on medications that help you vs. living the way you describe? You definitely need to see a good psychiatrist and a good counselor. Why would you let your family's opinions stop you from getting the counseling you know you need? Do you do everything in your life only at their approval? And why would you fear other people knowing about it if you don't tell them and you require that your family not tell anyone, either? If your family tells others anyway, wouldn't it be worth feeling normal to just live with that? Why not come up with a line that downplays going to see a counselor and then change the subject? It's really nobody's business and we're talking about your mental health. Do you think no one will notice if you continue to ignore your anxiety problems and have a nervous breakdown? Probably many people have already noticed your anxiety by now because of the behavior you've written about. You admit this much in your message. You don't have much to lose and a tremendous amount to gain by getting treated.

    You can't wait until other people, even people you love, understand your problem. How can they understand what they've never experienced? You can come here to get understanding and support and you can get it from a counselor. But you must be your own best friend and advocate when it comes to your mental health. And that means you need to get an appointment with a good psychiatrist ASAP and secondly get an appointment with a good counselor (either LCSW, LMHC or PHD). You can lead a normal life with appropriate treatment. Why live this anxious mess that you describe as your life? How has it helped you to run from a diagnosis you don't like? You don't know that a new psych Dr. may not agree with the bipolar diagnosis. But even if he/she does, you'll be far better off treated than untreated.

    I've just learned that I'm bipolar II and no one has to know unless I want them to because I'm treated and my disease doesn't show. The same goes with my GAD. You, too, can be normal and no one will know what you don't want to reveal. Not even your closest loved ones if you can't trust them to say nothing without your permission. I wish you the best of health and hope you'll be feeling better very soon.

  • Sue your advice is spot on, very interesting on how the brain compensates. Are you on antidepressants for your GAD ? I'm in same boat as Jeff and my anxiety over side effects stops me from taking medication. But i have finally come to realization that im a prisoner to this, my life is dictated by fear of anxiety and panic attacks. I resist going certain places because I'm afraid I'll have a panic attack, then feel badly about myself.

  • Yes, I'm on Klonopin/clonazepam for anxiety. And yes, the side effects stink but, as you've said, we're prisoners to this and we can choose to be imprisoned by the anxiety or the meds. The meds win out for me since they make me very functional.

    I do have short and long term memory loss that is annoying and rules out most work, but that happened after a couple decades of benzos that I couldn't do without. That's about the only side effect I can say I have from the benzos though that issue is complicated by the many other drugs I take.

    I wouldn't bother feeling bad about myself if I were you. It's the disorder that stops you from going places. The only reason I can think of for feeling bad about yourself is that you know you can get this anxiety treated and you haven't done so yet. So let your frustration motivate you to make the right appointment and do what has to be done to normalize your anxiety. It will set you free!

  • Ooops, you asked if I was on antidepressants for my anxiety. No, not antidepressants, but mild tranquilizers. I'm on antidepressants for my depression.

  • Why will you never do something for yourself? You say that you won't see a counsellor because your family say it is not necessary but from what you describe you think it is necessary so maybe you are using your family as an excuse not to seek help as you won't do anything for yourself. Why not do something for yourself and make a new year appointment to talk to someone. If you have had anxiety since childhood maybe there is something that needs to be looked at. Or if you really don't want to talk about your past maybe you could try doing a body therapy that can access any trauma that is stored in your body. TRE (Trauma releasing exercises) is something you can learn in a class but you don't have to talk about your problems and once you have learned the technique you can use it at home. Or focussing is another technique you could learn how to do. You don't have to tell your family you are doing either of these. But please go and do something. It is a new year and 40 years is too long to suffer.

  • This is a great response. It's not like I care about talking about my past...more like having a hard time admitting that I have a problem. Posting here is the first time I have openly admitted this and knew it would be good to start somewhere. I have been to a psychiatrist in the past as I mentioned, but I put on an act to get out of the bi-polar diagnosis (since I don't really believe that one to be true). However, in the process I short-changed the fact that I know I am OCD and have extreme swings in and out of anxiety and depression.

    I am thinking that 2017 will be different after posting to this board. It's given me a lot to think about.


  • Jeff it's time to take this into your own hands and handle it because no one else can do it for you. People who don't have this don't understand, my family is the same thats why i suffer in silence. But I can't do it anymore,and I don't want this quality of life anymore! So we have to come to terms that like ANY other disease we have to address and handle it and if that means medicine, then that's what it means . Make it your New Years goal to help yourself !

  • I totally get the idea that this is like a prison. It's so difficult to overcome these obstacles. I am so accomplished in many areas of life, but it just seems like it's all for nothing when I can't enjoy any of it. I will keep you in my prayers as I will for those here who deal with this affliction. It seems there is some strength in admitting the problem, but like you said, it's still there...the gripping and crippling fear is real.

    I am hoping that through these forums, there will be some hope to come from this.


  • Thank you all so much for your reply and insight. I really want/need to see a psychiatrist for this affliction, as I know it has kept me from joy in my lifetime. Another thought here, which I know will stir up another conversation entirely, is the fact that I am a born-again Christian. As such, it is said that we are to have joy in the midst of trials and that we are not to rely on the counsel of men, but to rely solely in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I truly believe this and am confident in this. However, what my mind knows and my body feels are two different things entirely.

    I know in my head that I am to behave a certain way and get criticized for being a jerk when my anxiety and depression get out of control. There are times where I black out or am so overly anxious that I feel like I am going crazy. I read the Bible, go to church, attend Bible studies, etc. which are all great things to do. One of the things that comes into play here is that anxiety is seen as a "sin" by the church and I have been told that several times (which only makes the anxiety 10 times worse). I know differently because the feelings aren't normal and I am actually starting to think about starting a support group within our church for anxiety disorders since it is such a stark reality. As mentioned in these posts, I should try and get some help because maybe there is a way to bring all of this under control and to enjoy life at the same time while maintaining my beliefs.

    I have tried benzodiazapenes in the past (e.g. Lorazepam, Valium), but they have had tremendous side effects such as extreme fatigue and intense nightmares as well as nighttime insomnia. I attempted to use Valproic Acid, but it left me with no personality (but calm) and very neutral, which others have told me is worse than being intense and anxious. I am currently on Buproprion, which controls the depression somewhat, so at least that's something.

    The last time I admitted to my general practitioner that my dad was a manic depressive, he put in my file that I was bi-polar, which kept me from being able to get insurance. I realize that now with the new healthcare laws, this is no longer an issue, but who knows where this will go in the future.

    Anyway...all this to say that after reading these posts, I have a lot to consider if I am to live another 30 years (hopefully without experiencing a heart attack from all of the anxiety). Overall, I am typically "healthy" mentally, as I work very hard to convince myself that I can do this without assistance. However, it sure would be something if it wasn't so overwhelmingly difficult to put up the front.


  • Jeff,

    We're not supposed to talk much about religion but I need to communicate to you that you are believing an error. This is called prosperity theology and you can research the net to find "the errors of prosperity theology" to get a good perspective on this topic. This theology isn't very old, and it's not what Christians have believed for millennia.

    I am saved and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It sounds like your church is in error, as some churches are. God created you and made you with these disorders you have. He can't sin and it can't be YOUR sin either. Your father had depression and it's known to have a genetic origin....again as God created him. Doctors are educated in the knowledge that God created and man has learned. God is the origin of all knowledge and he works through Drs. to help you. You know how God loves to work through man to help his fellow man, with Jesus as the ultimate and perfect example that we must try to follow. Yes, a Dr. can make a mistake, maybe a misdiagnosis, but God still works through imperfect man. It's a theological error to think that any illness is God's punishment for sin or it's sin itself. You had nothing to do with choosing this illness whereas you must choose to reject God and his commands in order to sin.

    Please do some research on this and free yourself from blaming yourself for your illnesses, whatever they may be. And please think 1st about getting counseling and medical help and reaching a good state of wellness and knowledge about your anxiety BEFORE you start a group at church. Right now you are just beginning to learn about this and I don't believe you are ready to lead other people yet, and particularly if you are going to include your prosperity theology in this group.

    I don't want to be negative about your church as I'm sure it has many wonderful qualities. I'm only pointing out 1 error and that's because I see it hurting you. My church is imperfect, too, because imperfect man is doing his best to follow Christ in my church but we can and do make mistakes.

  • I greatly appreciate your insight on this. It's been one of the main factors that has kept me from getting help and what you say makes perfect sense. After reading these replies, it is making me realize that getting a qualified person to work through this with me is the best idea and I am looking into my options as we speak. This gives me a great deal of optimism for the future. Thank you so much for your patience and insight.

  • Wow! Thanks for telling me you appreciate this insight. I was very hesitant to write to you because who wants to hear their church is confused about something? I just wanted you to be free to get the help you need so I took a chance. Plus I did it here publicly instead of privately which is frowned on but if anyone else reads this and the prosperity theology isn't challenged here, that wouldn't help them at all. And my goal is to help you and anyone who reads these posts. I pray you have great success in getting treated. The ideal is to have a good psychiatrist and a good counselor. Both are often highly recommended for anyone in your position on both this site and others. You'll keep getting input from your church regarding the prosperity theology that can create doubts in you and a good counselor can help keep you from re-adopting that theology and also how to cope with your diagnoses and treatment. Again, I'll keep you in my prayers as that's the most powerful thing I can do for you.

  • I think we all have story's that aren't so different than yours. Feeling isolated is the worst! I've found help with a group that is lead by a listened therapist using the DBT book. You are not alone. 😀

  • Thank you for that. You are absolutely right. Isolation is the worst and often I feel very alone in this struggle. This is the first time I actually sense this doesn't make me a freak. What is the DBT book?

  • You can buy it on Amazon, but it is a little confusing to go though by yourself. A therapist trained in DBT is better. It is about mindfulness. We get to fragmented in our current society. Best wishes!

  • Here is the DBT info:

    The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook

    Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance

    By: Matthew McKay PhD, Jeffrey Wood PsyD, Jeffrey Brantley MD

    A Clear and Effective Approach to Learning DBT Skills

    First developed for treating borderline personality disorder, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has proven effective as treatment for a range of other mental health problems, especially for those characterized by overwhelming emotions. Research shows that DBT can improve your ability to handle distress without losing control and acting destructively. In order to make use of these techniques, you need to build skills in four key areas-distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

    Source: NewHarbingerPublications.


    Zen Buddhism inspired aspects of DBT, along with behavioral science and dialectical philosophy.


  • This is awesome!! As I said in a prior reply, I am looking into getting help for this and it really helps me to know what is available.

  • Notice I didn't say whether DBT is a good thing or not. I personally would hesitate to get into it because it definitely has some of the Buddhism religious aspects in it according to my resources and my religion worships a different God.

  • I completely agree with you. This is one of the reasons I am so careful in picking and choosing my resources carefully.

  • Hello, do you suffer abdominal pain after taking pills? what pills do you take for anxiety? My father has same symptoms apparently. If could help him y think I can help you too before the problem get worse. Best regards.

  • I don't know who you are asking but I'll just jump in anyway. No, I don't suffer abdominal pain at any time and I take a lot of pills, both prescription and nutritional supplements. I do take omeprazole/Prilosec 1 x day only because my neurologist has requested me to. I take clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, for anxiety. In the last 11 mos., I have reduced it from 4 mgs per day to 1 mg per day with no side effects from doing so. So much for it being addicting for me. I do have gaps in my memory, but my father does not. So it appears to be a hit or miss side effect.

  • I have IBS and GERD, so I'm not sure I'm the greatest person to ask about that : )

    I typically take a combination of medication and supplements. For my GERD, I had to have something called the Linx device placed around my esophagus just to keep food about increasing anxiety for someone already experiencing it (which the disease was likely cased by anyway).

    Right now, I am on 200 mg of Bupropion for depression. I take L-Thyamine, 5-HTP, Valerian Root, and consume teas such as Lavender, Chamomile, Lemon Balm (best, but the taste isn't fantastic), Licorice Root, and Peppermint to balance out. If things get real bad, I take GABA, but I understand that this doesn't break the blood-brain barrier, so its effectiveness is yet to be determined.

    I constantly have stomach issues, but the pain isn't due to the medication. I have found that not eating anything but vegetables works the best. However, I know it's not the most sought-after diet plan.

    I hope this helps.

  • Dear Jeff,

    I don’t think you are bipolar, but the problem you have if someone is not by your side and cannot understand could get confused and think you are. My father is normal all of the time but he is other person when has anxiety attacks.

    About the church let me tell you that they are priest and PRIEST (in spanish means there are good and bad ones). I have met one of the best, one that do miracles I hope not to need one miracle to make my father feel good again.

    Tell me please about your experience with DBT book.

    Let me tell you about me, my name is Julio, I am from Lima Peru, your mix of remedies are excellent for me because some of them are natural, I´m traveling to USA (NY) next month and want to buy all remedies for both illness IBS and Anxiety not found locally. As most of them need prescription I will try to buy everything natural like the ones you take (where do you buy natural remedies?).

    I have read that Licorice root is a good alternative to St. John's Wort. Did you tried the last one? St. John?

    Prescribed medicine (escitalopram and paroxetine) produces strong abdominal pain because of IBS when taken, have you tried any of these? That’s why I'm looking for alternatives.

    Many thanks and best regards from Lima Peru.

  • I haven't had any experience yet with the DBT book...looking forward to that, though.

    Licorice Root is a great alternative and can be found in places like Whole Foods in the U.S. I did not ever try St. John's Wort because of the side effects that I don't necessarily want to experience.

    You can buy most of the natural remedies at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, or other pharmacies (Walmart seems to be the least expensive). GMC also has them, but they go for a premium price and I'm not overall certain if they are any better.

    I have also found that Mastic Gum is good if you are dealing with H Pylori, but not sure if that's great for IBS.

    I hope that helps a little.

  • Many thanks!!! Good luck with the book.

  • Hello Bonnie I though I was writing to majormedfan, I'm still reading and there is a lot of people here with similar problem than my father. They have anxiety / panic disease and also IBS, but don't tell in all the cases which medicine are taking. I'm traveling to USA (NY) next month and want to buy all the medicines I could for my father but unfortunately most of them should have to be prescribed. Maybe I could buy free some natural supplements. I think that benzodiazepine is something like escitalopram or paroxetine (both of them make a huge abdominal pain to him) I wish i could give it a try, cannot find in local pharmacy .

    Best regards from Lima Peru.

  • I was on Valium for a while, but I will be the first to tell you that any "pram" medication is very hard to get off of. When I weaned myself off of these, I experienced insomnia, extreme nightmares, and breathing issues. I would rather have the anxiety (shudder) than to have to go through that again.

  • I haven't had any trouble getting down from 4 mg clonazepam per day to 1 mg per day. I took 11 mos. to do it. Maybe you went too fast? Maybe it's the last bit that's hard? IDK.

  • For me it was because I just stopped taking it. Should have cut back over time :)

  • Okay, yeah. It's amazing what drugs you can't do that with. It's not recommended you do that with even the antidepressants. I had 3 phases that went slowly just to go off of lamictal 100 mg (mood stabilizer) and I truly think I could have simply stopped it cold turkey.

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