Anxiety and Depression Support
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New here: alone, anxious, and scared


I'm 45 years old, and have lived with phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression most of my life. Lately, it's the fear of dying suddenly from some random, catastrophic health issue: heart attack, cardiac arrest, pulmonary embolism. I have real, chronic physical symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, and I never know if it is a result of something physiological or psychological. In the past couple of years, I've seen countless doctors, had all sorts of tests run, and everything comes back normal. Yet the symptoms persist -- as do my anxieties and fears.

But the worst part is that I am depressed and isolated. I am unemployed, separated from my wife, and living in a room in my sister's house. I don't venture out of the room too often. I am so alone and tangled inside my head.

Tonight it's chest pain after a day of unexplained pain in my right bicep. I'm scared and need a friend who can empathize.

Thank you for reading all of that; it helps to know that maybe there is somebody who can relate.

21 Replies

I can relate to the feeling of isolation. The anxiety I experience takes a different form - intense social phobias. The separation from loved ones and life in general, however self induced, is so hard to bear.

I am interested in your experience - do you test your edges? In other words, do you ever take baby steps out and about to very slowly build up the confidence that you can recreate your life?


Thank you for the prompt reply and interest, Bigbread.

I do go for one mile walks to the store, usually once or twice every couple of weeks. I don't drive, which compounds the isolation, especially since the public transportation where I live is not the greatest. Other than that and doctor appointments, I don't leave the house much. I do, of course, go outside of the room to use the bathroom and prepare some meals, but even that can be daunting. I hadn't given it much thought, but there may be some social anxiety at play for me, too, as I get afraid to the point of inaction when I have to interact or perform certain tasks in the presence of other people. For instance, I will avoid preparing any meals when my sister and her family are out by the kitchen. I generally do not test those edges, I'm afraid. Definitely something to think about, though.

I'd be interested to know how social phobia manifests for you, also. I can definitely relate to the emotional pain of being cut off from, seemingly, the world. One positive thing is that there are online forums like these that help build bridges to the world.

Anyway, I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond -- it takes me ages to compose even simple emails.


I asked about the concept of ‘testing edges’ because it has yielded results for me. The notion of bridging from being completely paralyzed by anxiety to complete freedom from it felt hopelessly impossible. However, baby steps feel more realistically achievable and build momentum to bigger outcomes. For me, this might take the form of intentionally engaging with a passer by on the street....

In terms of how I experience anxiety, it usually manifests as claustrophobia or physical breakdowns in the presence of new people or new places. Case in point:

A couple weeks back, I agreed to go to a dinner to meet my gf’s children and parents for the first time. This pairing of generalized anxiety at the new situation and an intense desire to make a good impression proved a wicked combo. On the drive over, I was already bracing myself for an episode, contemplating how I might respond.

As we sat down to dinner, the anxiety showed up in force. It began as an increasing tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing. I felt as if was trying to breathe through a straw. I lost my appetite as well, but, wanting to maintain the appearance of normalcy, forced down ridiculously small nibbles, each progressively more difficult to swallow. My thoughts became jumbled and floated wildly between various strategies I thought might help to reduce the physical symptoms and stories I could make up that would justify an early exit.

Just before hitting all out panic, I managed to trigger a change in the narrative in my mind. From aversion on all fronts, I moved to allowing the anxiety to exist. “You’re here now, run your course. If you overwhelm me, so be it”, I told myself again and again.

Although I of course wanted no part of the feelings I was experiencing, shifting tunes from resisting to allowing resulted in an eventual subsiding of the anxious energy. The wave of emotion and sensation hit a crescendo, and in short order my mind and body returned to an even state. Looking back, I even had a very pleasant end to the dinner.

I’ve had many similar internal battles over the years. Over that course, I have developed an unshakeable faith in the power of nonresistance. It’s so hard to do so in the moment when the heat of anxiety is bearing down, but I endeavor to employ Allowing whenever I find myself gripped by fear.




Thank you for the words of encouragement, pink83737! The frustrating and confounding thing about all of this is that I can never tell if my symptoms are being caused by my anxiety and are harmless, or if there really is something physically wrong.


Hello mr monk and firstly welcome to healthunlocked which I personally refer to as my unlocked family. Here you will find the support you need and others, including myself that have experienced the same as yourself. Please let me firstly reassure you that chest pain(replicating a heart attack) symptoms can all be a nasty of anxiety and depression. I used to think about dying consumed me so you aren't alone here. It got to a point where I stopped going out so I wouldn't walk into a bus or I wouldn't get a cold or I wouldn't catch anything else. I wouldn't go on a plane like I used literally took over my every waking moment. Sleep(when it came) was the only break I had. I often had pains in my arm that went into my jaw..pins and needles in my arm and then the chest pain would come. I learnt to breathe properly when these thoughts and physical pains came(I had every heart test available plus bloods). Not every technique works for everyone and I did many breathing exercises until I found the one that suited me. I'm happy to share those if you so wish. People don't realise that the symptoms from anxiety(that I refer to as nasties) can replicate so many serious physical illnesses but 9/10 it's actually the anxiety and as you start to panic and fear sets in...the nasties get worse...right?. Because you are on your own and you have time to think and really be conscious of what your bodies doing i would like you to try something for me if you could pls....get a notebook or a piece of paper and write all this down(not what I'm saying but how you feel and when the pains come and go...what you were doing prior to it starting) you may find a pattern or trigger. Writing is great therapy and it helps your mind focus on something. Also sip water....dehydration doesn't help with anxiety. Do you drink coffee or soda? If so....knock it on the head or at least cut down. I'm here to reassure you you are going to be just fine. Take deep deep breaths when the pains come. But....if your heart starts racing and doesn't stop(and I mean for a while) and it's accompanied by nausea or vomiting...please get yourself help. Yes the majority is anxiety but I never take chances....ever and if you are concerned...go to the doctor. He/she may be able to prescribe something to calm you. Once again welcome and if you ever need someone there's always someone about to support you. Never be afraid on here to say how you feel bcas we know ...we know. Take care

Janie x


Hi janie i try breathing excecises but they dont seem to stick i seem to suffer with very bad butterflies in my stomach id love the here about your breathing technique you can pm me thank you


Thanks so much for the kind welcome, Janieliza! Such great support and all in less than an hour! Although I'm still troubled by some of those physical nasties, my anxiety has been tamped down considerably for now, reading the supportive words and empathy from you and the others who have replied to me. It does so much good just knowing there are people out there who care.

Deep breathing does help -- when I remember to do it! It seems like such an obvious, natural thing -- to breathe! -- but anxiety/phobia/OCD has a way of taking the wheel and sending me careening out of control. Please share any breathing techniques that have worked for you; I'd appreciate the input.

Although I love writing, I find it so hard to do when I'm anxious, but writing like this to other people seems to help me focus a bit. I can hardly remember what was going on when the pains started. What is so unnerving is that these symptoms occur unprovoked, like when I'm just at rest or using the laptop. It's a scary thought that anxiety can take hold unconsciously, almost like it has a life of its own, independent of me.

Although I eat too many sweets, I don't drink coffee or soda, so my caffeine intake is limited to chocolate. I do drink lots of water.

I have sinus tachycardia, so my heart is usually going at a fair clip, even at rest. But I would definitely go to the ER if I started vomiting -- you see, I'm emetophobic, and haven't vomited in decades (knock wood), so if I started now, I'd know for sure something was wrong!

Thank you again for your insight and support. From what you wrote, you've gone through a lot. I'm glad you're a member of the unlocked family!

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You are so welcome and I was thrilled to read the comments from ppl...see, there are ppl out there who care and don't want you to suffer. Goodness you are suffering aren't you? I know the mist that descends when an attack starts and you are absolutely right of course..breathing techniques go right out of the window alongside rationality and positive thinking!!. My ex husband would be shouting BREATHE WOMAN like it was something id stopped doing, I would mentally think "shut up you goon, what do you think I'm trying to do? Fly!!!". Support is paramount in recovery...paramount and many of us don't have that so that's why I came here. I'm at the other side of anxiety and depression now but I'm far from complacent about it and I know it can return as quickly as that(I'm clicking my fingers). Breathing takes a while to do...esp mid panic when all one can think of is "this is times up" the pains are getting worse..someones squeezing the last bit of air from our lungs and the rational thoughts? What rational thoughts? We simply don't have them, however, you have to will yourself and I mean really push yourself like you've never ever done before. I used to breath in thro my nose and count 1 dot dot (don't say it obv..or you can actually I just put dot dot so you know how long between numbers) 2 dot dot 3 dot dot 4 dot dot, then sloooowly out thro your mouth 5 dot dot 6 dot dot 7 dot dot repeat until you can feel yourself calming. Another distraction that worked for me is think of something that once made you laugh...i had a few(my ex husband without clothes had me howling 😆) or if you ever did something hilarious...think of it and run with it...hold that thought(it really can work) and breath slowly...take a sip of water and sit down. Another thing I used to do was star jumps. It sounds mad yes I know...for whatever reason and health permitting for anyone else it works. Again these are all things I found worked for me. The star jumps I began when I was having an attack and I was near hysterical. I just started jumping up and down, breathing in thro my nose and out thro my mouth(only one dot inbetween) I was so exhausted by the time id done 10 that the distraction worked. All else fails...come here. I can't stress enough how fantastic everyone here is and if you stumble...we 'll support you and if you fall..we will catch you and walk the journey with you. You aren't alone here and we all know how you feel. Hugs. Janie.


Hello mrmonk, I'm glad you decided to join this group. That's a good step in the right direction!

I've been dealing with some of the same things for a couple of years, and although this may sound harsh, it hasn't killed me yet... When you feel all of those horrible symptoms, it's easy to feel isolated and scared, and it's easy to forget that you've felt those symptoms before and YOU SURVIVED. I'm not an expert at all in this field, but I would recommend trying your hardest to find ways to calm yourself down while you're in a depressed, anxious, or panicked situation. Tell yourself things like: "I've felt this before and I made it through," or "This is all just panic, it's not real. If it was real, I would be dead right now." Those feelings of short breath and chest pain are some of the most common panic symptoms, and although the panic triggers a response in your body, you are not actually short of breath and you aren't actually having heart problems. That sounds ridiculous when you are feeling those symptoms, but it's true. It's hard to think straight during all of that, but get real with yourself. Tell yourself it's just panic/fear/anxiety/depression. When you replace negative thoughts with more positive thoughts, it becomes a little easier to have a positive outlook on the situation.

To be honest, I'm still working on doing this myself. It's hard, and I'm still dealing with a lot of panic, depression, fear, and anxiety. But I know more than one person who has dealt with these same things (specifically those feelings of short breath and chest pain), and they made it through. Do your best to find something encouraging in the midst of all of the other junk, and hold on to that. Things will get better!

You definitely need to make sure you have people you can talk about some of this to: friends, relatives, and a therapist. Definitely don't throw yourself in uncomfortable situations, but you shouldn't completely isolate yourself, either. And remember that you have everyone in this group to talk to as well. There are many experienced people who would love to help you.

I hope things get a lot better for you soon. Take care :)


Hello JPhilip, thank you for your insight and encouragement – I've been thinking a lot about what you said because, just like you were saying, I have survived very bad episodes, nights in the ER when I felt the end was at hand, only to be told everything was normal. And yes, it is true that chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. are common panic symptoms. But it is also true that they are often symptoms of serious illness – and that’s where I get hung up. How can I make that distinction? I think this is a very real problem that faces all people who experience extreme anxiety. I mean, what if one night, a person calms himself down and convinces himself everything is all right, but he’s wrong, and the next day his heart just stops? I know that in most cases it is unlikely, but it is the biggest gamble we can take, isn’t it? After telling myself “I’ve felt this before and I made it through,” what repeats in my head is: “but what if this time it’s for real?” I think the reason folks like me (particularly my age or older) panic when they feel a palpitation is they know that there is a very real possibility – no matter how remote – that it could be a sign of trouble.

Of course, we all know that any of us (even the seemingly healthiest) can just drop dead at any moment (just typing that out makes me unnerved, so I apologize to anyone reading if it did the same). But that’s at the heart of my fear – dying with or without warning, and no one there to possibly help. I guess it’s some form of thanatophobia, but it’s exacerbated by being alone, despite being surrounded by family.

Because I don’t want to risk being asked to leave my sister’s home (in which case I would be homeless), I don’t make a public fuss, especially at night. I just keep to myself and try to deal with these feelings as quietly as possible. Sometimes at night, I think that if I felt like something really bad was imminent, and I was going to lose consciousness, that I would go out and stand in the living room, and if I crumpled to the floor, maybe somebody in the adjoining room would hear the thump, and come to my aid.

It must sound ridiculous, but it’s one of the ways I calm myself; it’s a way of injecting a little hope into a bleak scenario in my brain.

Anyway, I’m sorry for the rambling post. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective and experience, and I hope you are doing well in your work to improve your mental health.


I deal with that very fear myself: "What if it's real this time?" I'm afraid I don't know all of the answers to that, that's what I'm battling myself. But you aren't alone.

There's one thing you could try: it seems to help me. Next time you feel those symptoms coming on, go for a light jog. When you get panicked, it triggers a response in your brain that causes you to feel like you're in the middle of a dangerous situation. Imagine you are a deer, happily drinking by a stream. Suddenly you see a big hungry lion on the other side of the stream. Immediately you would go into a tense state, the "fight-or-flight" thing I was talking about earlier. Your heart may start to race, you might start hyperventilating. Even though nothing is actually wrong with you, you are still freaking out about that big lion. So for some people, exercise helps calm down that fight-or-flight response. Going for a jog reminds your body that a fast heart beat, aches, and faster breathing are all normal things that happen when you are exercising, and it also triggers endorphins, which can help calm you down as well. Hopefully that makes sense. Don't overexert yourself, but maybe take a quick jog/walk down the street and see if that helps. :)

P.S. Sorry if the "lion" example was lame. It really helped me understand some things, so maybe it will help you :)


so good that you have posted on forum. you are not alone. the pains you talk of are to be expected, in fact it would be unusual if you were pain free considering the amount of tension you are putting your body through and not being very active on top of that. it is hard to believe I know, but muscular pain is soooo common for those of us living with anxiety. it would be a good idea to challenge those negative thoughts, push through and stretch those arms and legs... stand tall and walk, walk right out of that door. we stiffen and get so sore when we don't tire ourselves naturally, you know the difference between the tiredness of anxiety and depression and the natural, healthy tiredness of physical activity. do you have a garden? anything that gets your body moving. keep posting, so many people to reach out to here.


Thanks, deborah27 – some great suggestions there! I do try to move around, even if it’s just walking around my room here, and I go for walks outdoors about once a week, and it does help. I just feel so fatigued and short of breath a good deal of the time. I feel sapped of energy. I’m chalking that up to depression, but who knows?


keep going, you have so much life ahead of you. aches and pains and feelings of chest tightness are part of this anxiety and depression hamster wheel. I remember a very wise person saying to me once ' if you heard screams of FIRE! FIRE! GET OUT NOW! it would be instinctive to survive, to get you and your loved ones out. you would instantly put that adrenalin to good use, all aches and pains would be forgotten and the energy and strength would be there immediately.'

I always try to bring that to mind knowing it to be true.




Hi there,

I know what you mean about the pain. As we age, the fear grows heavy on the "fear of dying or doom" because we are more aware of our mortality. I am 57, suffering Chronic Panic since I was 30. The pains have always been there during a panic attack, but lately are more fearful and prominent. Because of mortality. I have asked doctors and therapist how do I tell the difference. They have all said the "fear of doom" will be absent if in fact it is a heart attack or other life threatening ailment.


Thanks for the info, RobiBerkim. Every time I've been to the emergency room, I've failed to ask the doctor how to tell the difference between anxiety and symptoms of a heart attack, so I'm glad you asked! I'm surprised at the response you received, though, as I've always read that anxiety and a "sense of impending doom" could be an actual symptom of a heart attack, or, at least an indicator that one is on the way.


Yes, I believed that also. I have never had a heart attack. But they say it's not the typical "panic doom" you know, like something is going to happen, you just aren't sure what, where you are second guessing yourself. With heart attack, the pain is different and it radiates and your mind focuses only on that pain. Not sure I am explaining this well. Either way it's best to have it checked if you really aren't sure.


Hello, I am very sorry for the pain you are feeling... I can relate to feeling anxious, isolated and having compulsions. I know it's very frustrating and sometimes you can feel all alone, but please know that you are not. The fact that you are reaching out and communicating with us on here shows that you do want to get better - and that you WILL! Have you tried taking tiny steps to go out of your comfort zone? Maybe leaving your room or inviting your sister for a walk in the park? It might seem trivial, but little things like these build up your confidence and independence, and I have full faith that you have the courage to gain more confidence and 'beat your demons'. I would also recommend meditation and exercise - these are things that really aid me in feeling more calm and collected. Sending lots of love, you can and will get through this

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Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, advice, empathy, and understanding. I got the flu shot last month -- one of the reasons I've been loathe to leave the room is the fear of catching the flu -- so, I have been making efforts to sometimes come out into the living room now to spend time with my sister and her family. I was thinking of asking my sister if she'd want to do some low impact aerobics and yoga with me, but she is very busy, and I don't want to add something to her already full plate.

I'm not sure about beating my demons, but I sure would like to muzzle them for a while.

Thanks, again.


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