I’ve gotten to the point that I cringe every time I hear the word “anxiety.” I’m conditioned to equate the word will pills. Anxiety is defined as feeling nervous, uncertain, worry about the future. The psychological diagnostic manuals categorize anxiety into many different types: generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, panic disorder, substance-induced anxiety, and others relating to children and adults.
The Pill Trap
What is the standard treatment for all of these diagnoses? Pills, pills, and more pills. Judy can’t sleep and wakes up feeling overwhelmed with nervous energy. She starts worrying if her kids are on drugs. She imagines her husband is having an affair. The house is dirty; she frets she will never have time to clean. She thinks she sees a snake in the garden. She watches the news and worries that the world is coming to an end. She wants to go out for a walk, but the fear of getting Coronavirus scares her into staying home — Judy’s mind races from one catastrophe to the next.
Meanwhile, Judy’s thoughts do what Nature designs them to do. The body releases a flood of chemicals that increase her heart rate, increase her breathing, and give her a heightened sense of awareness. Why? Because those are the very physical and mental reactions that give us the best chance of survival when we’re faced with imminent danger. It’s the “flight or fight” reaction to a perceived threat. It’s better to save those reserves for situations when our lives are really at risk.
Judy goes to the doctor, and vividly describes all of her symptoms. Does the physician explain that her thoughts are causing the reactions? Does he pursue the origins of her anxiety — did something in childhood cause her to perceive the world as unsafe?
Most likely, the doctor will tell her this: “Judy, you are suffering from anxiety. It’s a chemical imbalance in your body, and it’s not your fault. Yes, I understand it’s forcing you to limit your activities, you feel like you can’t breathe, and you get dizzy.” Then he takes out a pad and prescribes a benzodiazepine–usually Valium or Xanax. Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV, controlled substances because of their potential for addiction. It’s almost the same as prescribing a glass of wine every time a person experiences anxiety.
The next time she feels anxious, she takes one of the little pills, and after a few minutes, a wave of calm envelops her. After a while, Judy takes a pill every time she feels uncomfortable, whether she really needs it or not. When her prescription runs out too soon, it doesn’t occur to her that she’s becoming addicted. If she tries to quit, her anxiety is worse than before she started the medication. If she stops taking the drug, she could have a seizure. She tries to wean off, but her anxiety doesn’t slow down, so she’s forced to stay on the merry-go-round of trying to control how much and how often. She’s now addicted.
Even worse, her children are watching and learning from Judy about how to become addicted rather than empowered.
A Safer Way
What’s the message here? You can’t manage your emotions, so take a pill. The only problem with this is that that anxiety never goes away, and you never get to the root of the problem. But before you can get to the heart of the matter, you have to understand the real issue.
There is a way out.
All anxiety is fear — nothing more, nothing less. Fear is the problem. As soon as we start calling this feeling what it is, we open the door to a real and lasting cure.
First, you must be aware of your thoughts and how they are creating the anxious feelings. Rather than just spinning in the anxiety blender, ask yourself, “What is my fear?” Then list the ones that are real and not imaginary. All of Judy’s thoughts except the Coronavirus were imaginary. None of them were actually happening to her right now.
Once Judy recognizes none of her fears are actually factual, she will get immediate relief. Her physiological reactions will slow down. She can also practice deep breathing, relaxation, and let a little time pass.
When our fear has a real basis, we can decide to face it rather than cover it up by numbing out. We all have an inner warrior that can walk us through anything, even if we have to hold someone else’s hand. In a calm state, we are most likely to make the best decisions.
If Judy practices these techniques half as much as taking a week of pills, she will master her fear rather than being under the rule of this unseen negative energy.
The Past is Not Now
People who have suffered trauma have more fear than others because they’ve been severely harmed in some way that exceeds normal life events. In these situations, it is crucial to get help to work through the past pain so that it doesn’t cause you to be on constant alert and remain in an over-reactive mode.
Love Is the Answer
A Course in Miracles teaches that we always have two choices; love or fear. The next time you feel anxious, ask yourself: “Is this fear real, or is it just a thought?” If it’s not real, then replace your imaginary thoughts with phrases like, “Right now, I’m safe.” If your fear is real, what positive solution and plan of action, can you come up with to help you walk through the fear?
You can always choose love by facing the fear and then kiss it goodbye rather than holding on to an imaginary nightmare that serves no purpose. Taking real care of yourself is always a better solution than nursing your fear with pills. When you choose self-love, you treat your body as a temple and use your mind to better yourself rather than running away from whatever situation confronts you. The more you learn to love yourself, the more the fear slips away.
If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website https://drdonnamarks.com/
About the Author — Dr. Donna Marks is a licensed psychotherapist and an addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna became interested in working with addiction because she had to overcome her own addiction and couldn’t find the proper help. Eventually, she learned that rather than trying to “get well,” she had to learn to love herself. This realization completely turned her life around. In 1989, as part of her award-winning doctoral degree, Donna developed a chemical dependency training program at Palm Beach Community College, which has grown into a four-year degree. She is a certified Gestalt Therapist, Psychoanalyst, Hypnotist, and Sex Therapist. For 30 years, she has also taught A Course in Miracles.
Donna is the author of two books: Learn, Grow, Forgive: A Path to Spiritual Success and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure.
Donna is a public speaker and has shared her methods with hundreds of thousands of listeners on podcasts and radio shows.
www.drdonnamarks.com 561–436–9360 firstname.lastname@example.org