Many of the people I work with are burdened by fear, worry, and anxiety affecting their ability to live productive and happy lives. These same feelings propel them headlong into excessities. Often, they are focsed on the negativity associated with their excessities, such as obesity or alcoholism or addiction to pornography. They want help to “just stop” whatever those things are that has taken control over their lives, as if those things were merely actions. It is a deeper issue, however, to work through their fear at the heart of those actions. Often, the source has been blown completely out of proportion. They are consumed with the what-ifs and what-abouts instead of recognizing the what-is.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 7 million adults will experiencea condition known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in any given year. GAD is a chronic condition where a person lives with anxiety, worry, and tension, even when there is little outside reason for it. This fear is accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle-aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating and hot flashes. It’s as if you’re all ready for the fight of your life but can’t really see who your enemy is. The true enemy is fear.
Generalized anxiety disorder falls under the category of anxiety disorders, which also includes panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and other phobias (such as agoraphobia).
As you read through explanations of each of these conditions, I’d like you to examine whether or not it is possible one or more of them are fueling some of your excessities. You don’t need to be officially diagnosed as having one of these disorders to be able to recognize whether or not somehting about it resonates with you. Carla wasn’t ever diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive, yet her extreme need to exercise contains some OCD components. Keep that in mind as you read these exclamations from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Panic Disorder — this debilitating condition is when a person is seized suddenly by intense feelings of terror, fear, and impending loss of control. It is accompanied by a racing heart, feeling sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy, and is often interpreted by the person as a heart attack.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — this is a condition where a person is plagued by incessant unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The person often develops the repetitive behaviors as a way to guard against or mitigate the unwanted thoughts. The repetitive behaviors can include things like hand washing, counting, cleaning, or checking things. The person hopes doing these rituals will prevent or guard against the obsessive thoughts. While doing the rituals provides temporary relief, not doing the rituals actually adds to the person’s anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — this reaction is the result of a terrifying event or situation where the person experienced or expected to receive serious injury. The clarity o fthe danger is so real, so immediate, it continues to intrude into the person’s life — producing feelings of stress and panic — even when there is no longer any danger. It’s as if, once activated, their fight-or-flight response refuses to shut off, leaving them feeling numb and detached from life and those they love. They may also experience trouble sleeping.
Social Phobia — a person with a social phobia views social situations as battlefields, places of extreme danger. It affects fifteen million adult Americans in any given year. In social situations, they are terrified of being watched and judged by other people. sure they will in some way be humiliated or embarrassed. Eating around or speaking to other people is sheer torture.
Phobias — social phobias can lead to other phobias, such as agoraphobia. People with panic disorders can also develop agoraphobia, as they seek to avoid any situation or place that produced a panic attack in the past. Their list of “safe places” becomes smaller and smaller.
All of these conditions have at their base fear, worry, and anxiety. These can be hard taskmasters when acceded to and given control over your life. When those negative feelings take on larger-than-life proportions, they produce feelings of panic and dread even on a day when the sky is blue, the air is clean, and the sun is shining. The more feelings of panic they produce, the more apt you are to seek out behaviors that produce reassurance that all is well — or, at least, all is well for right now.
Excessities can become a close-your-eyes, plug-your-ears, sing-la-la-la-la-la activity to drown out the drumbeat of fear, worry, and anxiety.