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26611 No. 26611 [Edit]
How do you deal with anxiety when its related symptoms can exacerbate anxiety in a vicious cycle? I'm rather weary about my health, so I tend to focus on minor details to the point of inducing panic.

Recently I've been feeling a little light-headed from time to time (probably because of allergies), and because I'm asthmatic I keep a pulse oximeter (small device that attaches to your finger that measure pulse rate and blood oxygen level) with me to make sure I'm alright. As I sit waiting, I unintentionally start worrying so my heart rate goes up and I start breathing faster, and my palms get clammy. When it finally picks up on my vitals, I'll usually have a heart rate in excess of 120 bpm and SpO2 of 96% (good, and normal blood oxygen level). Regardless, I'll keep focusing on it, and start unconsciously hyperventilating causing my blood oxygen level to start dropping and my heart rate to eventually rise to 150 bpm or higher. And upon seeing my falling blood oxygen level, I'll really start panicking and hyperventilating in earnest (monkey brain says breathe more even though hyperventilation depresses nervous activity and causes a rapid decrease in blood CO2, leading to further decreased blood oxygen level, potentially leading to fainting if a normal breathing pattern cannot be resumed). Another source of panic is the accuracy of the pulse oximeter. With cold hands, or sweaty palms, the accuracy of the pulse oximeter drastically falls; when in actuality the person may have a SpO2 of 96 or greater, the reading on the pulse oximeter may read 85% and below, which indicates a dramatically low blood oxygen level, possibly imminently close to fainting. What is especially distressing about hyperventilation are the effects of as one reaches closer to fainting: from your hands and feet, a creeping tingling numbness rises through your limbs, your vision tunnels and dims, your limbs become useless as you lose coordination, your speech slurs, and intense fear grips you. Meanwhile, though your senses dull, your mind remains racing and conscious as it nears closer towards fainting.

That's not even mentioning that my anxiety is so severe that I experience random rapid muscle twitches. They're more annoying than anything, but still. Another more impactful source of anxiety is that I regularly feel some degree of "chest pain", not internally mind you, from grabbing at my chest as a stress response. Later down the line, when doing uncommon movements, I'll feel a dull pain in my chest where I've grabbed at before. Of course, I now on some level that, "No, you moron, you're not having a heart attack." Despite this, however, I can't help but worry, "But what if this time it's not just my chest muscles being sore? What if it's real this time?"

That's one the eternal points of tension I feel; I understand that these worrying states are nothing to worry about, precisely because they were/are caused by my own actions. Yet still, I cannot wrestle myself out of these self-defeating behaviors. I understand that I wouldn't worry about excessive heart rate if I wouldn't look at my pulse. I understand that I wouldn't hyperventilate and worry about my SpO2 if I didn't look at it. I understand that I wouldn't be plagued with repetitive chest pain if I didn't grab at my chest and have poor posture. I understand that I wouldn't be so plagued with health anxiety if I didn't look up symptoms on health websites. And yet I do them anyways. It's almost like a learned type of OCD - I understand the irrationality of my actions, but I cannot prevent myself from still acting irrationally. That is, when my worry isn't clouding my judgement. Its one thing to be retrospective about the irrationality of my actions, but its completely different actually getting those things across when being consumed with fear.

More severe panic attacks are even worse. When first learning about COVID, prior to the broader media picking up on it and before it had even been reportedly detected in any Western countries, I was fearful reading up on it, that I would get intense chest pain. After several days of that happening, it culminated in me hyperventilating with that chest pain, resulting in me thinking I was having a heart attack. Not very fun. A few months later I went to the doctor (why, I cannot remember), only to carted off to the ER department because apparently I had high blood pressure. Ultimately, as with most of my ailments, it was determined this was a result of my anxiety. Blood work determined a few days later that I was completely fine and that there was nothing abnormal about me at all (aside from the anxiety, obviously).

But, of course, I live in the utter paradise that is America, so I'm forced to live with this crippling level of anxiety unless I'd like to piss away every last penny I own so some fuckwit Psychiatrist can prescribe me SSRIs until I want to kill myself.
>> No. 26612 [Edit]
>>26611
Perhaps you've already tried this, but maybe look into box breathing (fancy name for inhale/hold/exhale 4:4:4 seconds). This (and other various breathing techniques that you can look into) can help calm you down, and if you are able to get into the habit of employing them as soon as you notice yourself slipping into that cycle then you can at least cut down on some of the physical effects of anxiety.

As for the mental symptoms, I can relate to those more (although my anxiety is less about physical health and more ocd-ish in general worrying and indecisiveness). You've probably already heard of this given that you've likely done research already, but meditation (in the form of learning to passively observe and ultimtaely ignore thoughts) is supposed to help. But of course the paradox is that it's easier to meditate when you're calm than when your mind is racing and stuck retracing/dwelling on the same line of thinking. At least it didn't work for me though. What works slightly better for me at least is breathing techniques with prolonged breath retention. The most popular one is Wim Hof method [1], but you can look into Pranayama for other breathing techniques (e.g. alternate nostril breathing) to see which one works best for you.

Psychiatrists are mostly useless anyway, and SSRIs are a hacky, potentially dangerous workaround th a problem that can be more effectively solved by yourself. I also think that trying to fix it with supplements (e.g. omega-3) is mostly a waste of money unless this is a recent phenomenon related to a change in diet. But if you want to try, you're probably better off eating whole food (e.g. green tea instead of l-theanine pills).


[1] https://invidious.silkky.cloud/watch?v=tybOi4hjZFQ
>> No. 26613 [Edit]
>>26612
Thanks.

A few months ago when my anxiety was really severe I decided to look into meditation a bit more after having largely brushed it off as kooky new age spiritualism. Like you, I had limited success with it, but what did help me from time to time was guided meditation.

If I were to try meditating on my own, I'd largely be left unsure where to go with anything so the relief it gave me was minimal at best. Actually having a voice to direct me actually helped a lot, although going from a completely panicked state to a calm(er) one would still take a considerable amount of time. This one video [1] in particular would help quite a bit. I might be remembering a different video of there's, but my one gripe was that it would ask you to focus on various parts of your body. In particular, I think they might have even said something to the effect of "Focus on your heart's rhythm." Needless to say, as someone who's largest source of anxiety is health anxiety, being reminded of my body wasn't exactly helpful. Nevertheless, the video mainly relies on directing breathing, which I think helped a lot.

When it comes to breathing in general, it's difficult (at least for me) to gauge what's a normal breathing rhythm and what's not. Often, when I find myself hyperventilating, it's not necessarily that I do the stereotypical fast and shallow breaths, but that I end up breathing very deeply at a similar rate as usual, which I think in the moment leads to further confusion as to why I'm not getting any better.

* * *

Not entirely related to my OP, I've noticed that my anxiety has transformed over time. Initially, I had very high levels of social anxiety, although socialization on the internet has actually helped me overcome this to a large extent. Around the time that was wearing off, I began to develop very intense anxiety related to my academic performance. I did manage to overcome that as well, but in a particularly unhelpful manner. Perhaps as an unconscious coping mechanism, I effectively lost any and all motivation I once had. So, although I wouldn't concern myself with performance, I also wouldn't concern myself at all until the very moment it presented itself. Practically, however, this corrosive mentality has affected my behavior even when it comes to things I enjoy. Also around the same time, I began developing health anxiety, although it has become markedly more pronounced in recent years. Although unfortunate for myself obviously, I find it interesting how it's developed over time. It's almost as if I have an innate need for anxiety and overcoming any portion of it merely results in a new form of anxiety developing.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6X5oEIg6Ak
>> No. 26614 [Edit]
>>26613
Some people treat it as new agey thing, but there's nothing really mystical about it – if you calm the mind, then you can control your emotions. Some of the more ancient scriptures for meditation & breathing in eastern traditions (e.g. pranayama) will mention things like "energy," but even that can be thought as just a metaphor for body scanning and focusing on different parts of the body.

>Guided meditation
There are different types of meditaiton – forms where you focus and pay conscious attention to certain aspects such as your breath, and forms where you try to cease all thoughts entirely. The former is a lot easier than the latter, but both have the general goal of trying to prevent your mind from ruminating on random things and keeping it constrained. And yes guided meditation can work better if you've never done it before. You should search around and try to find a tutorial that works best for you, since you mentioned that focusing on breathing helped. (But on the other hand, don't stress about trying to find the "optimal" technique. Something that gets you decent results practiced more frequently is probably better than spending that time trying out different techniques and not really getting comfortable with any one. And you can always modify things over time to fit yourself better.)

> it's difficult (at least for me) to gauge what's a normal breathing rhythm and what's not
The box breathing thing I mentioned has animations to help you visualize the correct rythm for that technique. Try looking at that, and it's easy to synchronize your breathing to that.
>> No. 26615 [Edit]
>>26614
>forms where you try to cease all thoughts entirely
Isn't that just what people do when they go to sleep?
>> No. 26616 [Edit]
>>26615
Good question, and I have not been practicing for very long so someone else can chime in if they have a better answer. I think the difference is that when meditating you still maintain awareness and "consciousness," but you're just not actively processing anything. But I don't really think anyone other than the really-experienced monks have achieved that state without thoughts entirely.

For most regular people, the difference is then that with meditation your body remains relaxed as in sleep but your mind remains aware yet restful (minimal thoughts). In some sense this could also translate to hyper-awareness of your surroundings. Maybe it could also be framed as a sort of active awareness (during meditation) vs passive lack of awareness (during sleep).

When I try meditating for longer than 5 minutes though I end up feeling sleepy and lulled into a state of hypnagogia. I assume that this is _not_ the goal since when I fall into this state I can feel my mind starting to wander (a different type of wandering than the rumination of anxiety. In the hypnagogia state it's more nonsensical wandering, like a random walk on the plane of nonsensical/abstract thoughts). I don't know how to prevent it though.
>> No. 26617 [Edit]
>>26616
>I don't know how to prevent it though
Set a range of acceptable meditative thoughts(autobiographical, introspective, etc), if you start to wander when you are trying to cease thought, you can go back to the acceptable thoughts and after that try to cease them again. Kinda works for me.
>> No. 26648 [Edit]
>>26612
I tried this box breathing thing today, Anonymous, and it helped a lot. Thanks!
>> No. 26649 [Edit]
>>26648
Did you follow a particular video/animation?
>> No. 26650 [Edit]
>>26648
Also let me know if you find something that works for you in terms of reducing anxiety on the longer-term scale. Guided breathing and meditation tend to work pretty well for short intervals but no matter how much I meditate the effects start wearing off about 30 minutes later and I'm back to the anxious, scattered, ruminating thought patterns. I guess the goal is to get to a point where I can achieve that meditative "calmness" at all times of the day even without having to be physically meditating, but considering that even during meditation I think 90% of my time is spent actively trying to avoid falling into those wandering thoughts and the remaining 10% of truly calm time is spent in bursts of a few dozen seconds, this seems insurmountable.
>> No. 26653 [Edit]
Anxiety can also be caused by purely bodily stuff like junk food or poor posture / wasted muscles. But if this has been going on for years you would have notice some pattern in this anxiety already.

My 2 cents on meditation: it will not make magic on the long term but can't hurt either. Just observe the thoughts, don't try to suppress them or shoo them away. Direct your attention into the body or at your breathing. And if you "fail" at it in any way don't beat yourself up for it.
>> No. 26656 [Edit]
>>26653
>Just observe the thoughts
People always say this, but what does this mean? When I start thinking of something and I realize that I'm thinking about it, and shift my attention back to consciously breathing, is that the correct thing to do? I wouldn't really call that "observing," but I haven't read any other techniques.
>> No. 26657 [Edit]
>>26653
>Anxiety can also be caused by purely bodily stuff like junk food or poor posture / wasted muscles
Can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D is the easiest to fix (go out in the sun) and also probably one that most imageboard-dwellers are deficient in, followed by things like magnesium (can also cause insomnia) or b12 (if you eat meat rarely).

>Just observe the thoughts, don't try to suppress them or shoo them away
and adding on to >>26656
After some more reading I guess I'm not doing anything wrong, and that's what "observing" thoughts are? Basically by virtue of the fact that the mind is mostly serial (as opposed to parallel), your attention can only be given to one thing so if you become "aware" of the fact that you're thinking about something (that is, become aware of the thought in a meta-sense instead of just naively letting the thought unfold by itself), then you naturally stop the unfolding of that thought and prevent the growth of any sub-thoughts that might have arisen (which some people call "collapsing" the thought).

Calling it "observation" is a bit of a misnomer to me since it implies that it's some sort of passive/idle thing, but the process of noticing you're engaged in a thought and shifting attention back is inherently active. I guess the intent of calling it "observation" was to underscore some philosophical point about separation between "you" and "your thoughts," but that just feels like the semantic wordgames of philosophy – it's not really some deep insight that thoughts arise by themselves mechanically in response to stimulus or past thoughts.

But either way, yeah I can see how getting good at shifting focus to prevent the unfolding of thoughts will naturally lead to reduced wandering of the mind and prevent you from getting caught up in those thoughts. And maybe over time the interval between thoughts that arise will lengthen, leading to that state of no-thought some people have managed to achieve.

Still, since meditation only really gives you a tool to avoid engaging in thoughts – not prevent the thoughts from arising themselves – it's not exactly a silver bullet as you said. With anxiety/ocd, those thoughts are something you feel "need" to be engaged with, otherwise it eats away at you. You can put it off temporarily – as I do during meditation – but after the session, those thoughts come back. It's something like hunger or thirst, you can ignore it for short periods of time but eventually you must deal with it. The hypothetical solution would be a way to reprogram the mind to "lower the priority" of these thoughts so they don't keep resurfacing, or equivalently convince the mind that X is ultimately trivial and no additional brainpower needs to be spent mulling over it. I've heard of CBT but I don't know if that works.
>> No. 26666 [Edit]
>>26656
By observe I mean just let the thoughts be. If a thought pops into your head it's not a signal that you need to engage in thinking about that stuff. You can if you want to.

>shift my attention back to consciously breathing, is that the correct thing to do?

yo. but I would say try to relax your body. When the tension from the body goes away the breathing will become less tense and compulsory thinking slows down. Keep experimenting. I used to find most tension in my jaw, face muscles, neck, arms, shoulders, chest.

>>26657
>Can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D is the easiest to fix (go out in the sun) and also probably one that most imageboard-dwellers are deficient in, followed by things like magnesium (can also cause insomnia) or b12 (if you eat meat rarely).

Magnesium by all means. Stress eats it up. Vitamin D deficiency seems to cause lethargy and generally feeling like crap. I dont know about B12 specifically but I've read that taking B-complex reduces stress.
>> No. 26685 [Edit]
do you think your health anxiety is just something you have, or that it has an underlying cause? what factors in your life could be stressing you out, and making that stress manifest itself as fear that you're going to die? are you a neet, or do you have a job that puts you under strain in some way? btw ur cute and I wanna hug you
>> No. 26686 [Edit]
>>26685
>I wanna hug you
Don't. They'll think you're trying to suffocate them.
>> No. 26687 [Edit]
>>26685
Sorry in advance for the long post.

>do you think your health anxiety is just something you have, or that it has an underlying cause?
Perhaps part of it is a result of my childhood. I was never weary of my health, but I did get sick somewhat often and I was really bad about being able to take medicine. I regularly would "take medicine" and hide it in pillows, or underneath the seats of our couch, or do the trick of hiding medicine beneath my tongue or hold liquid medicine in my mouth only to spit it out in the bathroom. At the same time, my father was very strict about taking medicine; I can understand his frustration now, but as a child, it only made me more fearful of taking medicine, which likely made him all the more angry at my not taking medicine. But, again, that was only fear and apprehension of taking medicine, not worrying of being sick.

Regardless, I've always been a rather timid person. A memory that will always stick with me is of a time when I was still in elementary school. I can't remember what grade, maybe 1st or maybe even kindergarten. I was sitting behind the playground crying to myself, alone. I was scared and upset because I thought my parents had left me there, and wouldn't pick me back up. Fortunately, a nice person came up to me and asked me why I was crying, as did a few other people, and they consoled me that it would be alright. A happy ending, maybe, but I think it gives some insight into my formative years. Another memory of mine had to do with playing games online. Having grown up with computers and the internet, I was accustomed to playing games, but multiplayer interaction was way too much for me. I remember playing some game, and being politely told "Sorry, we're trying to do something here, could you leave?" and becoming so flustered that I had to turn the game off out of embarrassment and fear of interacting with people.

A bad influence for sure, but I only gained the courage to really talk to people online thanks to Anonymous imageboards online.

So, I think I've always been anxious to some extent or another, and perhaps developing health anxiety was borne out of that? I'm not sure.


>what factors in your life could be stressing you out, and making that stress manifest itself as fear that you're going to die?
Well... How should I put it?... I feel like a failure. Throughout highschool I somehow coasted by and managed to do quite well, but going to university has been drastically worse. I did alright my first semester, but the past few have been absolutely awful. I simply cannot do online classes. I failed every one of my classes besides a few the past few semesters while classes were forced online during COVID. I just lack the willpower and attention span to not put off all my work. Currently, I'm stuck at an out-of-state university I can no longer afford because I lost my academic scholarship I earned thanks to my high school performance... Transferring to another university in-state is impossible because my GPA is too low to even qualify, and beyond that I lack the number of credit hours to be able to do so because I failed all my classes. I failed my math class too many times so I can no longer re-take it, and my other classes, if I fail at again I basically get booted from the university. Moreover, I feel an incredible guilt stirring within me every time my parents or relatives ask, "How's school going?", to which I always reply "Fine." I'm a "Junior" who hasn't even completed enough credit hours to become a sophomore. Not least of my guilt is the fact that I'm not the one paying for my failures. While my father was unemployed for nearly 2 years straight, sending hundreds of resumes out every month, here I was failing my classes silently while my parents had to sell our home and empty their savings so we would have a place to stay. He's found a job again, but that does nothing to lessen my guilt.

I'm completely useless. There are no jobs I feel capable of working at, and I feel completely aimless in everything I do. There are things I like, but there is not a single thing I could point to, now, and say "that's what I want to do for the rest of my life." My life seems primed for failure; 9/11, sub-prime mortgage crisis, '08 world financial crisis, COVID, COVID economy "great reset". It seems like even if I were to put a modicum of effort in, I would just be wasting away my life; I will never be able to own a house, my generation and the generation before is terminally under- and unemployed, and everyone is swimming in debt. The lifetime of a company is something like 15 years compared to 50 a generation before. I will never have comprehensive healthcare, I will never have a pension. The world is slowly edging towards the climate becoming more and more unpredictable and I'm supposed to just act like everything is fine and continue playing the game? It feels ridiculous.

Speaking of debt, due to a fluke in how my parents signed up for insurance this year (after being without insurance for the past few years), after finally being told I could go to a doctor, I went to the ER several times, only to rack up $10K of medical debt and completely drained my family's savings once more. Throw one more on the guilt and shame pile.

Meanwhile, the proper business world continues on, faceless as ever, marching into oblivion business as usual, while incredibly wealthy people become ever wealthier.

The whole world feels like bread and circuses to mask the decline around us. What point is there in indulging the sensibilities of this world, when in 20 years from now that world may not even exist? It's absurd.


>are you a neet, or do you have a job that puts you under strain in some way?
Currently, I am a NEET. For the next few months, maybe. I wanted to get a job to at least slightly ease my shame of being such a failure, so that I wouldn't have to bare the shame of being a complete goood-for-nothing leech living at home sitting in front of their computer all day, but I'm not sure I'm even capable of getting a job. Everything seems like a massive hassle, and I have no redeemable skills. Moreover, nothing pays well enough for me to gather enough cash to pay for a semester of university. Sure, I could just take out student loans, but when nothing about my future is certain at all, what point is there in doing so? Sure, I'll just saddle myself in unpayable debt so I can fail at another semester of classes and get kicked out, or better yet I manage to get pass my classes and for what? So I can get a worthless degree and participate in this mindless rat race?


>btw ur cute and I wanna hug you
;_;

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