Anxiety and Panic Attacks In Emphysema/ Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD)
|Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D., psychologist
The Role of Worry in Panic and Anxiety
What Exactly is Worrying
The origin of the word "worry" offers interesting insights regarding the nature and function of worry. According to the Webster Unabridged Dictionary, the word "worry" is derived from the Medieval English word, "Worrowen," "wirien," and Anglo-Saxon root "Wyrgan." These root words meant "to choke' or "to strangle."
In my own research I traced the possible root of the word "anxiety" in a Sanskrit root word "ahanti" which also means to choke or to strangle. Isn't that interesting? The root meanings of both words "worry" and "anxiety" originally meant to choke or to strangle, thus referring to their impact on breathing.
Such symptoms as "choking" "smothering" "suffocating," closing of the throat or "lump in the throat" are commonly experienced by people who chronically worry and/or suffer from chronic anxiety or panic attacks. Anxiety and the act of worrying affected the respiratory system in the ancient times exactly as it does now!
In the Medieval English the verb "worry" also meant "to gnaw," or to continually bite or tear something with the teeth seen in such expression as, "The dog was worrying an old shoe." Here is the irony: Worry does the same thing to us that the dog in that expression does to an old shoe! Worries and chronic anxiety gnaw at us, bite us and wear away our peace of mind bit by bit. Such is the work of worrying on the worrier's sense of inner security and peace of mind.
Worrying, like rumination, is to chew over and over again that which has already been chewed. Worrying has a repetitive and obsessive quality about it. A worrier is obsessed with the negative outcomes and pitfalls and "ruminates" over them.
Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author of "Driven to Distraction" fame describes worrying as a "disease of the imagination." A worrier imagines every misfortune that might befall the victim. Oh, those errors, accidents, and all possible bad things that can go wrong! Remember, some of our "demons" are created by us in the first place.
In order to work with a problem you have to first accept you have a problem. Likewise, in order to change something, you first have to accept you need to change some thing. Do you recognize you have a worry problem?
Consider the following questions to decide if you have a worry problem:
Tips for cutting down on the habit of worrying: Use "One -Minute Manager"
If you are a chronic worrier, it means that through the practice of many years of worrying, you have gotten really good at the work of worrying.
Know that the mind learns to have "worry spasms," or a kind of "brain hiccups" that just refuse to quit. When the first worry thought strikes you, you have just a few seconds, maximum one minute, to break the chain of worry thoughts before your entire mind gets involved in it.
Once you get too involved with your worrying thoughts, you end up in the "worry grip!" Then you might not be able to relax for the next several hours or the whole night. Therefore, the first few seconds as you start worrying are critical to stop the ever growing worry web. Break the sequence of worry thoughts as one worry thought start connecting with the next worry thought!
Because when your mind gets involved with the action of worrying, the body too gets involved. The body tenses up and the level of stress hormones keep rising which keeps fueling worrying thoughts non stop.
Train yourself to stop worrying Just as you train your muscles to learn a golf swing, you can train your brain to take a swing at the worry monster.
Here are the tips to take a swing at the worry thoughts:
Here is an example of countering the "What if" thoughts:
Worry thought: "They may all be tired of me."
We worry about everything, ranging from things less likely to happen to those that are most unlikely to happen. All things are not lions and tigers. They may APPEAR so to us. We underestimate our own power and overestimate the danger of things that confront us. You can learn to extricate your life from the clutches of anxiety.
If needed, seek the help of a therapist who can teach you how to tackle the problem rather than avoid it.
Give yourself a gift: Learn ways to calm your fears. As you involve yourself in new situations and new activities, preoccupation with anxiety will decrease. As you develop greater self-confidence and find your life more satisfying, you may not even need anxiety pills and wouldn't have to worry about whether a pill is habit forming or would it negatively interact with other medications you take.
The knowledge that we have the power to choose our thoughts is one of the best kept secrets! Most people believe they don't have a choice regarding what they think and how they feel. They think that negative and disturbing thoughts come from nowhere and invade their mind.
Others believe they have always thought and felt this way, so they are unable to think anything different. Not true! If there is anything we have power over, it is our own thoughts. You may not have power over the outside world, but you have the choice to decide what thoughts you want to think all day long!
Empowering thoughts can infuse you with strength you never thought you had! Negative thoughts can deplete you of the power you always thought you had. Your power within can go up and down depending on the kind of thoughts you choose to dwell upon. So, what would you like to think?
In some cases, worrying is just a symptom of an anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or a result of a deeply painful life event, such as betrayal of trust, abandonment, severe humiliation or abuse.
Or, you may have had a "Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)" from very early on, long before you developed COPD. You may have been born with what is called "anxious temperament." (e.g. J. Kagan's work on variable heart rate in infants). According to temperament related research, perhaps 20% of children are born with anxious temperament.
Out of the 20% anxious temperament children, some will develop one or more anxiety spectrum disorders, notably, GAD, phobias, panic attacks or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
A person with COPD may have had an anxiety disorder prior to developing COPD or develop one after the onset of the lung impairment. If you have excessive anxiety or concern associated with breathing difficulty, get an evaluation for a possible underlying disorder.
If there is a traumatic event in your past that keeps gnawing at you, work through it with a counselor. Often the way to overcome pain is through it and not around it.
Chronic and excessive worrying can get you trapped inside and isolate you from others, thus stripping you of your social support system. Don't get so involved in the act of worrying that you might not find time to connect with others. For sure, don't let worrying isolate you from people who love you!
**Go to the "WORRY BUSTER" EXERCISES on the Next Page**
"WORRY BUSTER" EXERCISES
Write Down Your Three (3) Major Worries
Write Down your "Worry thoughts" related to each of the three major Worries
Write Down Your "Counter Thoughts" for three (3) Major "Worry Thoughts of Yours
Continue to Chapter 8
Return to Chapter 6
Copyright 2008, Mind Publications