ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Anxiety Disorders

Jack Bragen
Friday October 25, 2019 - 03:21:00 PM

There are some survivor recipients of mental health care who have said they have "a little bit of everything." This means they may have psychosis, mood problems, and other difficulties. I could easily fit into this category.

My documented diagnosis is schizophrenia with paranoid delusions. This is accurate about me so far as I can tell. I am very high functioning for someone with this diagnosis, e.g., able to write for publication, able to manage my own finances and other responsibilities, able to be in a relationship, and possibly able to work at some jobs or gigs.

The paranoid delusions really interfere with my life. Additionally, I sometimes have panic attacks. These can be very uncomfortable, but I would not say unbearable. I can withstand the discomfort because of the amount of mindfulness I have done. Yet, because the panic takes over my body and large parts of my mind, the episodes of anxiousness are debilitating.

Benzodiazepines are a habit-forming class of controlled substances, sometimes prescribed for severe anxiety attacks. Their use is not recommended for long-term anxiety management. The patient can become dependent on these substances. Benzodiazepines must not be taken before driving a car.

For me, what seems to work, in addition to prescribed medications, is to do a mental exercise to shut down the panic. I can do this because I have been a practitioner of mindfulness for three decades. I've practiced mindfulness to deal with difficult life situations, and as a way of feeling better. I do not need to always be comfortable. 

When you are anxious about something, it may or may not mean that there is a good reason behind it. You could have a nagging worry about a thing that should be addressed. Or, you could be worrying without a good reason, because symptoms or some other error in thought leads to a false worry. 

A possible first step is to identify the thoughts that trigger the anxiety or panic. In most instances, these do exist. It may seem as though you have "free floating anxiety" with no reason for it. Yet, somewhere in your mind, and it may not be obvious, you may have thoughts or other mental content that has led to the anxiety and/or panic. You could have dozens of little worries that add up to a massive amount of anxiety. Or, there may be one item that you have buried beneath denial or some other form of repression. A rule of thumb in identifying the anxiety producing thought, is that the thought brings up emotional discomfort when you acknowledge it.  

I am sure that some people's panic disorders are caused strictly by a brain malfunction, and there is no actual "issue" behind it. Yet, this may be a small percentage of afflicted people. I do not have the expertise to give you hard facts about this. I am sure that opinions vary. No one can really tell you for certain exactly what happens in your gray matter. Psychiatry is not advanced enough to do that. 

Psychiatry is partly an art, partly a science, and partly an effort of trial and error. Doctors will try a patient on a medication that they think will work, based on an informed guess, and if it doesn't work, they'll try something else. Sometimes people are inpatients for periods of months, if the case is severe enough. This gives the practitioner time to try various medications and find a combination of meds that can help the patient. 

Anxiety can sometimes be resolved through desensitization. There are varying forms of this. Yet, there are certain situations in which you should not put yourself, either for the purpose of resolving anxiety, or for any reason. Another strategy is to do what within your power to resolve a possible problem that seems to give you the anxiety. 

Still another strategy is to look at your insides and tell yourself, "This is the content of my mind." And you can look at your surroundings and tell yourself, "This is the content of my surroundings as I perceive it." Doing this can, in effect, put your emotions in perspective. 

Fighting against anxiety doesn't work. Yet, it may sometimes work to block anxiety with a mental wall. A strategy for blocking anxiety could be to focus on the present minute, hour or day, and disallow thoughts and emotions about the future. This strategy actually got me through public school. 

In public school I was miserable. However, when I was home, I wouldn't think about the next day. Even when I rode my bicycle to school, I was focused on riding the bicycle and not on the upcoming day of school. 

It doesn't work to accept things on a hypothetical basis. If something is completely unacceptable, you should not try to imagine that it is acceptable. My current anxiousness that I'm dealing with is about my lack of adequate income. This leads me to seek work. 

(In the current job market, many jobs exist that people can get and do, that do not involve much. The only things needed in these jobs are transportation to work, and basic competence to do a few simple tasks. Being disabled doesn't have to prevent people from doing such jobs.) 

There is no single solution to feelings of anxiety. You could address it with more and more drugs. The human body often develops a tolerance to certain meds, and you must periodically up the dosages. 

You could deal with anxiety strictly through meditation. This will work for some people but not for everyone. In some instances, the brain is too tired (such as at the end of a day) to focus on a meditation technique. Or, you could deal with anxiety through action. One hopes it is the correct action that addresses your problem and does not worsen the problem. Anxiety is different for each person, and each instance of anxiety is different. 


Jack Bragen writes books, such as "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual," and, "Schizophrenia: My 35 Year Battle," available on Amazon and elsewhere.