The Debilitating Anxiety Symptom No One Ever Talks About

Until only recently, I kept a big aspect of my anxiety hidden from the world because I was deathly afraid of the consequences I would suffer if I talked about it. I was already fearful of the judgment I may experience from opening up about my anxiety, but this was huge. What if people thought I was actually crazy? The anxiety of this backlash made me feel physically ill, and I felt like there was no one I could turn to who would understand.

I’m talking about intrusive thoughts, which the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland say “become obsessive, provoke fear and shame, and often lead to doubts about sanity, control, motives, character and safety.” It’s common in those struggling with general anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

A majority of my life has been spent dealing with anxiety, so as far as I can remember, this symptom has always affected me. I never understood why frightening images and scenarios would pop into my head, leaving me anxious and scared. I didn’t know I was experiencing intrusive thoughts or why they were disrupting my reality.

People who suffer from anxiety often experience these episodes where they see an alarming event playing out in their head. These intrusive thoughts are frightening scenarios we create, causing us to think of harmful things we might do to ourselves or people we love.

The thing is, though, we would never act on these thoughts, and we know that, but we feel the fear as if they are really happening, and they make us incredibly uncomfortable. These thoughts are an automatic reaction and completely out of our control. Our brains become a movie reel of thoughts and actions we play out in our mind, and we can’t look away.

When I was a kid, these intrusive thoughts came in the form of monsters, like the ones you saw in movies. Despite knowing monsters didn’t exist, they came alive in my mind and gave me physical symptoms of fear. Sometimes it would get to be too much, and I would hide under my covers and cry at night. I knew in my mind nothing could hurt me because there was physically nothing there, but I couldn’t understand why these images haunted me.

I just wanted to get to my destination, but these thoughts would keep running through my mind, and I couldn’t stop them.

As I gained more life experiences, my intrusive thoughts developed into other fears. Now that I was older, these thoughts turned into new scenarios, ones that felt more real. For example, when I started driving, I’d see myself veering off the road, hitting a side rail, flying off a ledge, or running head-on into a semi. I didn’t really want to do any of these things. I just wanted to get to my destination, but these thoughts would keep running through my mind, and I couldn’t stop them.

I’ve learned that these intrusive thoughts are our brain’s coping mechanism for fear. They distract us from the anxiety we are feeling in real life with a fictitious event we can focus on instead. This is your brain’s way of trying to help you with the anxiety you’re experiencing in real life. It’s as if your brain is telling you, “Look, I know you’re afraid, but it could be worse, so whatever is going on isn’t that bad.”

Believe it or not, my childhood monsters have followed me into adulthood, and I still see them when I get anxious. Because I’ve been experiencing them for so long, I’ve mostly become numb to their effects. However, I do pay attention when these intrusive thoughts surface, as it’s an indication that my anxiety is off the charts and I need to stop and assess myself.

I’ve opened up about it to only a few of my closest friends; one has anxiety and confirmed that she herself experiences the same thing. She thought she was crazy like me and didn’t dare tell a soul for fear of judgment and ridicule. It was relieving to both her and me that we were not alone.

I want those who don’t experience intrusive thoughts to know this is not something to be alarmed about. We are in no way looking to hurt ourselves or anyone else, we are just trying to cope with our anxiety. If someone close to you experiences these intrusive thoughts, just love and support them. That understanding will help ease the anxiety we feel from even having these thoughts. Know, though, that this is not a problem you can solve; this is a process that we will go through regardless.

If you struggle with intrusive thoughts, share them. The more we share these experiences, the better we can understand ourselves and others and the more we can help each other. Know you are not alone and you are not crazy.

For resources and information about intrusive thoughts, please visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

This Tattoo Pain Guide Will Help Determine Your Next Ink

Let’s get one thing straight: tattoos hurt – plain and simple. On an objective level, this should be self-explanatory; after all, a tattoo is a form of body modification that involves using a needle to penetrate pigment through and into multiple layers of skin (fun!). But that still doesn’t stop the masses – my pretattooed self included – from googling “do tattoos hurt?” on an obscenely regular basis. What is not so obvious, however, is that they hurt (and heal . . . and wear) very differently based on where you get them.

With eight tattoos decorating various parts of my body, I can confirm this is indeed the truth. So to help inform or inspire your next (or first) ink, we’re breaking down what to expect in terms of pain, healing, and wear on all of the most popular tattoo spots. Just remember: these are general guidelines only. Pain thresholds and healing speeds can vary significantly from person to person. Happy inking!

Game Night (trailer)

  Jason Bateman (the “Horrible Bosses” films, TV’s “Arrested Development,” “Ozark”) and Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight,” “Dr. Strange”) team up in New Line Cinema’s action comedy “Game Night.” John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein are directing the film, marking their second film as co-directors, following “Vacation.” Game Night site   GAME NIGHT – Official…

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This Is How You Live Your Dream Life, Because It’s Not Stamped Passports And Vacation Homes

A woman staring out into the water while standing at the side of a boat.
ben o’bro / Unsplash

We are so fixated on how our lives should appear. Big houses, ocean views, elegant parties, fast cars, perfect bodies, perfect friends, stamped passports, and vacation homes. When I follow this train of thought, where I dream of the objects or circumstances I want to manifest, I wonder, why are all these things outside me?

Why do we allow the externalization of our visualizations paint the masterpiece? We externalize our dreams and paint how we would like things to seem. But in doing so we are trying to paint a mosaic with string. We are too busy orchestrating how it should all look, and perhaps forgetting the most important part.

You cannot create meaningful art without passion and it is not art without expression. And what is the point without any pleasurable sensation?

Let says you got all the things you wanted, all your visualizations realized. The picture was strung together seamlessly and all the stars were aligned on your chandelier. Would you finally feel whole?

Or would you still feel that hole? That hole you are trying to cover up with purchases, people, and things. That hole that the dream house will fill or a full pantry would feed. The hole that running away to the tropics would let you escape, the hole that the Ferrari at 200km would allow you to stop feeling for 10 seconds.

Seems like we have it all wrong. Covering up, patching up, and running away should not be the dream. 100 band-aids cannot heal an abrasion. It may protect it, which is why our external desires are not inherently bad, but when we think that peace can be achieved through the pursuit of well, things, then we have gotten it all wrong.

Start by fixating on how you want to feel. Love. Peace. Unity. Compassion. Empathy. Connected. These are the sweetnesses of life, the sugar of fruit, the warm rays of the sun. Instead of chasing what is outside of us, why don’t we explore what is already inside of us? Why don’t we heal from the inside out, just as your body heals a gash or a cut.

I realize my worst dream is having all the things I ever wanted and still being unsatisfied. Isn’t that the dilemma of our time? Sitting in a big home all alone, with all the gadgets but no feeling of home. This is a nightmare. Behind all the fancy clothes, vacations, and makeup would lie a broken soul. A soul who went on the pursuit of happiness, to find that it was never something he or she needed to pursue.

It did not involve getting there or any sort of prize or achievement. It did not involve investing, big pay cheques, or invitations to the best parties. It was simply turning all that energy back inside you. Instead of running and going and doing, why don’t we start BEing?

Ask yourself, how do you want to feel? Ask more big questions and wonder more great things. Ponder and wander and wonder through the depths of your soul. Decide what is real FOR you, because only you can decide this. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, because you are only human. Love yourself despite the restrictions you have installed, love yourself despite the circumstances you grew up in. Support yourself even if that is something foreign to you. Be compassionate for how you feel, give yourself love and rest and more love and rest because we can’t get enough of that today. Instead of putting on a pretty face we should decorate our souls so they beam of gold and never again will we cold.

We run wild with our minds but we rarely stop to sit with our hearts. When you return to her she will forgive you for your time apart.

We must learn to see with our hearts, not our minds.

Fixate on love and your life will feel like a dream. I think you may realize, you are already living it. TC mark