As a psychiatrist at a university, I enjoy nothing more than when a patient who used to be terrified tells me that he can now make friends, give a lecture in the classroom, or do anything else that matters previously felt as taboo. But I also know that not only is it difficult to get better at anxiety (or mental health issues) – it can even be quite scary for some people.
When the fear is very high What does it mean when these symptoms subside? Perhaps this experience has thrown you for a loop, or perhaps it prevents you from seeking help for your anxiety . Anyway, I understand that you do not know where you end and where your anxiety begins can be disoriented. I promise that it is possible to process the emotions that accompany the treatment of your anxiety, to know your new self, and to come closer to a life that may have made your anxiety impossible. I know because I saw it.
Why some of us feel defined by our fear.
Take for example my patient Jake *. When he visited me for the first time, he struggled with everyday fears so much that he had difficulty concentrating in class and could not sleep. Of course, his notes fell. As a result, Jake stopped making contacts. He was so worried that he would do even worse at school if he took the time to study.
I started Jake with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a type of antidepressant that is generally the first-choice drug of anxiety . One nice thing happened: he started to get better. He was able to concentrate, he could sleep and, what was most important to Jake, he could do well at school and hang out with his friends.
But feeling better also brought worrying aspects. Now that Jake was less worried about how he came to people, he often revealed his true, sarcastic personality. He did not need so much time to get ready before going to a party or asking so many questions before going on a mission. Jake was on unfamiliar territory.
Although he certainly liked his new ability to function without fear Jake told me that he felt he had some kind of existential crisis. He no longer knew who he was, was not sure if others would like his "new" me, and wondered if he should take his medication.
Jake's situation is unique, but not uncommon, and that's not the case. & # 39; Not only for medicines. Even without medication, working on your anxiety in therapy can have a similar effect: you may feel a little insecure or afraid of leaving behind the fearful behaviors that have benefited you in the past. After years of fear it can feel normal or even necessary for your success. When medications or therapies relieve these symptoms or make them disappear, questions about your identity may arise.
You may feel that your anxiety promotes your success at work, or you externally indulge in being introverted when you are genuinely home because of social anxiety. No matter if you are concerned with the fear that drives certain behaviors, you may fear that you will lose those parts of your identity that seem so entangled in them.
Mental stigma can also raise its ugly head here You are ashamed if you need medication or therapies to tame your fear . But fear is a disease like any other. Can you imagine that someone with diabetes says, "Although insulin stabilizes my blood sugar, I do not want to take it because I feel it myself without it?"
It is important to know that I know that this feeling, without being afraid of being someone new, is not strange. It can be a normal stage of recovery, and someone like your psychiatrist or therapist can help you get past it or even enjoy it.
How to talk about your concerns
In my experience, this conversation is actually the most likely to happen before a patient even starts using his anxiety medications. When I talk about the prospect, patients often ask me if they will change, or if they will, without fear as a driving force, stop worrying about important things like studying.
Normally Tell my patients that, if treated properly, you can expect anxiety to diminish in everyday life, but not completely disappear. Remember, Fear has an evolutionary purpose . It is designed to help you survive by motivating you to face a threat, whether it's a bear outside your campsite or an upcoming work appointment. This drive does not just disappear in the treatment of anxiety such as medication and therapies.
If you are not sure if you can navigate through reality with less fear, tell someone like your doctor or therapist. Great as they may be, they can not read your mind! Please address something similar when it concerns you.
Whoever addresses you will probably wonder what exactly feels different when you are less afraid (or what you are nervous about will feel different). If you start taking anxiety medications, this may help you to make sure that you do not have any unwanted side effects, which may indicate that another may be better for you. If this is not a problem, they can help you understand how you may relate anxiety to yourself, how these behaviors have helped you in the past, and what concerns you have if you do not have them now. This discussion will be personal and can sometimes be difficult, but it's worth it.
You should not stop taking any mental health medication alone without consulting someone like a psychiatrist. This is especially true for antidepressants as they may have been prescribed for anxiety. Sudden withdrawal may result in a so-called antidepressant withdrawal syndrome an accumulation of negative symptoms such as insomnia, dizziness, irritability and even suicidal thoughts. This does not mean that you can never get rid of a medicine that is not good for you, but that you should talk to a doctor about how to break it down as safely as possible.
Your prescribing physician or therapist may help you to weigh the pros and cons of taking your medication. While I understand that I feel a little different due to medication, I also know how useful a treatment can be to someone who suffers from debilitating, life-threatening fears. However, I would never tell anyone what the "right" choice is for them.
How to navigate and appreciate your new normal condition
The goal of the treatment is to better enjoy life without anxiety symptoms such as constant anxiety. a racing heart poor concentration and insomnia. This happened to Jake, who decided to take his medication and finally settle into his new, improved and much less anxious life. He even laughed at his initial feelings and told me that he realized he was not really living his full life before he started treatment.
Whether you're taking medicines for anxiety, fighting your anxiety through therapy, or both, you know it's possible to get through the discomfort and enjoy being on the other side, like Jake.
Hey, if you're worried that your friends or family members do not like this less timid version of you, you can always ask them directly as well. You will be delighted to feel better overall and look forward to offering you a positive reinforcement. If you hear from them, you may feel a little better. Perhaps you should be aware of how refreshing it is not to worry about a test that lasts for days and nights, or to enjoy a party that you would not otherwise be afraid of. As you get used to your new reality, hopefully you can think less about difference and instead celebrate the better .
* "Jake" is a compilation of patients I treated
Jessica A. Gold, MD, MS, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. Find her on Twitter @drjessigold .