1.12.10

Anxiety and Internet Pop Ups

I was talking to Dan yesterday about what anxiety feels like for those of us who are unfortunate enough to have gerneralized anxiety issues.  Some days my constant irrational worries frustrate me and I know for a fact that they frustrate other people around me.  To the outside it seems so simple.....just stop worrying about stuff!  People can tell you that until they are blue in the face but it makes no difference.  To most people, a missed phone call or an issue at work seems like a minor annoyance and may cause some stress but most are able to rationalize it and put their minds to rest after a few minutes or even an hour or two.  To someone with chronic anxiety it involves hours of obsessing over it, having an upset stomach, feeling on edge constantly for most of the day and driving yourself crazy with thinking about it over and over again.  I thought of a way to explain it so that people could understand it a little better.  Here is my analogy.

You know when you are on your computer on the web trying to work on something and concentrate on it and you get those annoying little pop up windows that never seem to go away no matter how many times you click on the little "x" in the upper right corner?  Out of nowhere, they appear.  You close the window and another one pops up a few seconds later adding to your annoyance.  All that you want to do is work on your research or whatever you happen to be doing at the time and the pop ups keep pulling your attention away.
Now, lets pretend that the pop ups are scary, terrifying in fact.  Not only are they scary, but there is nothing you can do to stop them from randomly popping up.  They pop up at random, and try as you may, you cant make them stop.  You start to feel overwhelmed as your screen fills up with them so fast that you cant click the "x" fast enough to get rid of them. Terrifying images..  Images that aren't even related to the web site that you were on. They make no sense.  Why are these showing up? You start to feel anxious, your heart begins to race, you feel helpless. Eventually you have to turn your laptop off to make it all stop! 

Well, for a person with anxiety, its like the laptop is your thought process. You try to focus on something and other things in the background keep popping up and distracting you to the point that you lose focus.   The thoughts often are scary and you have no control over them most of the time.  Sometimes you pace, sometimes you cant sleep, maybe your heart races, or you might even worry yourself into a full blown panic attack. Try as you may to be rational, the worrisome pop ups in your head keep bombarding you until all you want to do is shut down. 

For example, for most people, if someone doesn't return a phone call, or if they are late showing up for something, its a minor worry.  You might think, maybe their phone died, or they are busy, or stuck in traffic.  For people with chronic anxiety, it goes much deeper than that.  You start out thinking maybe they are stuck in traffic.  This turns into what if they were in an accident?  What if they are in the hospital? What if something horrible happened?  Maybe they are mad at me?  What did I do?  Maybe what I said last week in passing upset them?  Maybe they were offended by something I did? You start to feel sick at your stomach.  Your palms get sweaty and your heart starts to race.  You start to pace.  You check your cell phone a thousand times to make sure that it hasn't rang. Your entire focus shifts to these random thoughts of doom and it is all that you can think about until the situation resolves itself.

I know that it sounds totally irrational. When you are going through it you can try to rationalize it, but your brain wont let you.  Those annoying pop ups just keep coming and coming at you.  You worry and obsess over and over again about the same situation and think about all of the worst possibilities that could have happened to this person.  In the end  you find out that they were just running late and they forgot their phone. You feel better for a while and then the next pop up window starts.  Oh my god...I have to do a report at work.  What if I cant get it done?  What if I screw it up?  What if my boss is mad?  What if I get fired?  I wont have any money and ill lose my house!  Where will I live?  Oh damn, its time to make dinner. I didn't make it to the store now what am I going to do.  Traffic will be horrible.  Its rush hour.  Now I will be late getting home.  If I am late getting home my friend will be mad....and on and on and on and on it goes.

Doesn't sound like much fun does it?  For the outsider, it sounds totally crazy and you might think why wouldn't you just stop.  The problem is that you cant! 

1 comment:

  1. I'm right there with you... you just wish you could shut your mind off, but can't.

    ReplyDelete

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