Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

Are You An Anxiety or Worry Addict?

 
Judith Orloff - Friday, March 25, 2011

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s NY Times bestseller “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

Our world is in the midst of an emotional meltdown. As a psychiatrist, I've seen that many people are addicted to the adrenaline rush of anxiety, known as the "fight or flight" response, and they don't know how to defuse it. An example of this is obsessively watching the news about natural disasters, trauma, economic stress and violence, and then not being able to turn bad news off. Also, people are prone to "techno-despair" -- a term I coined in my book, "Emotional Freedom." This is a state of high anxiety that results from information overload and Internet addiction. It's also related to our super-dependence on smartphones and the panic of feeling disconnected if technology breaks down and we can't access emails or other communications -- a new version of what's psychiatrically known as an "attachment disorder." I've helped many patients address the adverse effects of techno-despair, such as insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep and ongoing angst. You, too, can break your addiction to anxiety and lead a more peaceful life.

Am I Addicted To Anxiety? To determine your current level of anxiety, ask yourself:
  • Do I worry about many things every day?
  • Is it difficult to stop watching anxiety-provoking news on TV or the Internet, though I try?
  • Do I experience separation anxiety when I can't access my smartphone or computer?
  • Do I make problems larger, not smaller?
  • Do I worry about things that no one around me worries about?
  • When one anxiety is solved, do I immediately focus on another?
  • If you answered "yes" to all six questions, worry plays a very large, addictive role in your life. Four to five "yes" answers indicate a large role. Two to three "yes" answers indicate a moderate role. One"yes" indicates a low level. Zero "yes" answers suggest that you're more warrior than worrier!

    To quiet anxiety and turn off your flight-or-flight response, it's important to re-train your brain to send chemicals to counteract this powerful biological response. Otherwise, anxiety can become an addiction. In contrast, with a calm biology, you can generate endorphins -- the blissful natural painkillers in your body. To master your anxiety, practice the techniques below to quiet your system. They will help you achieve immediate and long-term results.

    7 Strategies To Overcome Anxiety (From "Emotional Freedom")

  • Eliminate caffeine, sugar and other stimulants. These fuel the "fight or flight" response.
  • Avoid people who reinforce your fear, whom I call "emotional vampires. They are biological irritants. Stick close to positive people. (See my previous post, "Who's the Emotional Vampire in Your Life?")
  • Stay away from violent newscasts, arguments, the Internet, paying bills or other stress inducers, especially before sleep.
  • Set healthy limits and boundaries. To combat stress, it's important to realize that "No" is a complete sentence, and a healthy way to set limits and boundaries with stress-inducing people and situations.
  • Pause when agitated. Make this vow: "I will never have a conversation with someone, send an email, or make a decision when gripped by anxiety." No matter what the upset is, do not act until you have gained calm and composure.
  • Use this Progressive Relaxation Technique. In a comfortable position, sitting or lying down, take a few deep breaths while letting your body go as limp as possible. When you're ready, begin by tightening the muscles in your toes. Hold to a count of 10, and then relax. Enjoy the relief of tension melting. Do the same with flexing your foot muscles, and move slowly through your entire body: calves, legs, stomach, back, neck, jaw and face, contracting and releasing each area.
  • Stay in "the now." Try not to project negative scenarios about the future. Stay solution-oriented in the present moment and be grateful for what is positive in your life.
  • Being aware of what triggers your anxiety and mindfully making choices to cope with them provides emotional freedom. Then you won't simply be reacting when your buttons get pushed. You will be better able to take charge of your emotions and your life.

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    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

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    Richard commented on 14-Aug-2012 11:17 AM
    As a male I have difficulty crying....afraid I will be seen as unstable. Doing EMDR therapy I have a great amount of anger behind my crying ...seem to come at same time. I wonder if, going forward, intuition would help me "see " my anger a bit better.
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    mike commented on 31-Aug-2012 05:46 AM
    Stress due to work and other pressures of life destroys the emotional and mental stability of an individual. One needs to have a proper control of their mind and take a check on the tension level. I strongly feel counseling and consulting psychologists
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    rockstunner commented on 24-Sep-2012 06:39 AM
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    Ezra Fain commented on 30-Dec-2014 03:11 PM
    I agree 100% with this article in regards to United States culture. It is not like this everywhere in the world. In the United States everyone wants everything done immediately and patience is lost. I feel it is heavily created by marketing that makes everyone work extra hard to buy the next new thing. As a healthcare professional I learned a lot about this during myACLS online training with United Medical Education. They teach just what stress can do on regarding causing a heart attack or stroke.
    Arthur commented on 26-Aug-2015 03:12 AM
    Thanks for the post (question). I consider myself an anxiety AND worry addict. That`s me. It has always been this way. I do worry about multiple things daily. It is difficult to stop watching news. I do experience separation anxiety when I can't access my smartphone or computer (very much so). I do tend to make heavy weather of something. Whether I worry about things no one else worries about, I guess so. Whether I focus on another immediately when one is solved, well, not immediately but probbaly soon enough. Therefore, yeah as you may see, anxiety plays quite big role in my life. To be grateful for what is positive in one`s life is really simple and good advice. I`m learning how to think positive.best paper editing is another positive thing to be grateful for.
    Orakul commented on 10-Sep-2015 09:17 AM
    Thanks for the post (question). I consider myself an anxiety AND worry addict. That`s me. It has always been this way. I do worry about multiple things daily. It is difficult to stop watching news. I do experience separation anxiety when I can't access my smartphone or computer (very much so). I do tend to make heavy weather of something. Whether I worry about things no one else worries about, I guess so. Whether I focus on another immediately when one is solved, well, not immediately but probbaly soon enough. Therefore, yeah as you may see, anxiety plays quite big role in my life. To be grateful for what is positive in one`s life is really simple and good advice. I`m learning how to think positive.
    best paper editing is another positive thing to be grateful for.
    acea commented on 14-Oct-2015 10:28 PM
    Just lately with the news (overseas especially) being so crazy it has been very challenging for me to let it go. I feel guilty and sad about the people there suffering so badly, like I should be doing more but I am concerned about myself and my own needs. So every minute I am not experiencing this is a gift. It's amazing the contrast between those "gift" moments and the obsessive concern I have been experiencing. Thank you Dr. Orloff for your writings. I don't agree with all of your opinions but appreciate your understanding and the advice I have been able to make use of.

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