Self Issues

Self issues can play a very big role in recovery. Hopefully you may be able to identify how some of these self issues held back and increased people's anxiety and delayed recovery. Much of our work involves educating people about healthy ways to deal with the stresses that come along. Sometimes, we are not aware of how these issues are effecting us on all levels.

For example, this lady had for many years avoided going into the supermarket for fear of having a panic attack. Usually, she sent her husband or daughter in to get the groceries. She felt a great deal of guilt about this but couldn't seem to break the cycle (or wall) that prevented her from going in.

On this day she was in a rush. Many things to do, with so little time to do them all. She parked her car and sent her teenage daughter in to get the necessities. She sat and sat .. waiting not so patiently for her daughter to return. Little did she know that her daughter's latest infatuation was with the boy in the fresh produce section of the supermarket. She had forgotten the time as she chatted and flirted with him. Finally, in a burst of shear anger, the mother got out of the car, slammed the door and marched right into the supermarket, grabbed her shocked daughter and promptly paid for the groceries.

It wasn't until she was back in the car that she realized what she had actually done. One point for anger, zero points for the fear cycle. Needless to say, the thing she feared for so long had not happened--and a huge dent was visibly seen in the cycle of fear.

Extremely Sensitive to Others

hp-anxiety-art-154-healthyplacePatricia was suffering terribly from the increasing cycles of an Anxiety Disorder. Sometimes she thought it was divine retribution for something she might have done in the past - she basically felt she deserved it. She should be kinder, more giving, more compassionate, more everything. One day her friends turned up with an urgent request. Can we borrow your car, they asked. How could she say no, she wondered. They need it and if I say no I would be so selfish. So the car was theirs to use. A couple of days later the "friends" returned the car. Apparently they had an accident in it. They rear ended another car. These "friends" hadn't even bothered to tell her when it happened. They didn't even bother to tell her when they returned the car.

Nothing like a couple of hundred dollars repair bill to increase the suffering. The story didn't end there. A month or two passed and in the mail came an urgent request to pay a parking ticket. Obviously the "friends" had neglected to mention this also. Patricia thought to herself, "How can I ask them to pay for this? It is my car after all." And so the cycle rolled on.

One noted characteristic of people with an Anxiety Disorder is they are incredibly sensitive individuals. Not that everyone else isn't. Klara was very sensitive to other people's opinions. She was also sensitive to what she said to others. If she spoke to someone on the phone, she was intensely alert to even the inflection in her voice. After a phone call her mind would go over-and-over the whole conversation. What she said, how she said it, whether it was appropriate, whether she had displayed the appropriate emotions.

Usually she would find something she said which might have been misconstrued by the other person. After a huge debate within herself, Klara would end up calling the person back and apologizing for saying "hello" the wrong way, or apologising for something said inappropriately, or for not being sensitive enough to the other person's dilemma. The other person had no idea what she was talking about. They would then try to assuage her fears that she had said anything wrong at all. It went round-and-round in circles. So for every phone call, there would be multiple call backs.

Positive Thinking

Many people think positive thinking is all that's needed to stop the anxiety thoughts. Bob had read a "terrific" book on positive thinking and it made sense to him at the time.

Every morning he awoke to the "same" feelings of overwhelming anxiety but pushed through this to stand in front of the mirror to repeat the positive affirmations. "I am a wonderful person," he recited. "Today will be a good day. I am going to be happy. Today is a new start. Today is the beginning of the rest of my life. I am me and that is just fine."

Having finished this exercise, he stepped into the shower to 'freshen and cleanse' his body and mind. As the water gently cleansed his body, his mind had other ideas. "You know that what you just said was a load of rubbish. You won't be happy. You haven't been for the last few years. It's not going to be a good day. You've got to go to work and you feel lousy."

As every thought passed, he started to feel worse. He tried to combat the negative thoughts with the positive thoughts; but the more he fought, the more power he gave into the negative thoughts. In the end he had an anxiety attack and headed out to work. He repeated this process for months, never giving up because he had faith in positive thinking. In the end he realized that positive thinking wasn't for him and started learning the technique of just letting his thoughts go - regardless.


We often say in the recovery process that a "setback" is inevitable. Many times we will ask: "Are you meditating?" or "Are you working with your thinking?" The other question we ask is: "What is happening in your life right now?"

Such was the case for a young lady who was perplexed by her current setback. She was meditating and she was, she thought, working with her thinking. So what was happening in her life. "Oh nothing," she replied. "Everything is fine, nothing that I shouldn't be able to handle."

After a little talking, she disclosed her husband was just about to lose his job with no new source of income on the horizon. She couldn't work because she was in her recovery process but her husband didn't seem to understand this. They already lived on a tight budget and they had missed a few home mortgage payments, so the bank was "breathing down their necks". Her teenage son had recently discovered his rebellious streak and was in trouble with the police and her youngest daughter had contracted some strange virus. "Nothing really happening" she finished off, "I should be able to handle it."

There are not even many super heroes I know of that could handle this load of stress. She couldn't see it initially, but after some talking her fears and worry surfaced. This was the cause of the setback. Sometimes we are blind even to our own feelings.


Fred was in his sixties and had experienced panic attacks for many years. Finally he found a solution - meditation. He loved it. From the first time he meditated, he felt peace and relaxed. For weeks he flew. Not one panic attack. His face glowed with his new found freedom.

One day, however, the panic attacks came back and it hit him very hard. Why, why? He was still meditating. Why? It seems Fred had a soft heart and had offered to ferry an acquaintance of his into town everyday. They lived 50km from town. He also had to wait 2 hours while the person finished their business before returning. It was taking it's toll on him.

When asked whether he really wanted to keep doing this, his only reply was that he was concerned for the person "How would they get into town without him taking them?" Are they an adult? "Yes," was the reply. Then it is their responsibility, not his. After awhile Fred admitted he hated it now and felt used. Initially, it was from the heart that he offered, but now it was getting a bit long in the tooth. His mind was filled with anger as he waited those 2 hours in town everyday. What should he do?

Robert was your average middle age guy. He had worked for 20 years at the same job. He worked hard too. He played the corporate game well. However he was starting to feel the effects of this. He noted that his fuse was getting shorter and would generally snap at his wife for no reason at all. He also noted that his concentration was fading and he felt "stressed out" much of the time. Strange feelings used to consume his body. The most disconcerting for him, however, was the chest pain. He felt it much of the time. He was, he knew, in the danger zone for major heart troubles. He feared he was going to have a heart attack. The more he worried about it the greater the chest pain - proof enough for Robert.

After much procrastination, he went to the doctor, fearing the worst. The doctor gave him a full examination with all the appropriate tests. The doctor gave the verdict. There was nothing wrong with his heart. He was the perfect specimen of health. Robert quizzed the doctor about this chest pain and it's severity - after all, he wanted answers. The doctor's only reply was that he felt Robert was stressed and needed to relax a little - perhaps take a vacation.

This, of course, answered none of Roberts concerns. Over the ensuing weeks, his anxiety levels increased off the scale. His major fear - he was going to have a heart attack-he had all the symptoms. Repeatedly he went back to the doctor. Nothing wrong with your heart. Why the chest pain? The doctor told him straight out, you are not going to have a heart attack. Robert needed to understand why he was experiencing all these symptoms and didn't get the answer. He later said, after many years of experiencing an Anxiety Disorder, if only the doctors had answered that initial question, the major fear "What if I am going to have a heart attack" would not have taken root.


Harold was well on the way to recovery from Panic Disorder. He was confused, however, as to why he was feeling anger almost all of the time. He wanted to know how he could get rid of it. Surely something is wrong. Every time he felt anger, he would push it away, hold it down, hold his breath - anything but feel it. Every time he did this, the anxiety levels would rise and he had to work extra hard with his thinking and meditation. He felt that it was a barrier to his ultimate recovery.

He was right. Something was wrong, and it was his perception of anger - that it was a "bad" thing. It was explained to him that this anger was very appropriate. All the years of suffering, shame, fear, the decline of his standard of life, the marriage problems that had been caused by this Anxiety Disorder. Didn't he have a lot to be angry about? It was the final healing. The final acknowledgement of all of this. He no longer battled with his anger but acknowledged it as having a right to be there and to be acknowledged and worked with.

next: Are Hormones and Panic Attacks Related?
~ all articles on insights into anxiety
~ anxiety-panic library articles
~ all anxiety disorders articles

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2008, October 2). Self Issues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Last Updated: July 1, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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