Helpless, Hopeless? It Doesn't Have to Always Be That Way

May 26, 2011 Kate White

I come up against this wall plenty, in treating anxiety: Combating the sense of hopelessness, of powerlessness, that only too often accompanies the worst symptoms of anxiety disorders.

  • How do I not get stuck when simply feeling things seems way above my pay grade?

"If you know neither yourself nor your enemy,
you will always endanger yourself."

-The Art of War

I know that sometimes I prefer coping via "la-la-la I am not going to even feel you, you stupid feelings". That. Denial. Dissociation. Worry. Avoidance. All these things. About as grown-up as a 4 year old. So then I have to work out some way to be okay with feeling it: anxiety.
To be able to get past the point of knee-jerk reactions of tuning out, turning off, numbing everything in sight until there's apparently nothing left to feel anything about.


It's an easy habit to fall into, no matter how much I know about the long-term not so great effect/affects of doing it.
So when everything feels like it's too much, when I feel lost, and alone, and truly, deeply scared, I need most to tell myself all that's okay. I can get there. It has to be okay. But what next? That's what I'm afraid of.

The next step in treating anxiety is always the most important

Let me say that again, because I'm reminding myself: The next step in treating anxiety is always the most important.

Having a next step, of any kind, I don't care how simple, is often sufficient to start to address those intense feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness; It's just hard to feel those things as keenly if you can feel a twitch in your limbs to do something, or the vague sensation of something else being out there for yourself, maybe, potentially, if you can find another option. Which is a step, some direction.

It becomes about finding something that treats anxiety because it does something that changes that feeling of things/self/emotion/fear being too much. Of my Self being too much, of my uncertainty of existence, of feeling like I'm falling all the time, and going nowhere still.

For me, the first reaction I have is often to withdraw. To be less, in whatever way I can, to try to make the "too much" go away. However that has to happen. It feels like it has to happen.

If I'm invisible enough, if I go far enough away, if I can disappear completely, then everything'll be OK again, won't it? "'Too much" won't exist. And I won't have to work so hard at feeling something better than this, something else, at being alive. Things will just be better, and then... oh, really? Interesting.

It's at about then I stop and think, yeah, it really does usually go like that, in my head. Hrm. Wrong way, go back, much?

Of course that, how it usually goes, hasn't solved my anxiety disorder yet. And it's highly unlikely it ever could -- when I stop and glare at these thoughts on the page. I should* probably work on those...

*'Should' is almost always dangerous territory when dealing with anxiety.

Sometime the solutions to anxiety call for creativity --ask me to draw on the resources I'm not sure of, not sure I entirely trust but am willing to try. Learning how to do more than escape what I'm feeling because that's what feeds the helpless, and hopeless, and stuck.

Solutions to anxiety require changes in perspective

Not just little changes but 180 degree WTFs.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, May 26). Helpless, Hopeless? It Doesn't Have to Always Be That Way, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Kate White

Lu Brown
May, 27 2011 at 7:06 am

My social anxiety (phobia) is so bad that I had to quit my wonderful job, but joyously was able to get disability. I am totally brain dead by being anxious over having to have contact with people. I simply cannot think of what to anyone. My doctor told me to just "pretend to be mentally well and one day I will be." What? I am so sick and tired of FEAR OF PEOPLE AND PERFORMANCES for my doctor's sake.

Kate White
May, 27 2011 at 10:27 am

Hi Lu,
Geez, sometimes people really don't make it easier, do they? Doctor or not, you can't 'pretend' your way out of an anxiety disorder. *head desk*
(That being said, your doctor may have been very awkwardly referring to, Adler's (i think) theory about acting 'as if' about a mood or state until it becomes a reality. But this is not something you can/should do out of nowhere.)
It has its place, for some people, with some things, as part of an overall treatment plan. Certainly is not a helpful first step when getting to the doctor and talking to them was probably a pretty big thing in the first place! I really am sorry to hear you didn't get a more helpful response.
What I am wondering about is if you think you could write about your experiences a little -a journal, maybe? Nothing that it overwhelms you but perhaps enough to address a little of the 'sick and tired'. Work from there. Perhaps you already are.
For some people with social phobia, thinking about talking to anyone is enough to trigger the anxiety. So write stuff for yourself, if that's the case.
In situations where you know you're going to be faced with interaction, sometimes having a script helps. I don't know if you've tried anything like that? But confronting the situations that scare you on paper can be a good and helpful tool for people dealing with this sort of stuff. It depends how intense things get, though, obviously.
It's about having something, however small and no it's not a solution but it can a start for some people, to fall back on when the discomfort levels are just too, too much to deal with and you end up in the brain dead space. I get that. I really do.

Dr Musli Ferati
June, 4 2011 at 7:49 pm

In order to overcome the feeling of anguish, it could practice many technique of quietude, but the habit to do anything has miraculous effect in restraining of this undesirable spirit state to an endurable degree. All this in concordance with the statement that it couldn't change the emotional state without moderate the cognitive outline on things, events, people, world... The best way to soften irritated feeling is to return the hope for an happy future. It is impossible to accomplish without undertaking any activity, that in natural way would embalm our affecting coercive with promising motives. As You recommend Ms. White, nobody couldn't to fall into pressing of helpless and hopeless as well, that burden respective anxiety. Always, we ought to look forward, even anything badly has hurt our self-esteem. By me, every life bitterness experiences should serve as lesson, which one in the future must to avoid. But the same intention would be efficiency, if we make plan to doing anything and then the same we instantly realize. Otherwise, we would be reduced in a low mood state, where helpless and hopeless will close any perspective to healing anxiety.

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