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Irrational Fear Taking Over My Life…Please Help

Irrational Fear Taking Over My Life…Please Help2013-09-30T23:11:53+00:00

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  • #122143

    Post count: 2

    It’s 12:30 in the morning. I have to start getting ready for school in 5 hours, yet I can’t sleep, because I saw a youtube video about a haunted Sonic game today and now everytime I close my eyes I can’t stop thinking about it which always ends with me freaking out and running to turn the light back on. I KNOW the video was fake, and it could never happen in real life, but that’s not stopping me from freaking out. This happens everytime I see something slightly freaky, like the Gravity trailer (the one where the chick floats off into space) or even the stupid skeletons from The Haunted Mansion (a Disney movie!!!). And it’s not some stupid fear it literally becomes a panic attack…there have been moments where I’ve felt like I couldn’t breathe and I had to run outside in the middle of the night and get air.

    Rambling aside….is this part of my ADD or do I just have some other serious psychological issue? Does anyone else go through this, and if so how do you deal with it? I really need this to stop. I’m 21 years old, I want to be able to turn on the TV without wondering if I movie trailer is gonna keep me up all night.


    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    @Sarahlinb13, the short answer is:

    Remember the old joke, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” / “So, don’t do that.”?

    Listen to your body. If some things make you feel that bad, it helps to think of them as “emotional allergies”. At the first sign of the “allergen”, do something to limit your exposure to it, even if it means leaving the situation.


    The long answer is:

    It sounds like you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). According to Elaine Aron (who’s written some excellent books on the subject), there’s a much higher rate of HSPs in ADDers than in the rest of the population.

    It means that our senses are so finely-tuned that something most people wouldn’t even notice, can push us into a meltdown.

    An example: the tags in clothing. We have to cut them out, or else we’ll be so acutely aware of them on our skin that they’ll drive us crazy!

    Another example: movie theatres. The sound and lights and rapid-cutting in today’s movies are so overwhelming, that I just can’t handle them. And the intensely disturbing storylines & scenes that you describe as freaking you out, freak me out too! So, I watch a lot of old movies on TCM. I prefer their “steak” to the empty “sizzle” of today’s movies.

    I’m even sensitive to strong flavours and textures, so it’s no wonder I’ve always been a very picky eater. Unfortunately, my pickiness does NOT extend to cheesecake…or chocolate…or Haagen-Dazs.


    When you’re an HSP, you’re the canary in a coal mine. If something upsets us, it’s a warning that it’s going to upset other people too…if not at the time, then later on. We also have fantastic intuition, and we notice things that most people don’t. These traits are so uncanny, that we often seem to be psychic!

    The trouble is, we’ve spent most of our lives being told, “Stop being so sensitive!”, so we try to suppress this, and to ignore what our body is telling us—which only makes things worse for us.

    But there’s a real evolutionary reason for HSPs.

    Throughout human history, there have been two kinds of people:  warriors/kings and advisors. Warrior/kings run on aggression and “I want it, so I’ll go out and take it, even if it means going into battle”. Advisors run on pausing to carefully assess the potential scenarios and then choosing the one with the potential for greatest gain at least cost.

    There are far more warrior/king types than advisors, because warrior/kings tend to get slaughtered a lot easier than advisors do.

    In the past, the smart warrior/kings noticed this, and recognized the value of having good advisors to help keep them from being slaughtered. Advisors were so highly esteemed back then, that you couldn’t just *decide* to become one; you had to come from a family of advisors, inheriting the “advisor” talents and learning how to use them from the time you were a baby!

    Today, the world has changed a lot, but, even in the corporate world, you have warrior/kings and advisors.

    There aren’t as many SMART warrior/kings who recognize the value of having good advisors, but if you catch one of the others in the right moment (such as, when they’ve just realized that something you’d warned them about much earlier, which they’d dismissed as being “ridiculous”, has just happened), they’ll be more open to recognizing the value of listening to an HSP.

    Pretty cool, eh?


    Post count: 906

    Hi @sarahlinb 🙂

    If you are having panic attacks that are so severe it’s hard to breathe, you need to get medical attention for it, no matter what the cause is.

    I believe it may be related to the ADD in some way. Because we have difficulty turning our brains off and will think about things constantly.

    I get sort of stuck in a loop sometimes, where I will just think about the same thing over, and over, and over….

    And I’m afraid of zombies. Completely, irrationally terrified of zombies. I will actually hear them in the room at night. I can picture them vividly, know exactly what they look like and where they are. And sometimes it freaks me out so much that I have to get up and go sit in the living room with the lights on.

    The way I got over this was by deliberately thinking about it. I was sitting on the steps outside one night, trying to meditate, and I heard a noise, like something scratching. It was probably a tree branch or an animal, but in my mind it instantly became a zombie coming around the corner of the house.

    I almost freaked out and went back inside. But then I told myself I was being irrational, shook the image out of my head, and continued my meditation.

    Which is when another zombie appeared on the other side of the house. And then another on the roof right above me.

    And I started to try to block the images. But then I changed my mind and I just let them come. I listened to the sounds they made, watched the way they moved, saw the colour of their clothes, every detail about them. I stopped them from reaching me, just let them wander around and watch me while I studied them.

    And now I’m not afraid of zombies any more. Most of the time. 😉

    We all have our demons, both real and imagined. And sometimes you just have to face them and be brave. If you try this though, I recommend that you don’t do it alone, because of the panic attacks. And again, I strongly recommend that you see your doctor.


    I began typing this before Larynxa had posted her reply. So it is completely accidental that I am giving the opposite advice. If you feel avoiding things that you are sensitive to is better for you, then that is the way to go. (It doesn’t work for me. I have to face them head on. Otherwise those irrational fears never go away. And I am afraid of practically everything, not just zombies.)

    The HSP thing is interesting. And it explains a lot. When I was a child everyone said I was too sensitive. And I could not stand those stupid tags, or anything rough or scratchy against my skin. And my epithet could be “I told you so”.


    Post count: 845

    Irrational is a relative term.  While most would say your fear is irrational, its not irrational to you.  Everyone has irrational fears, so many so that we have names for them.  Acrophobia for instance.

    You have two good option from Larynxa and blackdog for dealing with it.  Run, or face it and conquer.  While avoiding the stimulus is a good idea, in your case, its hard to do today because we are bombarded with so much stuff at an instant’s notice without warning that avoidance while good in theory is impossible in practice.

    The bottom line, I think from both blackdog and Larynxa is that you need some sort of help with this, either from a doctor, a friend, or a book, just because of the impairing impact it is having.  I agree, but you needn’t feel bad about requiring such.  In this case, I think you need to desensitize yourself to the stimulus and conquer your fears.  In the mean time, turn off the TV and read a book.

    My suggestion is listen to the following:


    until you have it thouroughly stuck in you head, about 3000 times, then hit mental replay the next time something scary pops up.

    Let us know what works.




    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    Thanks for presenting an alternate approach, @Blackdog, and a summation, @Kc5jck! We make a great team!

    For sure, if the panic attacks are that severe, get medical help.

    As to which approach is the best after that, I’d say it depends on the fear/situation.

    My first approach is to try to rationally think my way through it, and try to get used to it in little steps. But, if it’s too much for me, then I’ll get out of it and avoid it. (“Choose your battles”, right?)


    Here’s how I faced up to an irrational fear, in little steps:

    When I was a kid, I had a real fear of bottled ink. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the potential for major mess & staining, especially in the hands of a klutz like me. Or maybe it’s because I saw it as a part of the past, and I’ve always gotten a vaguely creepy feeling around old things…as though I’m messing with something I shouldn’t be messing with.

    But I also had a fascination with old office technology, including fountain pens.

    My breakthrough came in Grade 7, when I bought my first fountain pen: a bright yellow No Nonsense one, that used cartridges of liquid ink. The pen was such a beautiful shade of yellow, that I couldn’t resist it. I also couldn’t resist the intense turquoise colour of Peacock Blue Skrip ink, and it only came bottled or in cartridges for Sheaffer fountain pens.

    I got very inky fingers as I learned to use my new pen, and I discovered that the mess-factor wasn’t that big a deal. Besides, my scribble-scratch sure looked pretty and unique!

    Many years later, I found some of my uncle’s old high-school textbooks, and was delighted to see that he’d used Peacock Blue ink for all of his notes—the only one of my relatives who ever did. I also found out that he’d loved going to see “Rocky Horror”, so that’s something else we had in common. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out these things, until after his death.

    Over the years, I’ve acquired several more fountain pens—including ones that can only be filled with bottled ink—and inks in a rainbow of colours. I even have some vintage fountain-pen inks, from the 1930s-1950s. As long as there’s no sediment in them, and they don’t look or smell weird (and are NOT Parker Super Chrome or 51), it’s probably safe to use them in a fountain pen. So, I do…carefully.

    It’s a thrill to think that I’m using the same pens, with the same inks that people used, many years ago. I still get that vaguely uneasy feeling of “messing with the past”, but now, I think of it as something that enhances the experience, and makes it more exciting than writing with a common ballpoint.


    Post count: 363


    (Did I get that right?)

    I have similar experiences. In general, strong reactions to the mood of any entertainment medium, and well…everything. Once I become overwhelmed or triggered, it can take hours to calm down.

    Having noticed this about myself…I try to avoid triggers that I know will send me over the edge.

    Part of the “panic” for me is believing my reactions are “wrong” – that I shouldn’t be sensitive or upset. That I should be able to control myself. That if I’m upset it means I’m a bad person. All my life people have accused me of being immature, a drama queen, self-absorbed, “too sensitive,” or an attention hog. These are old, tired messages that serve no useful purpose and tend to prolong the crisis.

    My first suggestion would be to not give yourself a hard time for feeling upset (if you tend to do that – I don’t know)  because in my experience those thoughts compound the problem. It is what it is.

    Secondly, stock up on positive triggers you can use as an antidote to the negative triggers – whatever those might be for you – a stack of romantic comedies, happy pop music, going outside, recordings of rain sounds, dancing, aromatherapy bath salts, meditation, video games – something with an emotional or physical component that will bring on an internal shift. If I have the presence of mind, I might try to do something creative or watch a documentary. But whatever it is, the antidote usually has to be pretty strong and works best if it  incorporates multiple senses. That’s how to get outside of myself and shut down that loop. Not always easy to do at 2:00 in the morning.

    What I’ve learned is that some of that panic can on a life of its own – although it  seems meaningful, it really isn’t. It’s just my brain running wild. I don’t have to take the contents of my mind all that seriously. It will pass. It is kind of illusory, really – because when I feel better, most of what I was flipped out about will shrink down to manageable size.

    Rather than trying to attack the problem head on – instead of wrestling with it or trying to figure it out, you might experiment with ways that give you a mental “change of venue.”

    I think of it like being in a physical place I don’t want to be. Get up and go somewhere else. Sorry I’m rambling, but what I’m trying to get at here is that maybe there’s nothing to figure out. The trigger happens, it launches a mental state, that noise won’t shut off, you feel stuck. Therapists will try to get you to figure it out, but in my experience, examining the problem makes it worse, because the problem is not the contents of what you’re thinking or feeling,  the real problem is being stuck in a negative feedback loop. Shut that puppy down as quickly and thoroughly as you can. It may take some experimentation, but I’ve learned to do it. (The other night I was losing it, so I watched an inexcusably trashy, sentimental film with an obnoxiously happy ending – and life went on). It helps to assemble the resources ahead of time.


    Post count: 55

    I am much the same way. I try to avoid creepy movies, but even the commercials are enough to ruin my nights. I have become almost compulsive of saying my partners name at night, he replies with a ‘what’, and I tell him ‘I’m just checking” and we both go back to sleep. He is great and it doesn’t bother him, but it has gotten ridiculous!

    I know its just in my head, as when I happen to not be thinking about it I’m fine. But the second that thought sneaks into my head it’s pretty much game over. Leaving hall lights on and never being alone has helped, but its so impractical! On one hand I know I’m feeding into it, but on the other hand I am probably going to die.

    I had tried to talk to a professional about the night/dark/alone fears. After an hour she had told me its probably anxiety. My thought was ‘well OBVIOUSLY!’ and had left feeling that she was completely useless. I HATE going to appointments like these to leave being told what you already know.

    I really find the HSP concept interesting. I HATE loud, highly populated situations with combinations of annoying lights and colours. I lay awake at night when the pilly  sheets are on the bed or if there is a wrinkle under me. And I MUST know how things feel. If I see a concrete wall; is it smooth or rough concrete? Is the corner of that historic building really smoothly rounded or is it a sharp right angle? Does that guys almost shaved head feel prickly or soft? Its so hard to keep my hands to myself!



    Post count: 906

    Some great advice from @sdwa too. I will often read a book when something is bothering  me and just get completely immersed in it until the upset fades away. I like fantasy books so it’s really good for distraction because they take me to an entirely different world. Games are good too, or even just chatting for a bit, on the phone or online.

    One time when I was about 16 years old I was trying to write a story for English class and I had writer’s block. I decided to take a break and I went into my brother’s room to find a book to read. I chose one of his Stephen King books because I thought it would be inspirational, to help with the writer’s block.

    I made it to the end of the first chapter. Then I calmly got up off of my bed, put the book back where I got it, and went to find my mommy. I didn’t want to admit that I was afraid because I was 16 and shouldn’t be afraid of monsters anymore. But I made a cup of hot chocolate and sat in the kitchen talking to mom for as long as I could, until she went to bed. I don’t remember the conversation at all. But I was able to go back to my room afterwards and go to bed. I only had a couple of little nightmares over the next week. And I have not touched a horror book since.



    Post count: 68

    @sarahlinb13 What you’re describing sounds like “intrusive thoughts” to me. It can be a trait of OCD. However, I have been reading Charles Parker’s The New ADHD Medications Rules one of the chapters describes how a certain subtype of ADD (thinking ADD) gets mistaken for OCD a lot.

    That stuck out to me because when I was talking to my doc about ADD he told me I should look up OCD. It didn’t really feel right, although certain things (repetitive over-thinking) did sorta hit.

    One thing to caution against in that type of case is that SSRI medications can exacerbate the problem if the underlying issue is really ADHD related. There is high comorbidity with OCD/ADHD/anxiety but make sure to tell your doc about it and watch yourself if you start a treatment plan.

    I have to avoid certain situations that cause my anxiety to be triggered. I cannot watch any “suspense” type movies. I LOATHE that feeling, it can take a week for me to shake off the resulting thought/anxiety loop. Why the heck would anyone watch that for fun? There are certain categories of news events that I simply cannot read about or they have the same affect.

    @sar316 I have to touch things to feel their texture all the time. I remember getting in trouble for it a lot growing up when I’d go shopping with my mom.



    Post count: 845

    Over the years, before I or my son was diagnosed, I have developed behaviors to compensate for my ADHD.  Many of these could be seen as OCD such as:

    Checking all my pockets before walking out the door.  (Money, credit cards, driver’s license, keys, knife, cellphone – – OK, good to go.)

    Standing patiently staring at anyone with my cell phone, credit card, knife, keys etc. until I get it back, whatever it may be.

    Setting a timer on my phone for anything that I need to remember, even if it’s for only a few minutes.

    Keeping a list of bills to be paid throughout the month and checking them off as paid.

    Having a list of my daily routine and consulting it to make sure everything gets done.

    I don’t care what people may think, it works for me.


    Post count: 5

    I can relate to this – I have ADHD and OCD – and it is not uncommon to have both together. I would hear a song or think something or see something and it would just play over and over and over in my head until I got up and did something else OR fell off to sleep. OR I would second guess everything that I did until I had an anxiety attack because the thoughts would not stop. Finally I talked to my doctor and medication helps – also getting the book “You mean I’m not lazy, stupid or crazy?!” by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo is an entertaining and informative read. Also medication is a must. The medication (after a month or so) really makes a difference – talk to your doctor. They recommend meditation – which I am just starting. Give it a try!


    Post count: 906

    @wanderquest – That is interesting. When I get asked the questions about OCD I always hesitate before answering. I know I don’t have OCD, I couldn’t live in such an upside down mess all the time if I did. And I don’t have regular compulsions that I absolutely must follow. But, I do have intrusive thoughts for sure. I will obsess about one thing for days on end.

    I have tried many times to keep a journal but something will be on my mind and I will just fill page after page after page with that one thing, going over it and over it. I have sat up all night writing until I’m exhausted.

    And every now and then I will develop an odd little compulsion. Like one time I was turning the washing machine on and when I pulled the knob out my finger caught on it and made it spin. Every time I did a load of laundry after that for several months I would have to make that knob spin.

    @kc5jck – I have to check and double check everyting before I leave the house too. Especially if I am going out of town for the day and won’t be able to turn back to grab whatever I forgot.

    What I really hate is when people keep interupting me while I’m trying to do my checking. I’ll be on my way to another room to grab something that I just remembered and someone will say something, I stop to answer them, turn to leave again and…. I was going downstairs. But why was I going downstiars? What was it I needed to get? Then I pretty much have to start over from the beginning.

    And @ADHDMOOSIE, I have had Hey Ya by Outkast playing in my head since yesterday morning when I heard it on the radio.

    I pretty much always have something playing. I used to wonder about some of the bizarre songs that would come out of nowhere and get stuck in my head for no reason. Then I realized that I was hearing them when my alarm goes off in the morning before I’m actually awake. I still get a few that make absolutely no sense from time to time though.


    Post count: 2

    Thank you, all your answers have been very helpful

    I don’t know if I have OCD since I feel like my room wouldn’t be such a disaster area if I was, but I can relate to the song never. leaving. my head. I’ve never been able to keep lists or double-check, I’ll try but I’ll usually lose the list lol. I am hyper-anal rententive about my computer though, I’ve been known to spend entire days changing the names of my video files so they appear in the right numerical order…
    Okay, possible OCD aside, I am going to see a doctor though I have my reservations, especially about taking medication. I had a really bad experience with Ritalin that I’m almost positive started the panic attacks, and I’m not too anxious for something like that to happen again. Also, I like my personality and all my quirks, would medication take that away from me?


    Post count: 845

    No one can predict exactly how a specific medicine at some specific dosage will affect you.

    If a medicine makes you tired, jumpy,amped up, suicidal, or changes your personality then you are “different.”

    If you remember where your keys are, what day of the week it is, or the reason you entered the room then you are “better.”

    What you want is something to make you “better” but not “different.”  This is what you need to be looking for and I think a fair number of people find it.


    Post count: 906

    I had the same concerns about the medication and asked a friend about it a few months ago. She told me that she feels like she is more able to be herself with the medication.

    As a general rule, medication should make you function better without taking away any of those little quirks that you like. But it takes time to find the right one for you and the right dosage. If you reacted badly to Ritalin in the past then you may need to avoid anything in the methylphenidate family. But there are other options.

    Discus all your concerns with your doctor and read up on the different options you have so that you can make an informed choice.

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