Stuck in the what if trap

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Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 358
   Posted 8/25/2010 12:23 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey. I'm still working on my anxiety and panic attacks searching for the right meds and dosages. I'm in counseling though recently had to switch therapists and now have to "start over". The first therapist is too far away and I've been developing some agoraphobic tendencies lately. Anyway, although I'm working on my thought processes, trying to focus on positives, give myself leeway when I make a mistake, etc. I'm still struggling with those "what if" thoughts.

Dealing with the anxiety and panic is enough. But I found a small "bump" under my skin recently. At first I thought it was a bug bite because for about two weeks for whatever reason I kept finding little spiders in my bedroom including two on the bed itself. They've gone away, but during that time I kept waking up with bug bites on my legs. But this hard, little bump hasn't gone away. I need to find a new physician in the meantime because like my therapist, my doctor is too far away (I've moved a lot).

In the meantime I'm of course thinking of worst case scenarios. What if it's cancer? What if I don't just think I'm dying like with panic attacks, but really am? What if they have to do surgery? What if they use local anesthesia and I have a panic attack when they make an incision? What if they use general anesthesia and it messes with my medication? What if they radiate and then I can't have kids one day (given where the bump is)?

I know I'm not doing myself any favors thinking this way, but it's hard to stop. Until I can get an appointment and at least know what I'm dealing with I'll probably only make my anxiety worse and possibly bring on some more panic attacks. I'd appreciate any thoughts or support anyone cares to offer. Thank you in advance!

Scaredy Cat
Forum Moderator

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 26991
   Posted 8/25/2010 12:54 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi Fugs, you and I both seem to be masters of catastrophic thinking. Many people w/ A/P brains will automatically jump to the worst case senario. Just last month I had a growth on my leg, and of course I knew my life was being cut short by melanoma. Turns out it was a benign, if gross, mole thing that my doctor froze off for cosmetic reasons;) You probably just have an ingrown hair, mole wart, or any other or the hundreds of non life threatening skin abnormalities. Go get it checked out, and you will be relieved of your worry. If you can't find a new doctor soon enough, maybe try a clinic in the mean time? Also, a simple but effective exercise to try is this: Make two columns on a piece of paper. List the possible outcome of your fear into categories of likely and unlikely. You're sure to find the unlikely category kicks butt. When you are feeling anxious look at your list.
Good Luck!
Scaredy Cat
"Courage is not the abscence of fear, it is feeling afraid and doing it anyway!"

Elite Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 24909
   Posted 8/25/2010 1:22 PM (GMT -7)   
Great input n advice Scaredy Cat
i find this making a list helps me as well as CBT
Keep us posted n let us know how you make out
Co MODERATOR for Crohns...A./ P...Alzheimers


Forum Moderator

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 8/25/2010 3:16 PM (GMT -7)   
Hey there,
Sure enough you have been bitten buy the "What-if" bug.   Most of us have engaged in some form of “What-if” thinking at one time or another.  I find this is the toughest sx of anxiety I face.  I have worked with my therapist on this issue over and over and I can do really well for a long time then something will set off the "stinkin thinkin" again. 
When you’re worried, your mind is filled with unfavorable situations that might occur in the future. Bring your focus back to the present. Ask yourself What is happening right now? Realise that right now you’re safe. The things you’re worrying about aren’t occurring at this very moment—if they were, you wouldn’t be asking What if?, you’d already know the answer!
Challenge your assumptions. Most worries begin as an assumption that something you don’t want to happen might happen or that it already has. Get in the habit of challenging your assumptions before they snowball into a massive amount of worry.

Never lose hope in dealing with your fears . Notice your feelings, figure out what's real, ask 'so what?', make it bigger than life, walk through it, and celebrate who you are. Stay in the moment !

Gentle Hugs.

Moderator: Anxiety/Panic, Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn and Heart/Cardiovascular Disease.

"If you can't change the world, change your world"

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2010
Total Posts : 2472
   Posted 8/26/2010 10:18 AM (GMT -7)   
Fugs- I'll tell you what cured me of the what ifs but it causes it's own problems and new issues so proceed with caution.

I am so busy because I work full time at a job that is 8 to 5:30 and then I take care of my husband's clerical work for his business when I get home. I have 3 children & although now grown- still keep me busy with nonsense.

I have no time to wonder what if....

I hate the what if's & any kind of worrying thoughts- this has been my coping mechanism

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 358
   Posted 8/27/2010 11:35 AM (GMT -7)   
Thank you each for your support and ideas. I do appreciate it. Kitt's right about worries being assumptions of things that "could" be that we treat as though already are so, and as Scaredy Cat put it, we automatically jump to the worst case scenario. Intellectually I know that I'm probably fine and that it's something minor, but the emotional side of me then kicks in and says, "yeah but, what if it's not?" and things quickly escalate from there. So I guess it's important to interrupt that process as early as possible.

The earliest appointment I could get is for Thursday of next week. I got a referral from my psychiatrist so even though it means waiting longer (this office only see new patients at certain days/times), I think it's better than just picking someone randomly. I believe that the importance of feeling comfortable with your doctor cannot be understated. I'll give you an update next week after the appointment, and in the meantime try to use this as an opportunity to use some new skills to work through the anxiety instead of falling into the old traps of catastrophic worrying.

Thanks again for the ideas.

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2009
Total Posts : 86
   Posted 8/30/2010 9:20 AM (GMT -7)   
I am queen of "what if" thinking so I can totally relate. Lots of great advice given here!! Let us know how the doctor appt. goes.  I just try to catch my what if thinking before it spirals down to full blown panic & worry by just rationalizing the likeliness or unlikeliness that "it" would happen.  

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 358
   Posted 9/6/2010 2:23 PM (GMT -7)   
Well, I made it to the doctor and wanted to give everyone an update. In the days leading up to my appointment I tried not to think about what could be, knowing and reminding myself that worrying won't accomplish anything (at least nothing positive). Even if I got bad news, I would at least have an answer and know what I'm dealing with.

I thought I'd be especially anxious just before the appointment and feared having a panic attack in the waiting room. But I stayed focused, used my calming exercises, and went without having an attack and only mild anxiety before the appointment. That alone was an achievement. One thing oddly enough that seemed to help was thinking worst-case scenario. If it is cancer.... they should be able to just cut it out and I'll live on.

As far as the appointment itself, the doctor was really nice (reassuring, informative, and patient). I was told that the bump is directly under and surrounding a hair follicle, so it's most likely an ingrown hair, a clogged pore, or something similar in nature that I have nothing to worry about. It may even be between the various layers of skin as opposed to "under" the skin as I assumed. I was told that as long as it doesn't start to hurt or grow in size that I have nothing to worry about. It could even be there for a couple of years and still not be a problem, or it might just go away with time. And of course now that I know, I have a little more peace of mind and one less thing to be concerned about. I'll of course keep an eye on it, but fortunately this was good news!

Scaredy Cat
Forum Moderator

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 26991
   Posted 9/6/2010 4:22 PM (GMT -7)   
Yeah Fugs!!! Congrats on braving the Dr's:) I'm so glad that it was nothing serious (and yes, just for the record...I called it-and ingrown hair-see previous post LOL!) and now you can relax. Thanks for the update:) Take care and continue to feel well.
Scaredy Cat
"Courage is not the abscence of fear, it is feeling afraid and doing it anyway!"
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