I wanted to touch on what happens when a person becomes so crippled by fear that they are unable to function in the ways they once were. This can look several different ways, such as panic attacks, fears of particular situations or objects (we call these phobias), fears that lead to compulsions and obsessive thoughts, general anxiety that keeps a person from being able to fulfill regular responsibilities, and anxiety as a result of trauma that has happened.
When a person becomes debilitated by fear, life comes to a screeching hault. It’s difficult even to look up and see other people and God, let alone just complete simple tasks that used to come easily. I want to emphasize that, although these fears may find their root in sin committed against us or by us, they work themselves out in such a way that keeps us from living our lives. Practically, we need to find tools to help us get through the day. So if this is you, I want to speak specifically to your struggle.
Go to the doctor. If you go to a general practitioner (not a psychiatrist), you’ll need to equip yourself to share things he or she may not ask. So before you visit your doctor, gauge your level of anxiety on a daily basis (for at least a month if you can). The best thing to do is write your anxiety level as a number on the calendar each day. The scale can be 1-10 (1 is no anxiety, and 10 is the highest anxiety you’ve ever felt). The criteria for diagnosis of anxiety disorder is that you be experiencing anxiety or worry for at least six months, but it’s helpful to have specific information for your doctor rather than just saying, “Yep, I’ve been anxious for more than 6 months.”
Important Note: If you’re experiencing panic attacks and/or intense fears that are immediately debilitating, do not wait a month to visit your doctor.
When you visit the doctor, go prepared to share the following information:
- Give him/her your anxiety calendar and explain it.
- Share any traumatic or stressful events that have happened in your life over the past year.
- Talk about the areas of your life that are hindered or debilitated by this anxiety.
Keep in mind: doctors function in medicine. I know, duh. But remember that your doctor will almost certainly hand you a prescription for an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. Medication may be part of what you need in order to work toward healing and hope. However, it’s definitely not the only thing you need, and it may not be what you need at all.
After going to the doctor, arrange to speak with a trusted and mature Christian friend. Talk with him or her about what’s happening and ask for prayer in making good decisions regarding your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Finally, get in touch with a biblical counselor or program at your church that allows you to work through these difficult issues over a period of time. You are not designed to figure this out and get better on your own. You need the Body of Christ to walk alongside you. If you want to figure it out on your own, you’re probably functioning in shame. Recognize your need and move toward others and God, knowing that what you’re experiencing is not crazy or even rare. When life becomes overwhelming (which it does for everyone), it’s time to reach out with greater intentionality than ever before.
Do you have specific questions about fear and anxiety? Please comment on this post. If you want it to remain private, just let me know and I won’t post your comment publicly.