Buddhism and Anxiety

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby Maitri » Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:22 pm

Hi,

Great question and discussion. I also have suffered from panic attacks and anxiety disorder and OCD. In truth sometimes there are no triggers which are obvious and can send someone into a full fledged spell in a few seconds. Other times there are precise triggers which can cause it, such as flying, which was mentioned above. One time my beloved childhood dog triggered one in me when I turned and looked at him. Who knows why? :shrug:

I use a combination of meditation, talk therapy, and medications to work with my anxiety. I know there are some who frown on taking meditation, but for me it's been a tremendous relief to have help. I work with my doctors and therapist very closely, too. My goal is not need them any more. When I had my last panic attack which sent me to the emergency room a few years ago, I was so relieved to get Xanax which I never had before. It helped my mind to stop, my emotions to settle and allowed me to rest and sleep, which I had not been able to do.

Before medications were helping me, I sometimes would sit at my work desk totally paralyzed thinking someone was going to break into my house and hurt my pets. Why? I have no idea. It doesn't make sense because it's an irrational fear. None of my co-workers noticed, but I was having a very hard time concentrating everyday because of the a.) intrusive thoughts and b.) the panic that it brought up.

It seems that some people I've met think that panic attacks are something that can be controlled at the onset of one. Some people maybe be able to, but often it catches you totally off guard and is very disabling. I find that using meditation to work with the mind and establish mindfulness and calm is helpful during day-to-day life. Also, metta practice is great too- usually panic is related to something feeling wrong or bad, metta practice works to counteract this tendency of the panicked mind into sliding down that slope.

This is a helpful website for me when I feel the need to learn more or read other people's stories. Many people are more severe than I am, some less. I'm grateful for my family's support. It can make a huge difference.

http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/ocd-center/ocd-symptoms-causes-treatments/menu-id-60/
May all beings be well, happy, calm, and at ease.
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby asherbro » Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:57 pm

Great discussion. Nibbida, had you come across any books or other references that were useful to you in your exploration and healing? Your instructions are extremely helpful and lucid, but I thought it might be nice to find something that elaborates on some of the details of how to practice with this. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche also talks about taking panic as the object of his meditation to work through panic disorder, but I find it hard to get past simply being aware of the sensations, and moving to a point of letting them actually change and dissipate...
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Aug 20, 2010 7:03 pm

asherbro wrote:Great discussion. Nibbida, had you come across any books or other references that were useful to you in your exploration and healing? Your instructions are extremely helpful and lucid, but I thought it might be nice to find something that elaborates on some of the details of how to practice with this. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche also talks about taking panic as the object of his meditation to work through panic disorder, but I find it hard to get past simply being aware of the sensations, and moving to a point of letting them actually change and dissipate...


Be patient. The puropose is not to get rid of the unpleasent sensations but to learn how not to suffer with them. In the case of anxiety, the sensations may disapear after that and it may take a while.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby octathlon » Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:57 pm

Interesting that this thread got bumped up from the past, since earlier today I was planning to post a question on this topic when I got the chance to get online. There is some great advice here!
:twothumbsup: :thanks:
(And feel free to expand on it even more) :smile:
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby curiousgeorge » Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:05 am

This does not come from Buddhism, but it is something I got in the mail recently that I think sums up things nicely: The fellow in question, Dalton Ghetti, makes intricate carvings from the graphite in a pencil.


When Dalton Ghetti first started he would become frustrated when a piece would break before being finished after he had spent months working on it. He said: "It would drive me mad when I would be just a bit too heavy handed and the pencil's tip would break. I would get very nervous sometimes, particularly when the piece was almost finished, and then I would make a mistake. I decided to change the way I thought about the work - when I started a new piece my attitude would be 'well this will break eventually but let's see how far I get. It helped me break fewer pencils, and although I still do break them, it's not as often"


Much of Buddhism has to do with changing your viewpoint. Emotions are what thinking feels like. Thinking is the result of experience and expectations. For example, anger is felt when something is deemed unfair. You cannot change the world to conform to your ideas of fairness. However, you can change your ideas of fairness.
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:33 pm

With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:52 am

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:The issue with anxiety - what makes anxiety rather than fear is that its causes are not easily, if at all, apparent. What is more straightforward to paying attention, without comment, to what it is that is being felt in the very moment.

I've heard it suggested that all kinds of anxiety, including this kind of objectless anxiety, for which "its causes are not easily, if at all, apparent" are rooted in latent self-views. This makes sense to me. Rather than abandon attempts at finding the cause however and deferring to vedanapassana in order to improve the conative response to anxiety, I would be more inclined towards the utilisation of other techniques offered by the Satipatthana Sutta such as...

MN 10 wrote:"Furthermore, the monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the sixfold internal & external sense media. And how does he remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the sixfold internal & external sense media? There is the case where he discerns the eye, he discerns forms, he discerns the fetter that arises dependent on both. He discerns how there is the arising of an unarisen fetter. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of a fetter once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of a fetter that has been abandoned. (The same formula is repeated for the remaining sense media: ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect.)

"In this way he remains focused internally on the mental qualities in & of themselves, or focused externally... unsustained by anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the sixfold internal & external sense media.

In other words, discern the mind, discern the mind's forms, and discern the fetter that arises dependent on them both.

And in response to the physical manifestations of anxiety, discern the body, discern the tactile sensations, and discern the fetter that arises dependent on them both.

Vedanapassana, as defined in the Satipatthana Sutta, does not extend to discernment of the arisen fetter, but to fully understand anxiety, I believe such discernment to be an important element as it can help to deconstruct the latent self-views that underlie the experience of anxiety. A conative response involving equanimity might alleviate grosser forms of anxiety, but will not in itself raise awareness of the underlying tendencies which underlie the anxiety. Unless the anxiety is crippling and one cannot cope without relief, I'd recommend leveraging the experience of anxiety as a vehicle for insight - discerning the nature of the arising of dukkha, which respect to phassa (i.e. contact between sensory experience and the notion of 'self').

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby chownah » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:55 am

A great post by Retrofuturist to which I would like to add that when I have feelings of anxiety my main method to deal with them is to recognize that they are just feelings that have arisen and there is no basis for thinking that I created them and no basis for thinking that there is some situation which has created them and that they are just feelings that have arisen and nothing more and that like all feelings they will pass and there will be no lingering crisis.
Depression often arise in me at night when trying to sleep. Years ago before I realized how these feelings were formed I used to accept them as valid statements on how may life was progressing. Accepting these feelings as valid indicators gave me a distorted view of what my real life conditions were and my attempts to change my life to account for those feelings were inappropriate and naturally did not bring relief....on the contrary they tended to be just disruptive and not beneficial. Somehow (don't know how it happened) it dawned on me that these feelings were just caused by errant brain patterns and were indicitave of neurochemical imbalances and not indicative of my life at all....I started viewing them as just feelings that were randomly happening and I started to tell myself that at night when they would arise.........I would wake up very depressed with visions of life run amok, then I would see that this was part of my recurring night time pattern, then I would tell myself that it is just part of "the pattern" and not to worry and that eveything will be fine in the morning and the best thing to do now is to just forget it and relax and try to get some sleep. I can not over stress how this realization revolutionized my life.....the nightly depressive bouts did not immediately go away and in fact I still get them but not every night like it used to be...what made the big difference is that I no longer acted on these feelings but just put them aside....this allowed me to make better life decision which has not only liberated me to an extent emotionally but also lead to taking better care of my physical body which I'm sure has helped my mental processes as well.....
The bottom line is that just becoming fully aware of the fact that anxiety is just a feeling that arises selflessly and will cease without the imagined consequences was a truly liberating factor for me in my life and so I'm offering it as a strategy that others might try.
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby robertk » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:06 am

The more one understands anatta the less anxiety can arise. Its just the way life works, no techniques needed.
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby amtross » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:08 pm

I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. I don't always see the cause but when I do it always involves projecting myself into the past or the future. I've noticed that I tend to be pretty brutal to these poor selfs that I project, so it’s no wonder so much suffering arises. The more I see this projection happening, the more I understand just how fast and subtle it can be...no wonder I don't always see it arise.

While I've found that being mindful of negative states/feelings like anxiety can certainly help reduce the suffering, it can be tricky because I've found observing phenomena with the desire for it to be different than it is just adds another layer of craving/aversion to the whole mess.

My teacher has a saying, "more grist for the mill" and that helps me find the right attitude. I try to take interest in what's going on for the sake of understanding it. I look at these states as teachers who have come with much dhamma for me to see if I will only open my eyes with courage and honesty. Just this morning, as much anxiety was arising, I took a keen interest in what was going on. I perceived a story without words playing out: dark, decaying, hopeless, lonely, scary. I realized that even though I wasn’t verbally thinking these thoughts, the story was right there as though it were reality. So I asked, what is it that I'm actually physically feeling? It was not much more than strong energy and tension. For some reason, that was like turning the lights on in the fun house and all the spooks that were scaring me before were just regular joes chatting and having a smoke break with their silly costumes on. The rest was me taking it personally. It was me identifying with these simple feelings, creating a reality within them and projecting myself into that reality.


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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:50 pm

Greetings,

As something of a postscript to my last post, here's something I just read that reminded me of this topic...

Anxious people try to avoid the discomforts that come from fear and anxiety, but mindfulness is a method that gradually focuses the attention of the anxious patient towards the fear and exploring it in greater detail with a kind and gentle acceptance. It is not a process of desensitization, but a process effective a transformation of the object of anxiety into an object of contemplation (dhammanupassana). The process of being aware, moment to moment "dismantles the fear by distinguishing the raw facts of experience from the frightening conclusions we draw shortly thereafter"

That's from Padmasiri de Silva's essay "Contemplative Dimensions of Therapy & Education" and the quotation embedded therein is sourced from Christopher Germer.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:20 am

amtross wrote:While I've found that being mindful of negative states/feelings like anxiety can certainly help reduce the suffering, it can be tricky because I've found observing phenomena with the desire for it to be different than it is just adds another layer of craving/aversion to the whole mess.


Yes, I find it tricky too sometimes. Also I've found that being more mindful of ( senstive to? ) these negative states can be quite uncomfortable at times.

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Re: Buddhism and Anxiety

Postby santrix » Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:23 pm

While I've found that being mindful of negative states/feelings like anxiety can certainly help reduce the suffering, it can be tricky because I've found observing phenomena with the desire for it to be different than it is just adds another layer of craving/aversion to the whole mess.


I think this is a tricky issue to tackle, especially when anxiety and/or depression seem to be raping your mind. Letting go of the desire to change in order to facilitate change requires a great deal of acceptance and compassion for oneself. I still believe Buddhism offers the best toolset for tackling and transforming anxiety. It's no good running away or diverting ourselves from it, and it's no good trying to work it out intellectually. I think unconscious insight, real behavioural change, can only be achieved through meditatively looking into and through the causes of anxiety. I did spend a few months writing a free e-book on anxiety and Buddhism, and I'd be happy to share the link if I am allowed.

Winter berries for you

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