Anxiety: Friend or Foe?

In my experience, everyone has, at one point or another, been anxious. It could have been because you forgot to close the garage door, or because some creepy dude sitting two tables away from you at a Denny’s is staring at you. Or, in some extreme cases, it could simply be because you stepped out of your front door and the prospect of riding the train to school is terrifying.

Unfortunately, I can accurately be described as an “extreme case.” Anxiety has always played a prominent yet unwelcome role in my day-to-day life, resulting in discomfort of the highest degree. There are days when I detest the very idea of facing the day, when I cringe at the thought of holding a casual conversation with another human being. Because of my added difficulties, I immediately sympathize with anyone who suffers from anxiety of any severity.

So, how do I fix it? Do I even try to fix it? Or do I settle with this everyday fear that could potentially dilute my happiness and keep me from truly living? No, I do not settle with living in fear, nor do I allow friends, clients, or family members to resign themselves to such a terrible fate.

Anxiety is meant to protect, but more often than not, it ends up hindering and hurting rather than doing what it intends to do. Usually, it tosses aside all rationality and replaces it with wildly unlikely scenarios that scare away any desire to take risks or enjoy anything. Many people who experience crippling anxiety express interest in having and doing more, but their tendencies to listen to those tiny, evil voices in their heads overpower that yearning.

Take my fear of flying, for example. For years, I refused to travel on airplanes, completely unaware of the experiences and places I was missing out on. If a potential vacation spot was too far away or too remote, my family would have to find an alternative to accommodate me. It took years for me  to face my fear of flying and finally grant myself the quality of life I craved.

Every time I step onto an airplane, I begin a ritual of sorts. When I take my seat and situate myself, I begin taking deep, controlled breaths while mentally preparing for takeoff. When the engines start humming and the plane starts moving, I construct a set of tracks in my head and imagine that the plane never leaves those tracks, even in flight. That way, even while experiencing turbulence, the plane can’t fall because it’s on tracks for the duration of the flight. I imagine everything, making it so real in my mind that even the idea of a plane crash is preposterous. And guess what? It works every time. Granted, it took years to develop this skill, but I’m so glad that I did.

But the application of this technique doesn’t stop with aeronautics. It can be applied to any situation. Instead of imagining a scenario with a negative outcome, envision one with a positive outcome or, at the very least, one that renders your fears powerless and irrelevant. It takes practice, but if you use it in your everyday life, results will follow very quickly.

Anxiety has the intentions of a very dear friend, but the execution of an incredibly dangerous enemy. Mastering anxiety essentially boils down to a choice: will you allow your anxiety to fester and evolve, or will you demand better for yourself and take steps to improve your mental well-being?

I’ll leave you with that, and I sincerely hope that you will find strength in yourself and start working toward a happier life. You deserve the very best.

21 thoughts on “Anxiety: Friend or Foe?

  1. My suggestion would be to ignore the rantings of Bonnie Groves…reflect upon the experiences of these two young men and move forward in a positive and meaningful way folks….

  2. Very good quote. “Anxiety has the intentions of a very dear friend, but the execution of an incredibly dangerous enemy. Mastering anxiety essentially boils down to a choice: will you allow your anxiety to fester and evolve, or will you demand better for yourself and take steps to improve your mental well-being?” I have been following you guys for a while now. I am the Director of a college counseling center, and a LPC. Your techniques and advice have resonated with several of my students who are on the spectrum and are dealing with anxiety. I read an article recently that suggested giving that “dear friend” a real name, like George. It seems to help because it helps the client separate themselves from “George” and talk themselves out of following Georges’ advice. I love this. Thanks guys. You are a real benefit and I will continue to follow your paths.

  3. My 11yr old daughter loves listening to multiple genres of music. Jazz, rock, metal, oldies, blues & especially classical.

  4. In the above question about grinding teeth at night. I certainly did that as a child, maybe still do. My sister told me about my teeth grinding. For me it has nothing to do with anxiety, just my physiology. Sometimes your dentist can give you teeth guards to wear at night to be nice to your teeth.

  5. These guys have really helped us with our daughter who is 9 now and Anxiety is a big deal in her life. I’m so thankful for them. Finally we have help. Where other so called Asperger doctors/therapist say they can help, Danny & Hayden have really helped. Keep up the good works guys!

  6. Do you have a social story for flying on an airplane? I have a student that the parents want to do to Disney , but he’s afraid of flying. Thank you, Olga I like the track idea that was successful for you.

  7. I’d like to get my high anxiety son, age 16, to read this article too. Excellent. However, he is too anxious to give any attention to any of the Asperger Experts publishings. I think he is in denial about his condition. He won’t really talk about it, and I don’t push him. How do I handle this? He is an excellent musician, and he writes and plays some very relaxing pieces of music. I think other Aspies might like his stuff, and might be relaxing to other people on the spectrum too, everyone maybe. His music is at TheOrganics dot net if you want to sample it, the “Explorations in A flat” are the newest and most relaxing I think.

  8. Thanks for this, my son has asperger’s, is 18, and has extremely high anxiety. He recently asked me how you two got where you are, and I’m going to have him read this. Do you feel that anxiety with aspergers is something that can be helped without medication? So far no medication has worked for him.

  9. My mother’s anxiety has crippled her. My anxiety forces me to challenge myself everytime to overcome it at the moment. It did take years to learn how to manage it but it was worth it along the way. It boosted my confidence every time, made me believe that I can do anything and reduced my other fears and anxieties. The best benefit is my son has seen me be scared, anxious prior to a situation and come out stronger than ever. It inspires him to challenge himself and push through his anxiety. Being a good example of overcoming your faults is sometimes the best way to teach a child how to overcome theirs. 🙂

  10. Now I’m officially obsessed with you guys. I’m so intrigued by your success and your genuine desire to teach and help as many people as possible. I see a bright future for my now 6 y.o. son, if he can learn to master his anxiety. It is crippling. I can already see that your advice is going to help me, help him. I recognize many of the issues that you describe here in myself (43 y.o.). I feel I will benefit from your insight on a personal level as well. Thank you!! Wish I could attend your conference! Sincerely, from Vermont.

  11. Dear Danny & Hayden, I have only seen “the mistake” & “sensory funnel”
    videos, but I have been given so much inspiration & hope for my son(w/AS)
    & myself. I’ve ordered the video & can’t wait to see what life changing
    insights are within!

  12. My son is 8 and has had cognitive issues since kindergarten. He has always grinder his teeth at night and I’ve researched and keep turning up anxiety or stress. He’s always been happy so I could not figure out what could be stressing him. He has reading and comprehension issues. As well as remembering what he read. We are still working to get him diagnosed but we were told it could possibly be to executive dysfunction. We are working with his school to get his work modified to help. His IQ scores are great, and he is a math whiz. It’s the reading part that escapes him.
    Can you tell me if grinding teeth could come from the stress he feels when he struggles with reading? If that could be part of it? This has been an eye opener for his family and we want to do all we can to help him. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    1. My dentist told me that grinding isn’t necessarily stress related. It’s very common and is likely involuntary. I grind, and I’m extremely mellow.

  13. I’m so fed up with so called normal people,just because you grow up doesn’t make it any better,Infact it’s clearer to see how bloody patronizing judging The normal workers are.. Find more fkin labels to slap on mothers to confuse them,experts….what to do with? Experts?? What are you talking about omg.

    1. What is your problem these are boys who have personally felt with aspergers and done so rather successfully and are here helping parents of kids and others with aspergers. Actually having and personally using tools that work makes them experts. Your random rant that really makes no points is not constructive so how about you find some other way of venting your frustrations

    2. It’s apparent from your writing ‘style’ that your issues extend well beyond being fed up. If you were a parent, I assure you, that these gentlemen are experts. I’ve successfully employed a few of their techniques turning an explosive situation into a productive learning experience for my 9 to autistic son.

    3. I am not totally sure I understood your point because your comment was so confusing and scattered. But as a person who struggles with anxiety myself and who has a child with ASD who gets intense anxiety about taking any risks, the dark, etc., I am glad to have some positive advice for how to deal with it. Quite frankly, as a neuroscientist, I can tell you that the information and advice I have gotten from AE has been more useful and relevant than anything else I’ve seen. Haters gonna hate I guess.

    1. Im a 51 year old woman with Aspergers and have had anxiety since my earliest memory. Anxiety has been a survival gift as well as something that has held me back at times. It definitely gives me a lens on life that at times is not true. Since reading AE and other related material, i find if i remove the causes of my defences or provide myself with a “crutch” I can get that lift off needed to launch into whatever is worrying me. Its really important not to let people make you feel ashamed of what seems like nothing to them. For instance, i HATE to meet with people or meet new people in certain ways but am fine in others. for instance, it takes a major act of God for me to go to a neighbors house and knock on the door…even thougb i know and like them…its the same way at times on the phone. If they are already outside and notice me then no big deal. wierdly enough, if i can text them in advance then they can meet me at the door or outside Or i can “warm up” a telephone call by emailing in advance. the reason I go to this level of innane detail that seems crazy even to me is that i can overcome these fears or anxieties by drilling down to the “thing” that opens me up. If I can make myself feel secure in some way or deal with the anxiety to reduce it to the level i can act. Anxiety in Aspergers doesnt go away, its the way we are built 😉 thankfully, we are really smart people who continue to learn over time and with enough practice can learn ways to find our way througb….PS…try not to deal with life by using anti-anxiety drugs…if possible. they cause their own set of problems and can layer anxiety on more anxiety.


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