Annihilation anxiety and CBT-"techniques"

zaniara

MyPTSD Pro
I have gone through intensive trauma-therapy and come out "on the other side". (Life is SO much better now!)

I've heard and seen some not so helpful comments and also heard despair being misunderstood as "resistance" (=AKA "not trying hard enough"). Both by professionals (especially CBT-therapists) and sometimes online too.

So I write this if someone wants to or needs to know about this.

I used to suffer a lot from different kinds of problems. Like different kinds of anxiety. Also panic attacks. I got some help with that, by CBT-techniques and grounding techniques.

But then there was this other kind of anxiety, that could throw me into hours and hours, or worst case scenario days in a row, of being in a living hell. No meds whatsoever could stop it (only possibly being sedated- but me coming out of sedation was NOT a pretty sight!= was back at square one after waking up). And no technique could help much at all.

CBT people and doctors and other sufferers could sometimes say that it's not possible for the body to have such a high-arousal-anxiety that long, that eventually the body would lower the intensity in the adrenaline. But it was simply not true. Sure, after a while the body got tired, but very soon (minutes most of the time) it was in the same state again.

In therapy I finally learned it's actually stronger than a panic attack, and it's called annihilation anxiety. Not all people with PTSD experience it. And most of the time you suffer from it after being tortured in some ways. Me being in that state was me being trapped in trauma-memories being relieved (but most of the times without any conscious images or so, mostly body memories or as an emotional flashback).

When that happened I always felt extremely desperate and other people not understanding or giving unhelpful (though friendly) advices made me even more desperate. Also when they then said I "wasn't trying hard enough" I felt utterly helpless and hopeless and in despair (which was also some of the feelings connected to the trauma). It was the feeling of being invisible, totally alone and without any possibility to ever, ever be helped or let out of hell.

It's like being in a living hell, for sometimes day in a row. And sleep was impossible and words hard to find. Brain is not functioning and thoughts are scattered. (Was misdiagnosed as bi-polar at one point..)

If you've experienced this do know it can be a trauma being subconsciously relived(a flashback), and that if the traumas are processed you can finally be freed from this crap and never feel like that again!

And if you don't know what I'm describing please be gentle when giving advice to someone who might struggle with this, and don't start saying the person is unwilling to try "hard enough". And if you do, don't take it personally if the person gets aggressive in his/her desperation.

I'm grateful not all people have experienced annihilation-anxiety and that I'm free of it now.
 

LilyRose

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you for this. I am looking into this right now.
It's nice to hear someone getting it but of course it sucks that you had to go through this. It sounds awful the way you had to fight to get to where you are.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
If you've experienced this do know it can be a trauma being subconsciously relived(a flashback), and that if the traumas are processed you can finally be freed from this crap and never feel like that again!
Yes, and I want to thank you Zanaira. You were the person that set me on the right path with this type of anxiety. It took some real research and lots of working with bits of this and pieces of that, but finally I came up with the solution for me. I had to find the emotions that were floating around this annihilation thing - identify them and reverse engineer circumstances that led to them in the present day and work my way out of falling into those emotions. For me the emotions were a mixture of disorientation/confusion/feeling physically lost.

Low doses of THC at night time helped with it. I didn't like the idea of having a mind altering drug every day so looked for other solutions. I have found a homeopathic cell salt that takes care of it now. That, along with careful management of unnecessary stressors and careful self care routines and mindfulness seem to have stopped this from happening anymore, thank god.

You did a great job describing how horrifying these attacks are. I often have a difficult time describing them to anyone as they are (for me) beyond words. I hope you are well.
 

zaniara

MyPTSD Pro
It's nice to hear someone getting it but
It sounds awful the way you had to fight to get to where you are.
Thank you. It was, but I am so grateful for being alive. It's really a miracle. (Only sometimes I get overwhelmed by the anger with the people putting me through all that shit and that they stole so many years pop up.. but there is not much point in wasting too much time on that.)


You did a great job describing how horrifying these attacks are. I often have a difficult time describing them to anyone as they are (for me) beyond words. I hope you are well.
Oh thank you for writing this. It makes me happy if I said something that actually helped you. 🙂 I didn't know that. And YES they/it are so hard to explain or put into words. And was so much beyond words! (I think it has to do with the nature of the trauma. And that it involved so much dissociation.) I used to try to write poems describing it and later pain horrible images.. but nothing really come close really describing it fully accurately.

I hope you are well
Thank you. Some health issues and also soon to be starting a full neuropsychological assessment to see if I have ADHD too (more obvious when the depressions have decreased); (been thinking lately if this made my annihilation-anxiety worse). But compared to how life was before trauma-therapy it's really so much better. (Being able to sleep mostly without nightmares, hardly any flashbacks, much less anxiety etc.) Hope you are doing well. 💜


Some facts I found googling now=

It has had different names (different people have tried to explain it) and probably when liked to trauma it can be related to many layers. But it always has to do with an immense threat to one's survival.

Winnicott is one and she calls it ‘unthinkable anxieties’ or ‘primitive agonies’:

• Feelings of going to pieces
• Falling forever
• Having no relation to the body
• Having no orientation
• Complete isolation because of there being no means of communication


They have tried to messure it and one person is Hurvich who has established the Hurvich Experience Inventory (HEI/50) as a valid and reliable clinical measure of aspects of annihilation anxiety.

HEI/50 subscale measure ‘threats to self and ability to function’ (Hurvich et al., 2007) are expressed as follows:

(1) Overwhelmed/inability to cope; (2) Merged/claustrophobia; (3) Trapped; (4) Disorganized/fragmentation of self and identity; (5) Invaded/impingement/penetration; (6) Abandoned/loss of needed support; and (7) Destroyed/catastrophic mentality.

Derivatives of underlying annihilation anxieties can be fears (or I would say in the case reliving a trauma/having a flashback it's not a councious fear = more the feeling/experience) of being overwhelmed, destroyed, mortified, abandoned, mutilated, suffocated or drowned, losing mental, physical or bodily control, of going insane, of intolerable feeling states, being absorbed, dissolving, invaded, or shattered, melting, of exploding, evaporating, leaking out or fading away.

I read about people who feel ‘trapped’ and experience being ‘cornered, confined, immobilized'. = The experience of “no way out” carries with it a sense of danger and of helplessness’.

In my case I think it has to do with both early onset of severe and life-threatening trauma in close/primary relationships as well as torture and war-like experiences (being sold to a pedophile-ring and being tortured and seeing one kid die).

While a panic attack can include some of those symptoms, they are not always connected to the fear of or rather experience of being defragmented/destroyed as a person= which is actually worse than dying, and most commonly connected to memories (conscious or not) of unbearable trauma as well as an infants experience when the caregivers fail to give security or are threats to the kids safety. = thus it's often a state where words are not in reach, or able to "catch" or express the feelings, and even less formulate or articulate what ones need are. = communication with other people when in this state is really hard.

Also my therapist explained that though a person most commonly developed these wounds as infants, for example torture can fragment a person so that it breaks into pieces and develop this problem later in life.

When this surfaced and took over it really was like being in hell. I always felt that not even death would end it. And as if I were being torn apart or destroyed. I needed help from my therapist but in that state I was so fragile and disconnected to reality/my body it was hard for him to help me. If he did one "wrong move" I could start to self-destruct or lose it.

I'm so immensely grateful he dared to use EMDR on me, since only dealing with those traumas head on managed to heal it. And like you

seem to have stopped this from happening anymore, thank god.
I don't ever experience this anymore! SO grateful. And also somewhat grateful I never got hospitalized during those periods since most professionals have little knowledge of how to deal with this and I would probably have been triggered by them approaching it the wrong way, and it all would have ended badly. I also understand today that it can be mistaken for (and possibly sometimes lead to) an psychosis or bi-polar/mania.
 

ms spock

Sponsor
Hurvich Experience Inventory (HEI/50)
Is this a form or PDF?
HEI/50 subscale measure ‘threats to self and ability to function’ (Hurvich et al., 2007) are expressed as follows:

(1) Overwhelmed/inability to cope; (2) Merged/claustrophobia; (3) Trapped; (4) Disorganized/fragmentation of self and identity; (5) Invaded/impingement/penetration; (6) Abandoned/loss of needed support; and (7) Destroyed/catastrophic mentality.
I hadn't heard of this before but I relate to this, way too much.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
To me it feels like my psyche is shattering into a billion different pieces and I am trying to hold on. But there is nothing I can identify to hold onto. But I keep trying and it feels endless and hopeless and horrifying and terrifying and that if I can't find something of myself to hold onto I will be lost forever but left in the body for people to torture.

I don't know about you, but nobody in my world wants to even know such a feeling exists, let alone have it described to them. So the aloneness in that itself leaves me with the terror even when out of the attack.
 

LilyRose

MyPTSD Pro
I`m not sure this is what i have.. some things don`t seem to ad up in my case.

But i do feel comepletely overwhelmed and i can`t cope or deal with it anymore. It`s way to much.
Every little sound, light or movement seems to make my head explode and there is no way out, you can`t escape what ever you do.
My whole body was so restless i couldn`t sit or lay down. If i did, my body started jerking pretty hard making it impossible to relax in any way. I couln`t get out of this cycle whatever i did. The worst 5 days i slept maybe 2hrs total. Trying to sit or lay down and withing seconds or minutes it feels like you can't breath and you need to move and gasp for air.
During my worst panic moments i wanted to scream... i cried in panic and prayed and begged to God to make it stop.
Everytime i moved i got dizzy, the world was turning and with standing up or walking it felt like i was about to pass out. Like i was constantly hyperventilating but my breathing felt normal.

At the moment i am feeling better, i am sleeping a few hours every night, full of waking up and nightmares but atleast it is some sleep. I can sit or lay down for longer now but still get restless and i feel overwhelmed but a little bit less then before.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I always had this. I was tortured but I don’t remember much about it. I remember being bound. It all had to do with sex. Anyway, the anxiety was horrible, I was always in fight or flight over the most inconsequential and unimportant things. Nobody knew what was wrong with me including me but I finally realized (because being like this does not help with being aware) that my reactions were overblown and inappropriate, but I didn’t know why.
 

David1959

Confident
I always had this. I was tortured but I don’t remember much about it. I remember being bound. It all had to do with sex. Anyway, the anxiety was horrible, I was always in fight or flight over the most inconsequential and unimportant things. Nobody knew what was wrong with me including me but I finally realized (because being like this does not help with being aware) that my reactions were overblown and inappropriate, but I didn’t know why.
I feel some of your pain. I was also abused at a young age by a pedophile and only remember short clips that come as flashbacks. The million dollar question for me (maybe you as well) is do I really want to remember? What is worse, knowing or not knowing?
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I feel some of your pain. I was also abused at a young age by a pedophile and only remember short clips that come as flashbacks. The million dollar question for me (maybe you as well) is do I really want to remember? What is worse, knowing or not knowing?
IDK. I always thought once I started therapy that I’d have a big recall experience like in regression hypnosis or whatever, but that was years ago. Sex relieves me it’s like a big relief because I probably feel safe then. But that was how I had to deal with the whole thing, solve for x, look at the behaviour and understand it was caused by someone. Then ive had to say well, this must’ve happened or I wouldn’t feel like that, know about it or want to do it. Like a mystery. So I still feel like I’ll remember more sometimes? They are body memories mostly I finally decided. Not memories proper, but you see them in the acting out or during sex. I never really acted out I just created multiple personalities lol. It’s a screw up.
 

David1959

Confident
IDK. I always thought once I started therapy that I’d have a big recall experience like in regression hypnosis or whatever, but that was years ago. Sex relieves me it’s like a big relief because I probably feel safe then. But that was how I had to deal with the whole thing, solve for x, look at the behaviour and understand it was caused by someone. Then ive had to say well, this must’ve happened or I wouldn’t feel like that, know about it or want to do it. Like a mystery. So I still feel like I’ll remember more sometimes? They are body memories mostly I finally decided. Not memories proper, but you see them in the acting out or during sex. I never really acted out I just created multiple personalities lol. It’s a screw up.
I had about 6 months of therapy 4 years ago and found it helped but actually created more questions than answers. In my case there is no doubt of what happened over a two year period it is just that I have blanked out the details but the knowledge and memories about it in general are quite clear. I think during the events my mind went elsewhere to survive
 

zaniara

MyPTSD Pro
To me it feels like my psyche is shattering into a billion different pieces and I am trying to hold on. But there is nothing I can identify to hold onto. But I keep trying and it feels endless and hopeless and horrifying and terrifying and that if I can't find something of myself to hold onto I will be lost forever but left in the body for people to torture.
Oh this was such an accurate description!! (No matter how many times I've tried to explain it I can never describe it fully. It's too much somehow.. ) writing about it now I really can't phantom that I actually survived and was healed so that I was freed from that. (A few times I can be scared that it will ever surface again, but I actually don't think so. I have healed too much I think ). 💜
 
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