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Anyone know much about this?

I'm 3 sessions into an Anxiety Management group and I'm told I'm experiencing relaxation induced anxiety.

I'm still working thought the excercises (because I desparately want to work through my anxiety and panic attacks), but find that the chronilogical series of feelings goes like this:

  • Begin thinking or talking about doing the relaxation excercise - panic and anxiety
    Begin relaxation excercise - increased panic and anxiety - immediate anger and feeling of definite danger, extreme sadness and serious reluctance to do excercise because I'm sure it is NOT safe to do it.
    I do the excercise anyway and cry and panic through it.[/list:u]

This is what I find about this anxiety.

Personality measures indicated that relaxation-induced anxiety may be associated with an internal locus of control, a generalized fear of becoming anxious, and a fear of losing control.


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 1988 Sep;19(3):193-8.

Relaxation-induced anxiety in a subclinical sample of chronically anxious subjects.

Braith JA, McCullough JP, Bush JP.

Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23284.
Hey comfortzone!

I found that too. I also found:

"* Some folks may become anxious as they relax. This is called “Relaxation Induced Anxiety (RIA)” and it is a well known issue. There is research on this issue and there are different theories about why this happens. One theory suggests that RIA comes about due to quick physical changes in the nervous system which triggers an alarm response, another theory suggests that the anxiety comes about due to feeling a loss of control. Still another explanation is that the feelings of relaxation remind us of a near death experience - i.e., the last time there was an awareness of heart rate was during a heart attack, or the heightened awareness of breathing is a reminder of being in surgery or other dangerous situation."


And while it says it's a well known issue, I found it difficult to really find much more than that. I'll keep looking...
I guess the point is that it exists, but there's no defiitive research on why or how to best help it.

I'm going to keep challenging myself by working through the excercises even though I find them extremely uncomfortable. I'll just alter them a bit but stopping when it gets too much etc. I'm sure my mind and body will eventually accept that I'm not in any danger and that it could be OK to relax when doing them :)
I went to my weekly Anxiety Management group today. Every week we learn at least 1 new relaxation technique or concept. During the last 2 sessions, we learned and practiced Progressive Muscle Relaxation (you can read about it here).

I found this technique to be more challenging last week compared to this week, but still couldn't quite let go enough to relax (or stop crying. For some reason when we do this technique I feel extremely anxious then overwhelmingly sad).

Anyway, I'm mentioning this technique because we talked a lot about Exposure as a way to deal with anxiety. For example, I am terrified to relax. All parts of me (psychologically, emotionally and physically) resist and for whatever reason I interpret relaxation as a serious danger. SO, the theory is: The more I expose myself to relaxation, the less anxious I will feel about it - and finally, I will be able to relax.

And I found this theory to be true - given that I had a tougher time last week compared to this week when we did the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique.

I was also reminded of a technique (probably the same one) that was used with me a short while after my sister died. My therapist would work with me to eventually tell her the entire evening of events on the night my sister died. This was to help stop the repeating and never ending "movie reel" about that night that played in my head. And even though I've only told the story in its entirety 3 times, I found that even when I got parts of it "out", the movie didn't repeat as often.

Anyway, I learned that this technique works for many anxieties and particularly with phobias. It makes sense, I guess. Ya, the thought of it is horrifying (like me being horrified about relaxing in a room with people), but maybe my body and mind will begin to trust that relaxing isn't such a bad thing after all - and in fact helpful.

Also, I am finding it's good to go slow - I didn't do the entire relaxation exercises, but I did what I could handle even though every part of my being was telling me NOT to relax. Same thing when I told the therapist about my sister's death - I could only tell small bits at a time. Only what I could handle.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my experience.
haha - I'm anxious about going to my anxiety management group tomorrow because I have only practiced the full Progressive Relaxation Technique once this week!

I did, however, realize that I can achieve muscle relaxation by stretching. But I'm still really struggling with doing a formal relaxation exercise. It really scares me. I am surprised by how much every part of my being rejects this formal process. It actually feels like I'm inducing myself into a state of trauma??

Why would I be so reluctant to relax? I've read that relaxing will really help my anxiety and give my adrenal glands a much needed break, but it seems so threatening.

Anyway, one of the reasons I think I feel so much anxiety is because I would "rather" feel anxious than have the thoughts or feelings that come up. Tomorrow the topic of the group is about anxiety as a way to cover up feelings. Should be interesting.
Posting to myself again :)

Just thought I'd give my weekly update on how my quest to find relaxation is going.

I just got back from my anxiety management group. Today, I had a panic attack immediately after we did a visualization relaxation exercise. We were supposed to think of a safe place and I could not think of one. I began to frantically search my brain for something comforting or soothing or safe. Nothing. I did, however, remember doing this same visualization when I was 18. I had the same problem then, but finally came up with a large rock overlooking the ocean with a protective "force field" clear bubble around it. No one could get in unless I let them in and so I always brought my old teddy bear and my sister. Of course when I remembered that, I panicked more because I don't have my sister anymore. I began to cry and hyperventilate and got the whole temporary paralysis going etc.

They suggested I check out EMDR.

Today I realized that it makes sense that I feel scared all the time. I have a mental block towards life before my parents split up, but after they split up my mom became severely depressed with periods of psychosis (I remember being terrified when I realized that my dad left us with our mom who couldn't care for us. We weren't safe. Realizing this was terrifying and promoted my taking on a "protector" roll for both my sister and my mom - leaving me no room to process my own feelings and thoughts about their separation and the state of my mother). My dad ended up moving to another continent and then later, my sister, who was the only person I trusted and "knew" wouldn't hurt me took her own life.

Her death was horrifying. I remember feeling extremely horrified and feeling extremely alone. I believed that the only reason I made it through previous years was because we had each other and when we needed to, we could just laugh and laugh and laugh. No matter how crappy things got, our goofy antics always made things better.

I don't know. Anyway, seems like a pretty sad story to me and part of me hates talking about it. But, this is what I became aware of today.

Sounds to me like you made a huge step forward in your healing process! Changes does not always have to occur but rather the awareness of things in your life or thoughts can make the difference. The technique may not have provided the desired relaxation but sure sounds like it showed you what was happening for you. Take care and keep us posted on your journey towards healing.


It IS a very sad story, healthbound. Just realizing that is a big stride forward. To be able to see that what happened to you WAS sad, and terrifying. It left you feeling so alone in your responsibility for your sister and mother, and so deserted when your sister took her life (and her laughter from your life).

Too often we question our own feelings. We begin to think of ourselves as weak and whiny, unable to just "get along with life like everybody else". Well, everybody else hasn't experienced what you was very, very sad, and you only recognized that today. Now, you can see that you have very good reason to feel the way you've felt, and to do the things you've done. That's a very freeing realization. :)
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