Anxiety observed: the SAPS measurement

As I mentioned in my last blog, this week has been full of stressful activities and situations, giving my wayward brain numerous opportunities to delve into anxiety. As an exercise in both CBT and Mindfulness, I decided to take the time to create the Salvageable Anxiety/Panic Scale (SAPS), similar to the scales used to rate earthquakes and tornados.

S1 anxiety: a general feeling that things are not quite right. At home, check to see that the doors are locked. While traveling, repeatedly run through the list of essential items that might have been left behind.

S2 anxiety: a sensation of racing heart and shallow breathing, accompanied by some discomfort in the chest or abdomen. Also a shaky feeling in hands, knees, and legs. Unusually sensitive to sounds and odors. Irritable.

S3 anxiety: trembling of hands is noticeable to others. Painful sensation of a knot located right behind the sternum. Easily angered and likely to shout at others. Talking may become higher-pitched and/or faster.

S4 anxiety: Intense sweating of head, face, and upper body, accompanied by trembling as if chilled. Eating is difficult and may result in vomiting. Angry shouting changes into inarticulate sounds. Sensation of being out of control.

S5 anxiety: Inability to leave the house, or to enter some other place or remain in that place. Sense of impending disaster.

To continue, I have never had an S5 panic attack, although I am acquainted with people who have, so I include it on the scale. In the last year, I can recall two occasions of S4 anxiety. S3 anxiety has occurred more often than I can count or recall.

SAPS is a system that applies to me and may or may not be relevant to any other person.

This scale is not a progression of feelings. I can remember times that I felt fine one minute and was at S3 the next minute. If I am in a public place, I can keep myself from shouting at other people. (The front seat of my car is not a public place.) In some cases I can identify the trigger for my anxiety. For example, my two S4 episodes both happened on mornings when I had a long drive scheduled for that day. Other times, the anxiety arises without warning and without an apparent trigger.

What am I doing about these SAPS events? I swallow a pair of pills every morning. I see a counselor regularly. I am trying to develop and practice Christian Mindfulness. Sometimes deep breathing and a Bible verse are helpful. And, in the last few days, I have been researching to learn the answer to this question: Did Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, ever experience a panic attack? I will post the results of my research tomorrow. (How’s that for a cliffhanger?)

J.

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