Anxiety Disorders and Depression: The Awesome Power of Belief
Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, phobias (particularly social phobia) and severe
There is no doubt that these problems are very powerful since they relate to inner self-protective drives that shape our
thoughts and actions, but we ourselves increase the hold they have over us by the way we think about them.
Here's a story relating a medical experience that illustrates this nicely. It shows how beliefs about powerful
forces that we don't understand, hence cannot control, can affect our life (and death) ... the awesome power of
"The patient, ill for many weeks, looked wasted and near death. Tuberculosis or cancer
was considered the cause. As he approached death, his wife informed the doctor that around four months before hospitalisation,
the patient had had an argument with a local voodoo priest. The priest had summoned him to the cemetery and announced that
he had 'voodooed' him and that he would die very soon.
Dr. Daugherty pondered long how to save this man. What followed was more like theatre than medical
treatment, but it saved the man's life. The next day the doctor gathered 10 or more of the patient's kin at the bedside and
announced in his most authoritative voice that he knew what was wrong. He described how he had confronted the voodoo priest
and demanded to know what he had done.
He announced, to the man and his family, "the priest had made some lizard eggs climb down into
your stomach and they hatched some small lizards. All but one of them died, leaving one big one that is eating all your food
and the lining of your body". He informed the group that he would remove the lizard. He then gave the man a powerful
emetic to induce vomiting and within a few moments the man started to vomit.
After several minutes of continued vomiting, Dr. Daugherty pulled from his black bag, carefully and
secretively, a live green lizard. At the height of the next wave of retching, he slid the lizard into the basin and called
out in a loud voice,
"look what has come out of you, you are now cured, the voodoo curse is lifted"...
The man then fell into a deep sleep and awoke the next morning ravenous for food. Within a week the
patient was discharged home."
The belief systems about voodoo in the man's community had almost killed him. Belief and fear is a
potent mixture and can lead to many self-fulfilling prophecies. This is something that not only applies to anxiety-related
problems but to many illnesses – cancer isn't regarded by many as "death by diagnosis" without good
The Classification of Anxiety Disorders – Creating Problems?
Categorization reflects the way the brain and mind works and forms the basis of everything we understand. New information is
analysed, compared and stored by reference to what we already know so that we can use it to predict and control our
The classification of anxiety disorders is no different; it serves to describe and order various symptoms into well-defined
categories to help to manage them. It has promoted much research and expanded our knowledge of these problems. However,
most of the research is limited to what can be physically measured and we can truly measure very little indeed in our
The names given: OCD, GAD etc. are only descriptions of ways of thinking, feeling and behaving but naming them gives them a
life of their own, a whole new power. Suddenly they are an entity, they exist, and what we think of them is influenced by
what we are told. Thoughts and behaviours fundamental to human existence and survival (experienced by all in times of
insecurity) that have become exaggerated due to extreme negative experiences are now a 'disorder'.
And we believe everything that the experts and authorities tell us about them. Feelings, beliefs and well-meaning
mis-information can interplay to make these problems seem insurmountable – a prime example of fear and belief
creating self-fulfilling prophecies!
Anxiety Self Help
1. The Witchdoctor and the Lizard
Source: the Virusmyth website.