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Forums / Anxiety / Nuclear fear

Topic: Nuclear fear

17 posts, 0 answered
  1. Doberman38
    Doberman38 avatar
    71 posts
    26 February 2022

    Hey everyone.

    I think I'm right in saying that the world is almost unanimously shocked and disturbed by the war in Ukraine. It's really sad to hear about the awful stuff going on. However, I fear it will escalate into something far, far worse. I'm terrified that if Putin decides to attack a NATO country it could trigger nuclear war. Conventional war would be bad enough, but NUCLEAR war? I used to think no one would dare but now I'm not so sure. I have all these scenarios playing in my head of how some sort of miscalculation could trigger a nuclear war. I feel like all the progress over human history and all the people and things I hold dear are about to be snuffed out by sheer hubris and stupidity.

    I try very hard to calm myself down, but each time I keep thinking that there's no point doing anything positive because the world's about to end. I've only just been starting to glimpse my future and potential career paths, but these now seem like dust in the wind.

    It's tough trying to talk about this to my family. My dad, who forcibly insists I not shut myself off from the news and isn't very good at emotional support, is not very helpful. As for my mum, she does give me reassurance and emotional support, but it's taking its toll on her and I don't want to add to the stress she is already dealing with. I just feel so lonely when it comes to this.

  2. yggdrasil
    Valued Contributor
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    yggdrasil avatar
    144 posts
    26 February 2022

    Hi Doberman38,

    I totally understand where you are coming from. I used to feel really overwhelmed whenever a new conflict broke out, partly for this reason. I completely agree that nuclear conflict is a real threat, but I think you just have to acknowledge it, and then put it aside, otherwise it interferes with your day to day sanity too much.

    That's easier said than done of course. I do think that the sort of news media you engage with makes a big difference in how these things affect you. For example, I used to be completely obsessed with news programs. In my early 20s I'd often spend my whole weekends reading articles on conflicts around the world, feeling I had some duty to understand them. I think this is a trap lots of people fall into, and it can be really unhealthy. I realised there was actually a weird kind of thrill I was getting from reading about all these awful events, and this was probably what was motivating me more than anything else. Also, I realised that when you're already struggling with depression, learning about awful events around the world can become a way for the depression to sort of justify it's existence, and this is a dangerous trap it's very easy to fall into. It's sort of a kind of confirmation bias.

    I don't watch nightly news programs or read the papers at all anymore. Instead I listen to radio-shows/podcasts like ABC's "Rear Vision". This show devotes 30 minutes each week to the historical context of a single current issue. The presenters interview a range of academics and other experts on the topic. What you end up with is a much calmer, more cerebral investigation of a current issue, rather than the highly emotionally charged, distressing content you see on the nightly news. There's another podcast from a British professor called "Talking Politics" that's similar in this way. I find I learn a lot more, and don't get so distressed by events around the world when I consume this kind of news instead of engaging in the daily news cycle. Incidentally, the latest Rear Vision episode is about the historical background to the current conflict with Ukraine. It's really good, and helps put the current situation in context.

    I'm sorry to hear your Dad pressures you to engage with the news. Maybe you could tell him you've been listening up on ABC radio instead, and suggest the Rear Vision episode to him.

    You're absolutely not alone in this. There are all sorts of prominant organisations dedicated to this risk. Take care :)

    2 people found this helpful
  3. james1
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    james1 avatar
    3061 posts
    26 February 2022 in reply to Doberman38

    Hello Doberman38,

    It really is very scary right now and I am really saddened by the thought of all the people who are going to be suffering.

    I understand you are finding it really hard to calm down and stop the different scenarios running in your head. In my experience, it's a little bit of a catch-22. I find talking things out can often make sense of what is most likely to happen, which tends to be a long way from the worst outcome. But sometimes talking things out can make our fears even more pronounced and seem more real. I think there is a bit of a balance, and maybe that balancing amount differs from person to person. For me, I cannot even watch the news and I really hope you can find a way to avoid it too. yggdrasil's suggestion about Rear Vision and your father is a good one.

    Regardless, there are so many possibilities and a lot of them are truly terrifying. The way I try to approach it is to just remember that the fact that I'm still here after 30 years means the worst hasn't happened, ever, in the last 30 years. There have been bad decisions made, but people persevere and we keep on trying to get better. I expect the same will happen here too. There have been bad decisions, and probably will be some more bad ones to come. But I think life will continue, worse for some, and we will just have to try and help them as best we can so they can pick up their lives and continue.


    1 person found this helpful
  4. Doberman38
    Doberman38 avatar
    71 posts
    26 February 2022 in reply to yggdrasil

    Thanks Yggdrasil for your very thoughtful and kind response.

    Your pervious intense interest in the news and with conflicts really struck a chord with me - I used to be exactly like this until a couple of years ago. When the Ukranian crisis started in 2014 I was hooked and really interested to see what would happen next. I feel like I used to react better to international crises - I think it was when I started making online friends from overseas that I became acutely concerned about their wellbeing and that of the wider world in general, and these feature strongly in many of my anxiety episodes.

    Ooh, that does sound very interesting. I'll definitely give it a listen if I get the chance!

    I guess something I should remember is that the nuclear issue will definitely be something which figures into the decision making of all the powers involved in this and that does calm my nerves a bit. I'm sure at least some lessons have been learned from past nuclear close calls. It's also good that the world's nuclear arsenal is nowhere near what it was at the height of the Cold War.

    Take care as well :)

  5. GreenGuy
    GreenGuy avatar
    5 posts
    27 February 2022 in reply to Doberman38

    Hi Doberman38,

    I'm new to offering my thoughts and support so what I say may not works for you. I'm sorry you feel this way. I've felt the same way for the last couple of days: shock, dread, despair, only alleviating after some musing.

    Firstly, I'm no military analyst or geopolitical expert, I was more leaning with the belief that Putin was bluffing with Ukraine but, well, here we are. Despite this, I certainly believe Putin attacking NATO is absurd, along with NATO intervening, based on the fact that wars are expensive, destructive and in the case of a nuclear war, unwinnable. Even in a nuclear war, I doubt Australia is a primary target, save for a few key bases like Pine Gap. Right now the fog of war and all the confusion that comes with it is draped over Ukraine, and could be for a long time to come, "wars do not end when you please" . So what ultimately happens remains yet to be seen, we could be surprised for all we know.

    Second, what yggdrasil and James1 have said is pretty much on point so I won't parrot what they've said, only to say: beware the scare tactics of sensationalist media. Understand they want eyes glued to TV screens and articles, emotion helps generate that viewership.

    With these out of the way, here is something I learnt from Seneca, and this helped my with my anxiety in general: "I now warn you not to drown your soul in these anxieties of yours; if you do, the soul will be dulled and will have too little vigour left when the time comes for it to rise."

    "Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some things ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating in sorrow."

    On a more relevant note I would say: To carry the weight of the world on your shoulders is to afflict yourself with all the pain that it brings. History rhymes, and is constantly in the making, the only thing we can do is accept it, bitter as that may sound. Regarding your thoughts on your future and career paths, I'd say just go for it, make it is your purpose at this moment, our lives are all that we know until the next one comes. We all become dust in the wind with time, but what was it that raised you from dust to begin with?

    I know stoicism isn't for everyone, but I've been in your place multiple times, and I'm just sharing what worked for me. :)


    1 person found this helpful
  6. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    28 February 2022 in reply to Doberman38
    I fully understand your fear now that Putin is threatening the use of nuclear weapons. I just don't understand what is going on and i just want it to stope.
  7. Doberman38
    Doberman38 avatar
    71 posts
    28 February 2022 in reply to Bookgirl

    Hey Bookgirl.

    I've noticed that you've also been dealing with a heap of anxiety to do with this. Yes, the situation is very confusing (the fog of war, as Green put it) and is made harder to tolerate by all the COVID chaos lately. I think this is important to remember, as it shows how the intensity of the anxiety is not simply a response to the very real events that are taking place, but is affected by other major stressors.

    I think it's important to recognise that leaders do these sort of things to intimidate and get a desired result. Khrushchev threatened it, so did NK. Putin, his family and his cronies have nothing to gain from actually carrying it out. Despite knowing this myself, just like you it is hard for me to stop worrying. When any uncertainty exists, it will thrive. The best we can do is keep going about our days, doing what we need to do as well as what we enjoy. I think that quote from Seneca Green posted is a worthy thing to live by.

    Doberman :)

    1 person found this helpful
  8. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    26 April 2022
    The news sent me back to bed today with the russians talking about ww3 and nuclear war. Just scared me witless. I don't know know how everyone else can just carry on when this is going on. I just fall completely apart.
  9. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    26 April 2022 in reply to Doberman38
    Thank you for this. I have had really high high anxiety in the last few days and this just tipped me over the edge. I know they do it on purpose. Still at the moment, I cannot cope with it. I have a 13 year old and am terrified of what might happen to him.
  10. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    26 April 2022
    I am not sure how to get through each day with what is going on. I keep waiting for news taht ww3 has started or that a bomb has been dropped and i am terrified.
  11. Sophie_M
    Community Moderator
    • Works for beyondblue moderating these forums
    Sophie_M avatar
    6813 posts
    26 April 2022 in reply to Bookgirl
    Dear Bookgirl

    Thank you for your honest sharing and support of the online community in this trying and difficult subject. 

    It can be very hard, in the face of such dark news stories, to not let the anxiety voice dominate everything we think. It can colour every moment of our lives and all of our intentions. It can be crucial to find ways to anchor ourselves in the things we have in our control. Your time with your son is very important, and more so that you can actually connect and enjoy that time. the things fear steals from us is always truly vital.

    Keep looking for the little things, the happy moments, and give yourself permission to take time away from media. It is always hard to challenge the Anxiety voices, and we know it must be exhausting for you often - please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of any help at all. whether by phone - 1300 22 4636 or by our webchat link.  Have a look through one of our helpguides too!

    Please take care, and reach out if ever you need, anytime!


    Sophie M.
  12. yggdrasil
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    144 posts
    30 April 2022 in reply to Bookgirl

    Hi Bookgirl,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this. I agree, it is very distressing. Fear of nuclear-conflict affected me very badly in my teens and early twenties, and it took me a long time to get a handle on it.

    I think the first thing is to disengage as much as you can from the daily news cycle. I really think it's best to avoid short, daily news shows and sensationalist articles when you're struggling emotionally. I actually think it's usually best to avoid the daily news cycle full-stop. There's rarely any serious analysis or discussion of the issues. Instead, you're just bombarded with sounds/images that maximise emotion, as this is what retains audiences. From your post, it sounds like you know this. When I was really depressed, I found I would obsess over the news, almost as a kind of addiction. It was very unhealthy, and I think we need to watch out for these patterns. It's natural and desirable to want to improve bad situations, but doing things that deteriorate our mental states won't help us or anyone else.

    Avoiding the daily news cycle does not mean you have to ignore reality. Instead, my advice would be, first wait until you feel a little bit better, then find the driest, most detached academic books/talks you can, and study the issues that way instead. If you do this, you will gradually build up a wealth of knowledge, through which you can understand confronting issues. This doesn't make them less horrible, but it removes the fear/anxiety/despair generated when horrific events seem to occur for no reason: this is the picture of world I think the daily news cycle typically presents.

    A good starting point might be the ABC radio program "Rear Vision", which I recomended to Doberman38. On this program, Kerry and Annabelle (the hosts) interview a range of historians and other experts about a single issue, over a full 30 minutes, to really go in depth into a current issue. There was a good Rear Vision episode on Russia/Ukraine just before the conflict broke out.

    Anyway please be kind to yourself! You can get past this difficult period, and find ways to empower yourself.

  13. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    30 April 2022 in reply to yggdrasil

    Honestly, i really try to do this and avoid the news. I am quite high functioning (even if it doesn't sound like it most of the time on here). I have managed to finalise a massive work assignment this week despite half the time not wanting to get out of bed. When I am at work people start talking about the news and i just have a wave of anxiety flow through me. I go in the toilets and breathe and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. My psych did an analysis of me that puts me at the worst end of pessimism (no surprises there I am sure). I am working on it but when i read about how serious all these politicians are saying this nuclear threat is, it just sends me spiralling. I was so surprised when i emailed my cousin in UK and he genuinely didn't seem that worried. I just can't get my head around it as he has a 14 year old and is only a little younger than me.
    I know we can't just let Russia do what it is doing and kill innocent people including children simply for being in a country that Putin wants to annex. The futility of it makes me so angry, because if we go to war over this, it is just so STUPID. If we all die over this it is such a waste but war never did make sense in the first place.
    I'll keep trying to avoid the news in the meantime. My pysch tells me rightly if something bad did really happen then i would know.

  14. yggdrasil
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    144 posts
    1 May 2022 in reply to Bookgirl

    That's awesome you're able to be so high functioning! :)

    I also have found work environments quite difficult for this reason. People often want to talk about heavy things (I know I do) or vent, but when you're not in a place yourself to deal with it, it can be quite overwhelming.

    Is it possible to create a bit more distance from your colleagues while you're feeling this way? I mean distance in a social, not professional sense. E.g. maybe eat lunch outside rather than in the tea-room? When I was working at home during COVID I realised that it wasn't my work itself that was contributing to my depression/anxiety, but the social aspects of work, particularly the tea-room chats.

    I hope the coming week is a bit easier :)

  15. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    3 May 2022 in reply to yggdrasil
    I am trying but still looking which is bad i know but seem to be ok so far this week until something triggers me i know. Managed to get through weekend and actually do things but felt anxious the whole time. I don't generally talk to people at lunch. I go for a walk. Its just the idle chit chat that gets me. One day at a time i guess.
  16. Bookgirl
    Bookgirl avatar
    129 posts
    7 May 2022 in reply to yggdrasil
    Had a panic attack this week. My psych thinks the pressure i am under at work where i am working on this huge project isn't helping. Feeling pretty crappy today. Sometimes i feel it's hard to wake up in the morning because of this anxiety i am going through. Just the world seems to bleak all the time.
  17. yggdrasil
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    144 posts
    7 May 2022 in reply to Bookgirl

    Hi Bookgirl,

    That's fantastic you got through the weekend! Well done! I'm sorry to hear you had a panic attack during the week though.

    If work is a factor, you might consider the pros and cons of disclosing your current situation to select people at work. In the support group I used to facilitate, the consensus was this can be a hit-or-miss strategy. Beyond Blue has content about this, and strategies, on their "Heads Up" site.

    Some workplaces are incredibly supportive. If you trust a particular key superior or manager, you might consider disclosing to them how you're experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks due to the complex world situation, and request some changes or flexibility in your working arrangments, or some different responsibilities. If there are some key things you suspect are exacerbating your anxiety at work, you could request a statement to this effect from your psychologist.

    The world can definitely feel bleak. Undoubdtedly it is, in many ways. However, many psychologists also think the human brain is inherently biased towards bleakness, i.e. that we feel the negatives disproportionately to the positives, and not just when we're depressed or anxious. There are experiments that try to demonstrate this. I know it is true for me. This is I have fairly strict routines and practices to habitually counterbalance my bleakness bias. This is why I do the mental health "homework" sheets. I hated them at first: they seemed so stupid. But I came to realise the routines they build are valuable. There are homework sheets for all the different therapy models, ACT, CBT, Schema Therapy etc. There are many other approaches, from other traditions, too.

    It can also help to take a large view. We see a lot of conflict on the news, but overall the world is unequivicolly less violent than it was even fifty years ago. The book "The Better Angels of our Nature" makes this case, with plenty of hard data. Loosely speaking, the further back you go, the greater a person's likelihood of dying directly at the hands of another. From memory, by this measure the 20th century was less violent than the 19th, even with the two World Wars and other atrocities. Most other key metrics, poverty, educational attainment, are steadily improving across the world. A large scale view doesn't change the tragedy of specific circumstances, but can prevent a sense of generalised despair.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, and good luck next week with work :)

    1 person found this helpful

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