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Hi, I'm having really bad issues with obsessive thoughts right now. I went to a lake yesterday and swam while drunk, and now I'm terrified thinking that I could have gotten this brain eating amoeba I've read about in the past. When I was going to the lake I felt like I shouldn't swim so as not to stir up my panic, but I really didn't want to let my fear limit me.I'm seriously upset now though, and I had a minor panic attack earlier. I'm going to try to call my therapist after this, but I need help, I don't know how to calm myself down, and no one around me does either.

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Emma, I'm sorry: I know it's kind of late now. But I would still like to answer your question, in case it's useful some other time or for someone else in a similar situation.

One of the best techniques I've heard of for calming oneself is to concentrate on your breathing. Deep, slow breaths. Listen to the air come in; sit with it a little, then let it out slowly. Pause until you need air again (don't hold it, but don't rush it) and start over. Give your attention to the act of breathing. It also helps to put something in front of your eyes, preferably an image from nature, or an actual natural scene, even if it's just looking at a tree out the window.

I know it will be little comfort, but it would take quite a long time for amoebas to do much damage to something as large as your brain. If you have to, get it checked out, but you've clearly got enough experience with obsessing to know that it's not really about facts, all that much.

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I looked it up in Wikipedia (not necessarily authoritative, but easy to find.) The article states that, for the U.S., "[a]ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the protist [amoeba] killed 33 people between 1998 and 2007." [brackets contain my edits.] That's fewer than four a year in a country of millions. If a probability like that is truly frightening, don't go outside in lightning storms ... (About 24,000 a year are killed by lightning worldwide.)

Your probability of dying because of being drunk that night is probably higher.

Again, I know the facts don't help much, and I'm certainly not trying to make you feel bad for being fearful. I just think that a real assessment of risk might help you ...

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