Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can I Panic Now?

We’ve addressed self-esteem, but what if it’s more than that for you? What if some kinds of social interactions cause unreasonable fear? What if you completely avoid certain social situations because they provoke too much anxiety about doing something embarrassing or humiliating in front of others? What if you suffer from social anxiety?

Maybe you experience panic attacks. You find yourself in a social situation, even one you enjoy, and then all of a sudden this fear grips you. Are you going crazy? Are you going to die? Your body seems to be out of your control, your heart is pounding, your hands tremble, and you feel like you might be having a heart attack. But you’re not. You’re having a panic attack.

If you suffer from what you think is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional. At first this may be your regular GP to rule out anything being medically wrong. You need to clear up whether you really have social anxiety or panic disorder because there could be other things going on. You may be taking a medication that causes panic-like side effects. Or you may have an illness (and these are usually not fatal) that is causing panic-like symptoms.

Then if it really is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional who specializes in anxiety disorders. Yes, your GP can prescribe psychotropic medication for you but a specialist will be up on all the latest developments in types of medication, dosage, etc. Also keep in mind that anxiety disorders can be co-morbid with other mental health issues, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Seeing a specialist will help sort out exactly what’s affecting you. Medication as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy could help.

You may have all kinds of reasons why at this stage in your life you have yet to see a doctor about your symptoms. Or, if you have, you didn’t follow through on his/her advice. Stop making excuses and go to your doctor. In fact, stop reading this blog right now and call your GP for an appointment. Don’t have a GP? Call a friend, right now, and ask whom he sees. You can tell him you want to get a physical (which is true) if you feel uncomfortable revealing more.

Stop reading. Make the call.

In addition to seeing your doctor, there are steps you can take to diminish your symptoms. In the next few weeks on Tuesdays, I will talk about (1) taking care of your body, (2) making use of relaxation techniques, (3) feeling your feelings, and (4) practicing.

Up next Tuesday: Taking Care of Your Body


  1. Good advice - while anxiety disorders are one of the few things I do not suffer from, I've known several people who probably did have an anxiety problem but were never willing to check them out.

  2. It's hard to make that first step. For some people, if they've lived with anxiety for long enough, they're used to the extreme lengths they have to go to in order to work around it, and they aren't even aware of how much energy they are draining themselves of. For some, the fear is that going to a doctor is the measure of last resort and if it doesn't work then they know they're really screwed, and they'd rather not know that. Sounds really illogical but it's kind of like my friend who wouldn't ask out the guy she had a crush on because, if he said no, all hope was lost.