The first time I had a panic attack I thought I must have some sort of virus that made me nauseous and that gave me diarrhea. My face was flushed and I was convinced I had a fever. I was at a Christmas party at the time and spent the majority of the evening in the powder room. I felt just miserable all night. Its amazing how strong are The Astonishing Power of Emotions. I didn’t understand then that the waves coming up over me through out the evening were actually panic. It took me two days for my stomach to recover. Social Anxiety can sneak up on you and without help the phobia keeps getting re enforced by your behavior.
These panic attacks continued at social outings especially at restaurants for the next 20 or more years until I decided that I couldn’t live this way. Because I am not a very social person it didn’t affect me as much as someone who was outgoing but I found I was now avoiding situations, so my social life was very limited. I decided to get help and was referred to a Psychiatrist. She prescribed drugs to help but these gave me so many side affects, some still are with me now such as a creeping feeling in my scalp that I’ not sure that I got a lot of benefit from them. I did get some temporary relief, like a band aid solution, but it didn’t really help me solve the root problem.
I was finally diagnosed as having Social Anxiety Disorder though and that give me a name to my problem.
I went on for a few more years until I got some good advice to try Cognitive Behavior Therapy with a Psychologist at a local Mental Health Service. A group class was starting soon so I took advantage of that and joined in. What surprised me initially was that the people in the group were all different in how social anxiety was affecting them. One person had a problem with making and answering telephone calls. Another couldn’t talk to strangers and I couldn’t eat in restaurants. The real surprise was that we all benefited by the classes.
It taught me to recognize triggers for my social anxiety and to take one step at a time towards overcoming the behaviors I had re enforced over the years. We used a work book and did some group work as well.
More on my first steps to overcoming this disorder in my next post.
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