Many people with panic attacks fear that they will lose control in the most awkward of places. For many folks this could be having a panic attack at work.
One person I knew, I’ll call her Jane to protect her identity, was very worried about having a panic attack at work.
When she became anxious, she would have very bad intestinal problems and feel the need to rush to the washroom. This made her anxiety much worse because she not only feared having a panic attack at work, but that she’d have intestinal problems.
When talking with Jane, I discovered that one of the things creating a huge amount of panic for her was the fear that she might have to leave suddenly, if she had a panic attack at work.
She was given the suggestion by a psychologist that during a staff meeting she should try to intentionally leave the room. She became quite nervous when this suggestion was given to her; however, over time, she agreed to give it a try.
The next staff meeting approached and halfway through the meeting she got up and left the room.
No one was surprised or shocked; as it turned out, various people would come and go throughout the meeting.
Over the next month or so she repeated this behaviour (leaving the room) at each meeting. Jane learned that she no longer needed to fear having to leave meetings suddenly because she had become accustomed to it. Her anxiety reduced and so too did her intestinal problems.
You see this works for Jane. And, it can work for you too.
You might be wondering why this helps Jane with her anxiety?
Well, what’s going on is that Jane has faced one of her fears – which is having to leave the room suddenly – but now, she has actually seen concrete evidence that nothing bad happens, so her fear of the unknown is removed from the situation.
Really, this technique is a variation of exposure therapy. What is even more encouraging, is what researchers published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on the effects of exposure therapy. The effects of a single session can have long term effects and result in a stable reorganization of neural responses to feared stimuli. In other words, we no longer have the same neurological reactions inside of our brains to the things that we feared.
I would encourage you to look at the things you avoid and then devise a plan such as Jane’s, so that you can face the thing you fear and then see the evidence that nothing majorly bad happens. This can remove the fear you have of particular situations or places.
This technique can help you conquer any fear of having to leave social situations quickly, if you’re avoiding them due to a condition, or, whatever the case may be.
Reference (Panic Attack at Work)
Hauner, K., Mineka, S., Paller, K., Voss, J. (2012) of America. Exposure therapy triggers long lasting reorganization of neural fear processing, 109(23), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1205242109
Retrievable via: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/23/9203