by Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
Know Your Symptoms
To prevent potential fatalities from a full-blown heart attack, the public has been educated about the signs and symptoms of an impending one. With this information, people are better able to self assess, spot the crisis coming and get immediate help.
Anxiety, which can turn into a full blown panic attack, has signs and symptoms as well. Figuring out your own symptoms during a time of calm is useful because at the START of an episode of feeling anxious you can course correct, or engage in some intentional self-soothing behaviors with far greater success than at the height of a panic.
My mother regularly thinks she has misplaced her keys. They are almost always simply hiding in the bowels of her purse. But as she looks for her keys her anxiety becomes heightened. She becomes increasingly convinced that she has lost them, which turns into fears that she has Alzheimer’s, which turns into fears that she will lose her ability to live independently and experience freedom and happiness. When she is digging frantically around her purse for her keys, she is completely unable to engage in problem solving to prevent this pattern from re-occurring. Any suggestions are immediately shot down (“hey, why not get one of those purse inserts with a dedicated spot for your key?” Or “Hey, why not always put your keys into a zippered compartment so you know where to look for them?”)
Normally an open and receptive, highly intelligent person, in full blown panic she—like all of us—simply cannot think to take in new information.
As anxiety builds, it goes from wave to tsunami. It is much easier to manage a wave than a tsunami.
Get to know your anxiety wave: Think about all of the physical (body) mental (thinking) and emotional (feeling) ways that your social anxiety shows up, and write them down. Do you experience changes in your breathing, heartbeat, a sense of pressure in your throat, sweat, dryness of mouth? Do you stutter? Do you imagine passing out or throwing up or suddenly swearing like a sailor? Do you tell yourself things like, “I’m going to die” or “I can’t get through this.”?
Write it all down! Try to remember all the ways that social anxiety grabs you by the throat. This information is important for two reasons: one, you can stop anxiety early on if you recognize it. Two, you can talk back to your anxiety if you can pick out your self-talk. “No, it’s not the end of the world if I flub the interview.”
- What Is Anticipatory Anxiety? (everydayhealth.com)
- How to Handle Panic Attacks (everydayhealth.com)
- Panic Attack (caitlinsong.wordpress.com)
- Women and Panic Attacks (everydayhealth.com)