Roger's Panic Strategy

I recently had an experience I would like to share with you.  It helped to put my anxiety into perspective.

Eating in a public place has always been extremely difficult for me to do. Not only did I fear doing something embarrassing, I feared having a panic attack and not being able to get out.

One day, I set up a time to go to lunch with my wife. As it turned out, it was the busiest time of the day and  the restaurant was really crowded. I knew from previous experiences that somehow I would be seated at the last table in the deepest part of the restaurant. Well, today was no exception.

As a result, the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) began marching towards me. I started to get all of these negative thoughts and feelings about not being able to eat my dinner and about having a panic attack and not being able to escape.

So, I said to the ANTs,

"You don't belong here! Get out now!"

My heart beat increased and the sweat started to bead up on my forehead. I was scared. So I grabbed my cigarette lighter and set it beside me in the booth.

I realized that, if I didn't accept it, this negative energy had nowhere else to go and these STUPID, IDIOTIC, LYING ANTS were almost begging me to pay attention to them. And I was determined not to pay attention to them.

I used this analogy: I felt like I was sitting next to a small, spoiled brat screaming,

"Give me this, give me that -- I want your attention NOW!"

Each time I felt a surge of panic or an uneasy feeling, I moved my cigarette lighter around in the booth. I pushed it away from me several times. I find it easier if I have a physical object to move around that reminds me that the anxiety feelings I have are LYING to me and that I have control over them! (Not the other way around.)

It is much easier to do things now when I realize that the feelings I experience are very much like a small, spoiled child who begs for attention. When my ANTs feelings begin to grow, I am reminded that they really are like small, spoiled brats who crave attention. The panic wants me to pay attention to it!

If I refuse to pay attention to it, it can't grow.

I am happy to say, however, that on this particular day I told this small, spoiled brat to go play with his ANTs friends and leave me alone! I wanted to enjoy my meal in peace. When I don't pay attention to those surges of uneasiness, they are powerless.

This is a strategy that works for me.  I LOVE it when I'm in control.

Our History and Our Mission

The Anxiety Network began in 1995 due to growing demand from people around the world wanting help in understanding and overcoming their anxiety disorder.  The Anxiety Clinic of Arizona and its website, The Anxiety Network, received so much traffic and requests for help that we found ourselves spending much of our time in international communication and outreach.  Our in-person anxiety clinic has grown tremendously, and our principal internet tool, The Anxiety Network, has been re-written and re-designed with focus on the three major anxiety disorders: panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder.  

The Anxiety Network  focuses on three of the major anxiety disorders:  panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

In 1997, The Social Anxiety Association, a non-profit organization, was formed and now has its own website.

The Social Anxiety Institute, the largest site on the internet for information and treatment of social anxiety, has maintained an active website since 1998.  Continuous, ongoing therapy groups have helped hundreds of people overcome social anxiety since 1994.  

Follow Dr. Richards