panic attacks: need some advice

Got the symptoms: nausea, knot in the throat, hot flashes, (occasionally) trembling… And I know the cause: certain social situations (anything that might be remotely considered a date).

This has been going on for years, starting with the occasional “butterflies” in the stomach sensation; now it’s knot in the throat, follwed by nausea, followed by retching (yup, I go all the way) and accompanied by hot flashes, sweating, and on particularly nasty occasions, shaking. I must be sensational company at these times.

It’s the nausea that bothers me most, though because (1) it’s the most physically uncomfortable, and (2) it’s the one I can’t hide. In fact, the other symptoms seem to be derived from a fear of it, so if I can lick the nausea, I think the others may go away. There is something that makes me relax though, a couple of beers. Unfortunately, I need to get the buzz going beforehand, and showing up for a “date” already buzzed sounds to me like a bad idea (not to mention the whole concept of using alcohol to deal with a social phobia).

What I seek is a behavioral therapy that will enable me to take care of this on my own. I suspect it will entail putting myself in stressful situations and holding on tight.

So… any of you dopers have have experience in this, either personally or a friend? Any strategies? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I’m no expert.

however, something relevant the psychotherapist Aaron Beck talks about is “automatic thoughts”. These are triggering worries or anxieties that set off a panic attack, but which you immediately forget. I’ve had health anxiety panic attacks that I’ve noticed start from some little ephemeral thought about having a heart attack. Beck suggests trying to identify your own triggery thought processes. Once you realise that the trigger is x or y anxiety thought, you might be able to disarm it. His book “Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders” is good on this.

I agree with the automatic thoughts idea. You’re letting yourself get too worked up about what may or may not happen during your date, whether it’s something you’re conscious about or not. I think everybody suffers this at one time or another.

I’m not a psychologist (or I’d be on my yacht, not on a forum, right?), but I think you should lower your perception of the expectations / consequences of the dates you’re going on. Expectations-wise, you’re not necessarily going to score if you do everything perfectly. Instead, you should focus on what you think about the person you’re with. You may find that any nervousness you had is erased when your date: A) makes you laugh and feel good b) proves that evolution isn’t a single-track process.

As for consequences, think about this. Your date probably wouldn’t be going out with you if they didn’t like you a little in the first place. Think of people you’ve dated. Did “bad luck” make you disgusted? Most likely, you laughed about their situation.

Remember, dating is about having fun, not finding a life-long partner RIGHT NOW!!! If you’re just trying to get laid, being a nervous, shivering, stuttering fool isn’t going to help anyway.

One last example: Ask anyone that’s been on a ship in the military. The people that talk about how they “hope I don’t get sick” almost always get sick. They hide down in the bottom of the ship in fear that looking at the waves will make them ill. The people that may be nervous and queasy, that brave the situation, head out on deck and breathe in the cool ocean air, generally don’t.

There’s one last option available to you. In this day and age, with the internet, there’s bound to be a couple of people out there that want you to toss chunks on them during the date. They’ll find it a real turn-on. All else fails, it beats being alone, right???. :smiley:

Read Dr. Claire Weeks “Hope and Help For Your Nerves” and see if that does anything for you. One thing that happens when you have a panic attack is that you can start to hyperventilate without even being aware of it. Try to focus on breathing slowly in and out. In through your nose. Out through your mouth. In. Out. In. Out. Feel better? Good!

During an especially stressful time in my life, I would get sick on the way to work. Yup, the full Monty. Been there. I got past it and so will you!

It helps to try and focus on something else. Order a Vernors and sip at it. Suck or chew on the ice. Have a mint or some gum handy. There’s a pressure point on your wrist that helps combat nausea. If you hold ice or anything cold in your hands, that helps a lot too.

Can you have a date closer to your comfort zone? A movie is a good one, or anything where you are a member of an audience. The focus is off of you and there’s less pressure to perform. What about hanging out at your place? Ae there any activities that you especially enjoy? The point is to get the focus off of how you feel, and concentrate on something else.

Here’s what worked for me in the end VALIUM (no, just kidding). Find a quiet, comfortable spot at home, and relax. Breathe in and out slowly. Go through a typical outing in your imagination step by step from start to finish. Picture yourself as being relaxed and happy. Move through from scene to scene until you are ending your date. Do this as often as you need to until you feel confident, at least in your head. This is visualization, and it’s very helpful. When you’re actually out there and start to feel nervous, picture yourself how you were at home, relaxed and at ease.

Worse comes to worse, do a headstand and chant your mantra.