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Most people don’t know the difference between a social anxiety attack and a real panic attack. In this article I will inform you on what the difference is between the two and I’ll also give you some advice on how to deal with social anxiety, and how to overcome a social anxiety “attack”.
I was about 17 years old and was at a house party of one of my friends. She was about to leave the country for a long trip to a few countries in South America. Because of this it was one of those parties that, even though I wanted to, I definitely could not avoid. It was the beginning of the party and I was trying to get drunk as soon as possible so I could feel a bit more at ease. We were standing outside the house in sort of a circle.
The subject of conversation went to sex. I wasn’t participating because I tried to avoid these conversations as I was still a virgin. But I couldn’t help but overhearing someone asking my friend if I was still a virgin. To which my friend replied that she had to ask it to me personally… People were watching and listening to the girl asking my friend about my (lack of) sexual experience and at the moment the girl turned to me and asked me if I was still a virgin.
All attention was on me…That was when I experienced a social anxiety attack. Which is basically a state of heightened anxiety and an adrenaline rush that accompanies it. This heightened anxiety causes you to experience an abundance of social anxiety symptoms and your mind “goes blank”. Now a social anxiety attack feels really intense. And you want to get away from the situation as fast as possible. This is where it is similar to a panic attack. When you have a panic attack, you experience some of the same things as when you experience a social anxiety attack.
You have a very, very intense feeling of anxiety and you want to get away from the situation as fast as possible.
The big difference with experiencing a panic attack, is that you very strongly believe that the “attack” you experience means that there’s something physically wrong with you. While when you experience a social anxiety “attack” you merely believe there’s something emotionally wrong with you. You fear becoming embarrassed and are overwhelmed by emotions. Emotions that you try to fight. You might think “I’m panicking”, but you don’t believe you are going to die of physical ailments.
In a panic attack however, people fear that they are having a heart attack, that they’re about to lose all control, or that they’re turning crazy. Some believe that because they can’t catch their breath they’re suffocating. Or that the dizziness and “unreal” feeling they experience means that they have a terrible undiagnosed illness. These people with a panic attack are only imagining this however, because when they go to the hospital for check-ups they find that they are perfectly healthy. It is the anxiety in the panic attack that causes them to think like that. So the big difference between a social anxiety attack and a panic attack is that the people that have a panic attack fear they have a physical, medical disease. And when you have a social anxiety attack you don’t believe this. You just experience a lot of social anxiety symptoms and feel very intense anxiety.
It is difficult to give good advice for dealing with this. What happens is your anxiety is extremely high. And techniques with releasing your emotions don’t work that fast when you are in the moment, experiencing a full-blown attack. The best you can do is while you are having the attack is to accept that you are having it. Don’t fight it. Fighting it makes you get entangled in all the emotions and negative thinking and makes the intensity of your anxiety stay for longer because you are “putting oil on the fire”. Just try to breath deeply and tell yourself that it’s OK. Assure yourself that it’s just an intense emotion and that it will subside quickly.
Accept that where you are right now, having a social anxiety attack, is where you are right now. From here on you can work forward to solving your social anxiety. The overall best advice I can give you is to get help in solving your social phobia. And to use all the techniques, mindsets, attitudes, advice and strategies on this site. Work on overcoming your social phobia with all the power you have in you. Don’t give up until you have achieved your goal and it’s inevitable you will eventually reach your goal.