Panic Disorder- Should I Attend My Friend's Party?

Published: November 30, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My best friend has a party. I have recently changed/switched schools. I don't see them as much as I used to and they don't text me as much as they used to. I recently discovered that have Panic Disorder. I don't know some people and when I am uncomfortable, I usually get panic attacks. I am so afraid of it happening and making my best friend's party a complete failure. Should I actually go?
Signed: Panic Disorder- Should I Attend My Friend's Party?

Dear Panic Disorder- Should I Attend My Friend's Party?,

If you are concerned about having a panic attack at your friend’s party, then it seems to TeenHealthFX that you have two options. You could decide not to attend the party. If you only “recently” discovered that you have a panic disorder, then FX is going to assume that you have not received any professional treatment for it. It would be understandable then if you decided you would rather not put yourself in situation that could potentially trigger a panic attack until you have received from guidance from a mental health professional about how to manage these situations.

Your second option would be that prior to the party you would learn about, and put into practice, the self-help tips for panic attacks listed below from, particularly the relaxation techniques and exercise. And if at any point you start to notice a change in your thoughts, feelings, or how your body feels, have a plan where you can quickly and easily leave the party. For example, set up with your parents that if you text them you need them to come right away to get you. You can then tell your friend, or anyone at the party who asks, that something has come up with your family and your parents need you home (or whatever excuse works for you).

As for which option you go with, this is a decision you will have to make in terms of what you feel most comfortable with. FX just suggests that you try to be as honest with yourself as you can about what you feel ready for. Since it sounds like you have not yet received any treatment for this, it makes perfect sense that you might not feel ready for a party. Remember, there will be other parties you can go to once you are in treatment and are feeling more confident about managing your symptoms in situations that can be a potential trigger for your anxiety.   

If you haven’t done so already, FX strongly encourages you to schedule an appointment with a reputable therapist, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, who has experience working with anxiety disorders. A therapist can provide you with an accurate diagnosis (if you have not already gotten one from a mental health professional) and recommendations about treatment so that you can better manage your symptoms.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.


Self-help tips for panic attacks

When it comes to panic attacks, professional treatment and therapy can make a big difference. But there are many things you can do to help yourself, too:

  • Learn about panic and anxiety. Simply knowing more about panic can go a long way towards relieving your distress. So read up on anxiety, panic disorder, and the fight-or-flight response experienced during a panic attack. You’ll learn that the sensations and feelings you have when you panic are normal and that you aren’t going crazy.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. These can all provoke panic attacks in people who are susceptible. As a result, it’s wise to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages. If you need help to kick the cigarette habit, see How to Quit Smoking. Also be careful with medications that contain stimulants, such as diet pills and non-drowsy cold medications.
  • Learn how to control your breathing. Hyperventilation brings on many sensations (such as lightheadedness and tightness of the chest) that occur during a panic attack. Deep breathing, on the other hand, can relieve the symptoms of panic. By learning to control your breathing, you develop a coping skill that you can use to calm yourself down when you begin to feel anxious. If you know how to control your breathing, you are also less likely to create the very sensations that you are afraid of.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, activities such as yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation strengthen the body’s relaxation response—the opposite of the stress response involved in anxiety and panic. And not only do these relaxation practices promote relaxation, but they also increase feelings of joy and equanimity. So make time for them in your daily routine.
  • Connect face-to-face with family and friends. Anxiety thrives when you feel isolated so regularly reach out to people who care about you. If you feel that you don’t have anyone to turn to, explore ways to meet new people and build supportive friendships.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural anxiety reliever so try to get moving for at least 30 minutes on most days (three 10-minute sessions is just as good). Rhythmic aerobic exercise that requires moving both your arms and legs—like walking, running, swimming, or dancing—can be especially effective.
  • Get enough restful sleep. Insufficient or poor quality sleep can make anxiety worse, so try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night. If sleeping well is a problem for you, these tips to getting a good night’s sleep can help.
Signed: TeenHealthFX