Teens: When They Tell You to Try Not to Panic

Are you a teenager that suffers with anxiety attacks or panic attacks? Welcome to my club! Believe it or not, there are more members than you think. When I was first diagnosed with anxiety over a decade ago, I felt like there was something terribly wrong with me. After my first anxiety attack around sixteen, I usually could tell when I was about to have another one. This was not a good thing. In fact, it made my symptoms so much worse because I was terrified of having another attack. First, the room would feel like it was about to close in on me. Even if I was outside, I felt like the space around me was getting increasingly smaller. After the claustrophobic feeling set in, I would lose the ability to focus or concentrate on whatever was going on around me. My heart would often beat very fast, and I would have trouble breathing. I had the sudden urge to run away, and very often, I did.

The adults in my life were not familiar with anxiety. They would often tell me, “Just try not to panic!”. I was not very good at trying not to panic. I was bad at it. The more I tried not to panic, the more I would panic. The more I panicked, the more upset I would become at myself for panicking, which would make me panic more. Does this sound familiar? It is an awful cycle. I did not feel in control of my body. I did not feel in control of my mind. After an attack I was often embarrassed and angry at myself. I had a difficult time talking to friends about it, so I rarely did.

My journey through my anxiety is my own, it is unique. Ironically, what helped me overcome many of my symptoms was not trying to not panic. In other words, when I felt an anxiety attack coming, I did not try to avoid it. Instead, I allowed myself to feel it. If I was in public, I would try to find a private space where I did not have to worry about anyone seeing me. After a handful of times of leaning into my anxiety, I realized that I was always ok afterwards. I was alive. The world around me never actually fell apart as it felt like it would during my attacks. Seventeen years after my first anxiety attack, I am still more anxious than other human beings. I probably always will be. However, now I feel in control of my mind and body. I know now that my anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed or angry about. Most importantly, I now enjoy talking to others about my anxiety. Enough, even, to blog about it.

If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicago area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written By: Hillary R., Masters Level Intern 2023

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