Crowds, Noise, Anxiety: Help?

Question

Asked by Izzy

Crowds, Noise, Anxiety: Help?

I have someone in my life who believes that anxiety can be turned on and off like a lightswitch. They seem to think that if I'm subjected to enough situations that test my limits than it will just go away. I've tried this for a while now at their request but if anything it's making me feel worse. I don't feel like it's something that is going to go away just because I experience the situation over and over, and I'm wondering if part of it is because I can't pinpoint what it is that makes me the most anxious.

See i know its social, because crowds, large groups or even just standing in front of a class to give a presentation is enough to send me into absolute panic. I begin instantly looking for an exit, the closer the better and if that exit puts me right outside all the better because then I feel like I can breathe. I don't really understand it, its not as though the space physically gets smaller with people in it, a rooms keeps its size no matter how much is crammed in and I know that, but mentally and emotionally it feels like it can.

And the noise, I can't handle the noise, volume and distractions that come with these settings. To me its about equivilent to standing next to an Indy car track and having the roar of engines reving past me. I guess my questions are this, am I alone in this experience and if not, how do some of you cope? I find that some of my personal mechanisms for these situations are wearing thin, and not working as well as they once did so if you could help me I'd be a lot better for it.

Izzy

Answer

Hi Izzy,

You are almost certainly experiencing agoraphobia along with the sense of panic and anxiety that frequently accompanies it. The person in your life is no doubt thinking of a technique called flooding. The idea is that continued exposure to the feared object or situation results in a situation where you cannot physically maintain the elevated fear response. In time this reduces and so, in principle (and sometimes in practice) does the fear.

Having said this flooding is not widely practiced, and if it is, it requires more than simply putting someone in a feared situation. What I think you need is a properly structured therapeutic package supervised and guided by a licenced psychologist. I'm assuming you live in the States, but if you don't let me know. The Americal Psychological Association have a psychologist locator to enable you to find someone in your area. Treatments vary, but you shouldn't expect them to last more than a few weeks of individual sessions.

Hop this helps