Saturday, December 5, 2020

Social Anxiety Attacks: Here’s How To Handle Them


One of the symptoms of Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is that it can cause panic attacks when you’re around other people in a social setting.

They’re extremely uncomfortable and while they can cause more turmoil in the mind, they are relatively harmless for the body. Even still they make life miserable so let’s look at how to control these social anxiety attacks.

What Is A Panic Attack? What Causes Them?

A panic attack is your body reacting to what your subconscious mind believes to be a threat to your life. If you were being chased by a herd of wild elephants, you might well have a panic attack. That sort of scenario is what the panic response was meant for.

Your subconscious mind believes that you are in danger in social situations, so it instructs your body to react to this ‘danger’. 

The panic response is supposed to help you survive. The attacks may be miserable, but ironically, they’re actually trying their best to help you. The subconscious mind doesn’t see that there’s no danger. Not yet anyway. 

SideNote: Your subconscious is oblivious to the actual lack of danger because it cannot react to your reassuring thoughts. E.g. You might say to yourself “It’s OK, you can relax” and it won’t help because the subconscious cannot communicate with the conscious mind.

How Do I Know If I’m Having A Social Anxiety Attack?

You’ll get 4 or more of the following symptoms during a social anxiety attack:

Pounding heart beat,
or palpitations
Fear of losing control
of yourself
Sweating Shaking
Feeling smothered or short
of breath
Nausea or feelings of an upset stomach
Feeling like you’re choking Pain in the chest area
De-personalization (feeling like you’re not actually you) De-realization (like the situation
isn’t actually real)
Dizziness or ‘wobblyness’ Light-headedness
Numbness and tingling Chills or hot flushes

4 Major Ways To Handle Social Panic Attacks

There’s a few simple practices you can use, that will help to reduce the intensity of a social phobia attack:

1. Take short breaths IN + long and deep breaths OUT

  • During anxiety attacks, it’s natural to take short breaths in and out. This is called hyperventilation. It creates an overload of oxygen in your blood that boosts adrenaline – which is the last thing you need at this time.
  • By breathing out for more seconds than you breath in, you’re reducing the panic’s momentum, and creating calm in your body. Once this happens, social anxiety disorder and panic will reduce.

2. Focus your mind on the sound of your breathing

  • Listen to the sound of your breath. Focus on it as best you can. Focusing on something so simple is a good way to calm down.
  • Your mind will currently be in the habit of trying to think about lots of things at once, so this skill will not come naturally. It takes practice. 
  • If you can persistently practice focusing attention on your breathing, you’ll build a new habit of rejecting the ‘stimuli’ that made you anxious – it’s one of the best social phobia fixes.

3. Get to a bathroom, and splash cold water on your face

  • If the attack is really bad, and the situation allows you to get to a bathroom, splash some cold water on that pretty face of yours. Why? 
  • When cold water touches your face, an evolutionary reaction to the water, called the ‘dive response’ will kick in. This slows the heart rate down significantly. 
  • Obviously, in a social situation, rushing off to the bathroom isn’t always that practical. But if it’s a bad panic attack, and you can get there easily enough, it’s an option. Unlike the guy in the pic, you don’t need to take your top off for this!

4. Take a Deep Breath & Hold it for 5 – 10 seconds

  • When the panic kicks in, hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. This might feel a bit weird because it may seem like your heart is skipping a beat. This is normal in someone suffering anxiety, and is entirely harmless.
  • Your heart rate should slow down when you hold your breath. Breath normally afterwards. I find 2 or 3 seconds IN, and then 4 or 5 seconds OUT work well.

Most Important Rule:
Short Breaths IN, Long Breaths OUT

That first tip I gave above is the vital one. When you manipulate your breathing, you can smash up that panic attack. 

If you can focus your attention on your breathing also, then that’s even better – but at the basic and important level, just sort your breathing out.

You should be able to notice the calming effect this can have, if you practice it right now. When you take that long breath out, do you feel yourself relaxing a little? You should do.  If not, practice for a couple of minutes and you’ll feel the difference!

Emily Murdoch
Hi I write about health and fitness for women! You may contact me at

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