If you are not sure if you have an anxiety problem and/or agoraphobia, here are some basic questions that you need to ask yourself:
- Do you often experience a strong fear that quickly reaches its peak and lasts for 10 or more minutes?
- Is this fear sometimes quite unexpected?
- Are you particularly nervous or worried about these episodes?
- Are you worried for your health because of these episodes of fear?
- Do you often avoid certain places, situations, activities, or even some people because of this fear?
- Did it become difficult for you to work because of these fear episodes or have you neglected some of your activities?
- Are you worried about how people close to you will react to your fear or are you ashamed or too uncomfortable about it?
- Do you think that your fear annoys people close to you, or prevents them from living a normal life?
- Are you so preoccupied with your fear that you often worry about future episodes of fear or about their possible consequences for your health?
If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions (and you usually recognize yourself in a few questions), you certainly have a problem and you need to help yourself. This does not mean that you have found a final diagnosis for yourself – it is a doctor or a therapist’s job. But, you do have a fear whose manifestations are not normal and which you need to do something about.
When you have recognized that you have a problem – in this case, panic attacks and/or agoraphobia – and after your doctor has confirmed it, the first question is whether you can help yourself. Of course, this is a matter of your assessment and expectation. Often, people with panic attacks have completely unrealistic expectations from healing. Some are vainly trying with “power of mind” to predict or stop panic and it is very difficult for them to accept the fact that something like that is impossible.Others expect that the “problem” will quickly be resolved and never come back again, so they are very disappointed when they realize that this usually does not happen. Some would want to be completely fear-free, forgetting that in many situations fear is understandable, expected and normal, and that in others, it saves lives!
Since panic attacks and “fear of fear” are difficult to tolerate, especially if they are frequent or very pronounced, it is understandable that patients are usually impatient and want help and “cure” right away. Therefore, in the first contact with people with the problem, the professionals need to provide information about the nature of the disorder, to convince them that they are not vitally endangered, to calm them down, to help them get better as fast as possible or eliminate panic attacks and the most prominent symptoms – and explain to them that the treatment will probably take longer than they expect. This is at the same time the first phase of treatment.