Beating Panic Disorder When You’re On a Date

A Guest Blog by Cassie Steele

“In panic, time stops: past, present and future exist as a single overwhelming force. You then, perversely,want time to appear to run forwards because the ‘future’ is the only place you can see an escape from this intolerable overload of feeling”- Sebastian Faulks, Engleby

In his emotion-packed novel, ‘Engelby’ author Sebastian Faulks sums up how hard it can be to do normal things like date, work, or make new friends, when panic hits. An attack can happen during the most inopportune moments… when we are seated at a table, about to enter a movie or in the middle of a concert, for example. When it strikes, we can feel like we are spiralling out of control. There is hope, of course, because anxiety is nothing more than an illusion that we are in danger. With a little help, we can simply ‘ride the wave of panic’ and ask our partner to help us breathe and perhaps even turn a disastrous moment into a humorous one.

Just the Way You Are

When you go on a date, the person sitting opposite you or joining you for a fun sporting adventure, film, theatrical performance etc. should be, above all, someone you trust. If you have strong or frequent panic attacks, it is important to let them know about the nature of anxiety; the way it ‘tricks’ your body and mind into believing you are in imminent danger, all the little changes it provokes – including the tensing up of muscles, fast breathing, and heart palpitations. They should know about the ‘fight or flight’ response, and the fact that anxiety is not imagined; it truly can cause pain and discomfort, especially when one is hyperventilating. They should be aware that you know what is happening to you, and that there is a way to ‘ride’ through a panic attack. As someone who cares about you, your date can benefit from learning the things that work (essentially abdominal breathing techniques) so they can join you while you inhale and exhale, if panic sets is.

Reducing the Surprise Factor

You can surprise your date with a romantic outing, picnic or dinner but you can calm your own nerves by planning well for your date. Book in advance so you don’t find that the romantic restaurant you’ve been eyeing is full for the night. Read up on how to pair specific dishes with wine, checking out the restaurant’s online menu first and doing a little research on some of their bottles. Make sure the car is clean and your outfit is chosen and pressed. Organisation will help you feel like you are just ‘slipping into’ the date, without having to worry about a myriad of last-minute details.

Join a Local Support Group

It is important to build a social circle among people who understand and support you. By joining a local support group, you can meet others who may also have anxiety; after all, it is one of the two most common mental conditions affecting people of all ages in the UK. Being with someone who understands exactly how overpowering a panic attack can feel can really take off the heat and foster a sense of acceptance.

Dating is always a little stressful, but it can be immensely rewarding if you are open and honest with your date and if you work on a friendship before going on an official ‘date’. Anxiety is very common; when discussing your own condition with a prospective date, you may be surprised to learn that they, too, have experienced it at some point in their lives. Keep a sense of humour around the topic, prepare well, and remember that if a panic attack should arise, your date should serve as a help rather than hindrance. Ask them breathe with you and when the panic subsides (which it will) you can continue to enjoy a fabulous date under the stars, by a candlelit dinner, or in the middle of a concert hall.

Photo by Nathan Walker on Unsplash

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