Attending Concerts with Anxiety or Panic Disorder
(Writer: Tom Schassler)
I’ve been an avid concert goer for the better part of 13 years, and I’ve lived with panic disorder for about 12. I suffer from panic attacks at random occasions, usually nothing triggers them – except for a flight during take off or waiting in a long line at an amusement park. Most people don’t understand it, they think it means that I tend to worry in certain situations… I wish that was the case. One attack that sticks out to me recently was on a flight to Orlando, FL. Prior to boarding I was encountering a feeling of detachment and floating in my own body, which for me are telltale signs something is about to happen. As I sat in my seat I immediately lost feeling in my extremities and got sharp pains in both my heart and tongue (the tongue part was a new feeling for me). My first instinct was to get up and run out of the plane, but at this point it was too late with the door shut just moments later. I was trapped. I legitimately thought I was dying, like I always do, but this time I didn’t have the option to drive to an urgent care or ER like I have in the past. My symptoms subsided after about 20 minutes and I was fast asleep right after since all of my adrenaline was spent.
Anyway, this leads me to how I’ve managed to cope at the concerts I’ve attended while having the fear of a panic stuck in the back of my head. See below for my list of tips that have worked for me:
1: Stay away from the rail. Not only is the sound quality usually bad, but you can feel trapped which is never good for anxiety.
2: Always have an escape. Look for the exits that are most accessible from where you are standing. When having a panic attack it’s important to leave a large crowd.
3: Wear earplugs. Not only is this a good practice while attending a show, but I’ve found it to be helpful in lowering my feeling of anxiety. My guess is that is has to do with dulling your senses, avoiding overload.
4: Avoid small venues – this is something I try to live by. You end up feeling less claustrophobic in a more wide open venue.
5: Go with friends. It’s sometimes good to have that buddy to help you out in a time of need.
6: Don’t go with friends. I’ve also found it to be less stressful to attend concerts solo. You can leave when you want without annoying your friend.
7: Workout before the show. Some people claim that panic attacks happen more easily when your body has built up energy is needs to get rid of. Go for a run or intense walk before hand to get rid of it.
8: Practice breathing techniques. I’ve been working on my breathing and found that sometimes it could help when I feel an attack coming. Try breathing in fours… i.e. breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds. Repeat those steps and your heart rate should slow down, helping you feel stabilized.
9: Last, and not for everyone or the best practice… grab a drink before the show starts up. This could help calm your nerves, but don’t over do it!
Remember to focus on your mental health first. I always advise people that it’s a good idea to seek a counselor. They can help you face your problems and they truly understand what you are experiencing.