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Panic attacks in church - too scared to go back

(9 Posts)
vladthedisorganised Thu 25-Feb-16 12:02:00

Posting here but could be in any number of places.. need a bit of a hand hold.

I suffer from very mild claustrophobia: I don't mind small spaces, but hate being in a crush of people. This is quite easy to work around/ with most of the time; I avoid lifts and try where possible to travel outside of rush hour on public transport. I have had minor panic attacks in the past but nothing to warrant medication.

Our priest has decided that christenings should take place in the Sunday services, which is sensible in terms of the community being part of it. We have a lot of christenings - which is great - but does mean that the church can become really crowded and chaotic, particularly as there is rarely any advance notice to the congregation that they're happening on x week.

Last week we had three christenings during the service. The church was packed to the rafters and the background noise was absolutely deafening (the priest did ask for quiet a number of times); both of which contributed to a full-blown anxiety attack that I haven't had for years. I ended up having to be taken out of the church mid-service and spent most of the time crouched at the side of the building sobbing.

I'm now terrified to go back in case the same thing happens again, though I know how ridiculous it is: asking to sit in a specific place by the door seems a bit selfish, and I'm loath to go to the GP about it as the obvious medical answer is 'don't go, then!' I like the community a lot, it's just the christening crush that gets me agitated.

Any ideas on what I can do to resolve this for myself?

gingerdodger Thu 25-Feb-16 19:39:21

I don't think your GP would respond like that as, if I could happen in church, it could happen in any crowded place and maybe some counselling or coping mechanisms might help so I would suggest speaking to him/her. It is a illness like any other and it is affecting your life.

Would it also be worth speaking to your priest? I am sure that mechanisms could be put in place to support you eg warning you of the services or finding you a quiet spot or maybe suggesting an alternative quieter service on those busy weeks? I hope you can work it out, church is often a haven of peace but those very busy services can be challenging even without your claustrophobia so I feel for you and hope you can find some things to make it accessible.

Lovelydiscusfish Thu 25-Feb-16 21:57:32

So sorry this has happened - must be really horrible!
I'm sure your church would be happy to reserve a place for you near the door. Similarly, I'm sure either a vicar, church warden, PCC member, parish administrator or similar, all of whom should know when baptisms are occurring, could alert you to this? (Or it could be put on the church Facebook page, or similar, if they have this?)
I administrate our church Facebook, and always alert people when a baptism is scheduled, partly because I know there are members of our congregation who will make a particular effort to come to them, but equally because I know a couple of people avoid them like the plague, for similar reasons to your own. It's a five second job for me on a Friday night - it is so not a problem!

PurpleDaisies Thu 25-Feb-16 22:05:25

I'm loath to go to the GP about it as the obvious medical answer is 'don't go, then!'

It really wouldn't-avoiding situations is a really bad way of getting over panic attacks. CBT is great for helping cope with them-the earlier you get started the better. There's some good information here.
www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Panic-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx

And I agree, any decent church will help you with somewhere suitable to sit where you can nip out if you need a minute to clear your head. It's much more common than you think. flowers

PurpleDaisies Thu 25-Feb-16 22:06:11

It?! I mean they-the GP wouldn't tell you to stop going to church.

tribpot Thu 25-Feb-16 22:10:48

It sounds awful. I also have an aversion to crowded places, I find a crowded train (esp the Tube of course) at rush hour pretty stressful.

I'm sure your GP won't simply suggest not going to church, that would be daft. It's not church, it's a crowded environment that you're responding to. Unless you think you wouldn't experience similar feelings in other situations, but I'm sure that's not the case.

I would also have a word with your priest and explain the situation. I know this sounds a bit mad, but do you need to go on a Sunday? (Am I imagining the idea that churches have services on other days of the week too?) Alternatively I'm sure the priest could let you know when the christenings are going to be happening and you could switch to an evening service or at least arrive late and stand at the back?

I do wonder if this strategy of having the christenings in the main service is the best one all round. I can understand the point of the community being there but surely no-one's getting much benefit out of a service they can't hear over the din of visitors.

TeacupsandFigs Mon 28-Mar-16 14:47:10

OP sorry that you have had this. Can you get there earlier and so choose where you can sit? I don't go to church any more but I used to arrive early so I could get a seat in a quieter area where I was tucked away from the rest of the congregation. Alternatively I'd go late and sit in the porch where I could hear the service but didn't have to take part. Maybe one of those would work for you?

GinandJag Wed 30-Mar-16 10:44:50

Can't you ask another member of the church family to sit with you and comfort you when you start to get anxious. There is no need to go through this alone in a church of all places. Someone should also pray with you before and after the service, perhaps visiting you at home during the week.

What kind of pastoral care is there at your church? Is there a team of pastoral assistants?

BoxofSnails Sat 02-Apr-16 06:06:46

Could you switch to an evening service for a while? Does the church even have one?

Like you we baptise allcomers and often have christenings in the main service as often as twice a month. But it's in the previous week's notices and so if I'm not serving somehow - I tend to miss it. Volunteering to do something is another solution - welcomers are automatically at the back/side, musicians have space and purpose, does your church have a technical team? I feel less overwhelmed if I can be busy 'doing'.

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