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I frequently have panic attacks when talking to my friends, do what I perceive as them ganging up on me, in accordance to what they have done in the past, and when they are specifically excluding me from interacting with them due to me accusing them of things which they later did admit to doing. These panic attacks usually make me try to apologize to them and surrender whatever point we are talking about, but they usually take this as an insult, so they suggest that I try to hide my panic attacks. All of these interactions are online, so I can physically walk away, I just find it hard to tell when an attack is starting.

What can I say to hide my panic attacks when they happen and prevent them from noticing, like they asked? Ie, what can I say to recover from saying something panickedly?

closed as off-topic by The Wraith, user6818, Magisch, Rainbacon, Link0352 Apr 23 '18 at 14:24

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about interpersonal skills, within the scope defined in the help center." – The Wraith, Community, Magisch, Rainbacon, Link0352
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I don't understand from the context if this happens in some sort of video chat where everyone can see your facial expressions and body language, or if it's in a text-only situation, could you expand on that? Furthermore, is this a situation when you all talk together, or is it in one-on-one meetings? – pipe Apr 23 '18 at 9:04
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    Have these been diagnosed as panic attacks by a medical practitioner? How do you feel physically during an attack? – Spagirl Apr 23 '18 at 9:56
  • @pipe it's over text, so sadly no expressions. There are both times when we talk in a group, and when we talk one on one, and the panic attacks usually happen when we're talking in a group, or when I think they're excluding me from the group and not telling me. – Dragon Apr 23 '18 at 20:23
  • @Spagirl No, and I have trouble feeling how I physically feel during them, and I'm just not sure what to call them. I find myself with my heart racing and my limbs shaking, but I can't even notice until partway though. It also varies greatly- after I posted this, I had an episode and I was shaking so bad I literally couldn't type. – Dragon Apr 23 '18 at 20:25
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Just to clarify:

  1. You have panic attacks when you think your friends are ganging up on you
  2. This is because they have actually ganged up on you before and admitted it
  3. All these interactions are online
  4. Your attacks make you apologise for something you haven't done
  5. They have told you to hide your panic attacks
  6. You want to try and hide the attacks
  7. You can't tell when you are having an attack until afterwards

Okay, this isn't an advice page, but I have to say these online associates of yours are terrible, terrible friends. What you describe here just doesn't meet any of the criteria for someone being a "friend".

Because you say that you cannot tell when you are having a panic attack I don't think there is any way you can hide them. You have no early warning signs. Honestly, if you could read the situation any earlier and tell when a conversation is building up to these people ganging up on you before it actually happens, my advise would still be to get yourself out of this toxic, abusive relationship.

I am no expert on panic attacks but I know that there is not always a "cure" for social anxieties. Still, if your panic attacks happen with this set of people then your best course of action to avoid the attacks is to get yourself a new set of friends.

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    About the last paragraph: sometimes anxiety and panic attacks are a warning from your body that something in your situation is really wrong and you should change that. – DarkPurpleShadow Apr 23 '18 at 14:21
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I'm really sorry that you're experiencing anxiety in this way. Panic attacks can be really difficult to cope with and it seems like your 'friends' aren't being very supportive. From all that you've said, I don't think that these people are very good 'friends' because friends don't gang up on you, exclude you or do bad things to you.

To answer your original question, if you have a panic attack and want to excuse yourself from a social situation, you could say something like, 'I'm not feeling great at the moment, please excuse me,' and you don't need to explain yourself any further.

But overall, maybe consider whether these people are the type of people you want to have in your life. Friends are meant to uplift and support you. These people aren't doing that.

  • I think that it also applies to online situations. Rather than just going offline, which can be perceived as dramatic and cause further stress to OP, so instead of suddenly disappearing from a conversation, I think they can use this line to leave the conversation. – Sophie Apr 23 '18 at 21:13
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First, if what you are experiencing has not been diagnosed as panic attacks by a medical practitioner then I'd suggest your first action should be to consult a medical practitioner. Panic attacks are something you can and should get help with.

I am not a medical practitioner and I am not diagnosing you, however, I am going to post some stuff for you to think about. This is a quote from the National Health Service in England.

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It's a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations.

But for someone with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason.

and the symptoms they list for panic attacks are:

  • a racing heartbeat
  • feeling faint
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • trembling
  • hot flushes
  • chills
  • shaky limbs
  • a choking sensation
  • dizziness
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • dry mouth
  • a need to go to the toilet
  • ringing in your ears
  • a feeling of dread or a fear of dying
  • a churning stomach
  • a tingling sensation in your fingers
  • feeling like you're not connected to your body

What they don't mention is apologising or surrendering debating points.

I am not belittling your experience in any way and I'm not saying that you aren't having Panic Attacks. But think about the possibility that you are having a natural, and proportionate, response to a stressful situation, as that situation occurs.

If that is what's happening, then you still have the option to look for ways to disguise your response, but you can also consider looking for ways to reduce the stressful situation itself. Either by avoiding it or by trying to change the behaviour of others that that creates your stress.

The two things you have said that this group of friends do is 'gang up on you' and 'exclude you'. In all honesty this does not sound as though they are reacting to you are a part of the friendship group, but rather as an outsider with whom they are in conflict. We, on this site, can't really judge if that is truly the case, because you may be seeing things differently from them, there may be times when you all get on like a house on fire, which you just haven't told us about. But on the basis of what you have shared, as Astralbee and others have said, these people are not friends of yours. They are not supportive of you and they are not inclusive of you.

The most obvious way to reduce the stress you experience in interacting with this group is, as others have said, to cease the interaction. That is good advice and the path I would recommend.

However, if you have determined that you wish to keep up contact with this group but disguise your reaction to the stressful situation, the advice is very similar. If you cannot over-ride the urge to apologise or give in when this is happening, then all you can do is not engage with them while they are ganging up on you, and certainly don't try to engage with them while they are excluding you.

You have said that you cannot always recognise when you are having an attack, so instead focus on recognising the behaviour of theirs which triggers yours.

Focus on recognising when they are starting to 'gang up'.

  • Is one person disagreeing with you but others agreeing? Probably okay.

  • Are two or more of them disagreeing with you and the rest neutral or at least not supporting your view? Time to make your excuses and leave.

  • Have you gone online and tried to make contact and had no response? Do something else, don't try to force people to interact with you or involve you if they don't appear willing.

If they are your friends they might not realise how their behaviour contributes to your reaction, and if they see less of you when they behave that way, they may learn to moderate the behaviour.

But you really do have to ask yourself: if they are trying to exclude you and that causes you to react, and then they tell you that you need to hide that reaction... are they people who want to be around you, and do you want to be around people who reject and don't value you?

It can be scary to feel like you are losing friends, but it really isn't true that any friends are better than none.

Value yourself, get the medical check up, but also recognise that sometimes stress just comes from trying to force things to work that just aren't going to.

Be kind to yourself and think about whether these people are capable of being the kind of friends you want and deserve.

Due to a comment from @PatJ I'm adding this for clarification:

In suggesting you visit a medical practitioner, if you haven't been diagnosed with panic attacks, I am not seeking to pathologise your experience.

That symptom list I included can indicate Panic Disorder, which is something you could get help with if you wanted it. But there are also physical disorders with the same symptoms. I know because I have had one. I still have the disorder, but it is symptomless because of treatment and because I’m being treated it doesn't impinge on my life.

  • As a neurodivergent person, having any interpersonal question answered with "ask a medical practitioner" is invalidating and quite infuriating. The problem is not the panic attacks, it's the relationship. – PatJ Apr 23 '18 at 13:18
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    The question was about panic attacks, so they had to be addressed. T the vast majority of my words were about handling the relationship, but it was bookended with PA's because that was what was asked about. I take your point to an extent and am just about to add a paragraph to addresss it, but no-one should feel they have to embrace chest pain trembling and fear that they are dying as a badge of neuro-diversity pride. – Spagirl Apr 23 '18 at 13:58
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These panic attacks usually make me try to apologize to them and surrender whatever point we are talking about, but they usually take this as an insult, so they suggest that I try to hide my panic attacks.

What helped me overcome anxiety, was learning the art of doing nothing and the online world is a good context for experimenting with this.

When the mind is overcome with anxiety there is a very good chance that whatever you do is going to have negative effects on your interpersonal relationships. Whether it should be like that or not, is besides the point, other people don't like it. Let's say you've actually done nothing wrong, but your anxiety tells you that you have, so then you want to apologize, so you do apologize, then people think you're just way too sensitive and you lose some friendship points. I'm speaking from much personal experience...

The first step is recognizing when your mind is under the influence of anxiety (or anger), and that because of that there's a good possibility that nothing you say or do is going to have a positive effect. That might be the easy part... (there are usually physical signs, tightness in the chest and such)

The hard part is then doing nothing, when your mind is screaming at you to do something. What I found worked for me, was negotiating, I would think to myself "I feel like I should apologize (or accuse someone), but I can tell my mind is under the influence of anxiety right now, so I will give it a couple of days. If after a couple of days and when I'm clear-minded, it still seems important, then I'll do it". And my mind would be like "you can't do that you have to act now!!!!!!!", but I wouldn't budge however much it hurt, and after a couple of days it wouldn't seem important anymore. And that's how I broke the grip of anxiety and learned to stop losing friends and alienating people.

It might seem strange, but unless you've like killed someone's dog, you don't have to apologize, make excuses or give explanations for your behavior. You really don't. People will tolerate a surprising amount of idiosyncrasies. And if someone does specifically make an issue of it, you can just say you were stressing out or something, life is stressful for lots of reasons, school/work/family/whatever, people get it.

Finally the art of doing nothing is exceedingly useful in the context of online arguments. Nothing good has ever come from people arguing on the internet, so it can be wise to just not participate in arguments - just remind yourself that getting involved is only going to make you upset. And if you do get involved, always be quick to find something to agree with, because the hardest person to argue with is one who agrees with you.

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