Why Am I Panicking So Much?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been having multiple problems all my life but it’s only recently I’ve not been able to overcome any new ones. In the last couple of months when a tense or stressful situation has presented itself to me; my heart starts to race, my head get hot and light, my hands don’t stay still and I smile, make an excuse just to walk away. It’s gotten to the point that deciding which course for college I should choose or turn down is pushing me into panic. Everyone I’m aquainted with know what they want to do in the future and I haven’t the faintest clue. It’s sending me in fits of hysteria!! In the mornings I don’t want to get up because I’m afraid of being stressed out. It’s ruining my life.

A. What you may be describing are panic attacks. Panic attacks are a form of extreme anxiety. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks, among others, include: heart palpitations, sweating, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breathing, and feeling dizzy. Panic attacks do not last long. Typically only a few minutes.

You did not mention the context in which you are having these attacks. The fact that you’re on the verge of attending college may have increased your anxiety levels, thus leading to these attacks.

People experience panic attacks when they are feeling out of control. Perhaps your belief that everyone else knows “what they want to do in the future” and you don’t, is making you feel like you have no control over your life.

For many people, ambiguity causes anxiety. They don’t like the idea of not having a definitive answer. It creates a high state of anxiety. In order to reduce this anxiety, an individual may make a choice prematurely, simply to end their anxiety, but this is a mistake. Premature decision making increases the probability of choosing incorrectly.

The type of anxiety you are experiencing is common among high school seniors and first year college students. They don’t like not knowing what major to choose. They think about it over and over and then make a decision but that decision is often premature.

It’s a mistake to think that you need to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at such a young age. You might think that you love photography. You take a class and realize that it’s not for you. That’s okay. You have just learned something about yourself. College should be about exploring your interests and the resultant discovery.

Healthy people tolerate ambiguity very well. They realize that ambiguity is often necessary because we don’t know all the facts. At some point in your college career, you will have to choose a major, but you should not make that decision before you have to, before you have gathered as many facts as possible about what you want to do. Also, once you have made a decision, be open to change. Don’t be rigid and stubborn. Those characteristics are unhealthy and can lead to making incorrect choices and unhappiness in life.

I would recommend consulting a mental health professional to determine if you are having panic attacks. Once a diagnosis is determined, the therapist will recommend a specific course of treatment. Anxiety is a highly treatable condition. With the proper treatment, you can overcome your anxiousness and be better prepared to make wise choices about your future. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Why Am I Panicking So Much?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/03/why-am-i-panicking-so-much/