Introducing our very first Ask Me Anything Session with Craig!
On Friday, we posted our very first Invitation to submit questions for our AMA session and we’d like to thank everyone who submitted a question. Below, you will find that Craig has answered your questions — We hope you’ll find this insightful and helpful.
Craig’s Q & A
How do you think panic attacks work?
I would say I have suffered more from anxiety attacks, although I have had panic
attacks on occasion. If I was to distinguish between the 2, from my experience:
-Anxiety attacks are brought on by conscious worry about a hypothetical situation,
sometimes exacerbated by that situation becoming reality.
-Panic attacks are more of an unconscious feeling of nervousness, usually physically
acknowledged during the situation.
As for the physical reaction to both I have not looked into the specifics.
For me anxiety attacks made my face go bright red and I would begin to sweat, My
consciousness would also retreat into itself and I would lose awareness of my
On the other hand a panic attack was usually an unexpected tightness of my chest
and I would become very aware of my surroundings.
I found that the best way to overcome both these feelings was to stay in the
What’s the best way to tackle panic attacks at the root of the problem?
From my experience the best solution is exposure therapy. Theoretically learning
coping mechanisms for panic and anxiety attacks such as breathing exercises and
meditation can be very valuable but searching out and not shying away from anxious
situations is key.
It doesn’t have to be extreme situations. I started with very small steps such as going
to a manned till rather than self-service at the supermarket.
When you feel the anxiety building up, stay in the situation, let yourself feel the
anxiety, look around. Eventually your mind will start to notice that anxiety doesn’t last
forever and that it is more beneficial to keep calm in those situations.
Another key thing I had to remember is that there is no quick fix. This was the main
reason I started with small steps.
The small steps allowed me to attend a toastmasters meeting (public speaking club).
I wasn’t quite ready for it but I did attend which was a big improvement. I didn’t go
back for a year after that first meeting but that one meeting paved the way for me to
conquer my fear of public speaking.
P.S. My favourite meditation is to picture leaves floating down a stream and falling
down a waterfall. If I have a thought outside of this, I would turn that thought into a
leaf and watch it fall down the waterfall. Try and picture that scene for as long as you
can. This helped me stay in the moment and consider how I was feeling when faced
Do you have experience of using the NHS to get treatment? What was good/bad about it if so?
After my family brushed off my concerns I plucked up the courage to phone my
doctor. I said to her that I think I have social anxiety, ironically having an anxiety
attack as I said it.
She asked me to fill out a questionnaire. She concluded I had mild social anxiety.
She referred me to a counsellor. The counsellor suggested also doing group therapy.
The therapy was very informative and the coping methods were fun. It did cause
some moments of anxiety attacks but because everyone else in the group was on
the same boat the attacks were easier to handle.
I will admit I was more confident than most of the group even though I was the
youngest, though I put this down to having lived with it for longer. I had suffered
through 6 years of school where as the rest of the group were off from work as the
feeling was fairly new to them.
The difference in everyone’s demeanour by the end of the sessions were like night
and day. They looked more confident and put more effort into their appearance.
I believe that mental health awareness is improving throughout the NHS and health
practitioners are becoming more compassionate towards the patients who suffer
What is your best advice for young people who are dealing with social anxiety ?
My biggest regret from my teenage years and early 20s was missing out on life.
I didn’t want to take part in any school clubs.
When I went to university after I would get home I just wanted to distract myself. I
would lock myself away in my room and watch TV and Movies instead of studying.
With hindsight I would have put more of my anxious energy into studying.
I would have joined clubs so that I could talk to people with similar interests.
Although I disliked most of my time at school I’m glad I stuck with it. I would have 12
anxiety attacks per day at the height of my social anxiety but if I had avoided the
situations that caused the anxiety I would have not improved and strongly believe
that I would have struggled even more.
Your teenage years can be some of the most mentally draining, your hormones are
out of control and your neural pathways are not fully aligned. However, with these
negatives you also have great strength. Your ability to recover both physically and
mentally are unbelievably high.
Use that strength to take risks. Show your talents, talk to like minded people, create
amazing memories that will overpower the negative ones, use some of that useful
energy for overcoming your anxiety.
If I was to talk to myself when I was younger the last thing I would say is ‘ask for
It’s okay to feel frustrated when you think that people are ignorant to your problems.
Keep speaking the truth when you want to try asking for help again. They will
eventually either consider your feelings or help you just to stop you bringing it up lol
(It was my brother who recommended I speak to my doctor, not in so many words.
His exact words were, in an angry tone, “if it’s bothering you so much then do
something about it”)
Do you do anything to prepare for social events now ?
I will try and overprepare a lesson plan if I am teaching a salsa class, not because I
will get anxious but it helps the class run more smoothly and I am not yet at the
stage where making it up on the spot comes naturally.
In regards to going out and meeting friends or talking to new people. I don’t really
think about it that much until I am in the moment.
It wasn’t an easy road to get here. It was a very conscious effort over many years
but with each year my confidence grew.
When I was at the peak of my social anxiety and 3 or 4 years following that I thought
that I would have the problem for the rest of my life. Like any phobia with time and
effort it can be overcome.
If I remember times when I did prepare myself to go to social events I would affirm
myself that even if I had a hard time it was good for me. I reminded myself that there
were people in the world that wanted me to succeed and the last thing I would say to
myself would be that people are usually too concerned about themselves to be
giving me their full attention.
One thing that I am actually thankful for when it came to my social anxiety is that I
have developed quite a good ear. When I would meet new people in order for them
to see me in a positive light and wish to talk to me again I would remember specific
facts about them. If they said something off the cuff not thinking the person listening
to them would remember, such a pet name, I would bring that up the next time I saw
them. Usually this would be followed with a pleasant reaction. It made connecting
with people a lot easier.
… That brings us to the end of our AMA. Thank you so, so much Craig for sharing your story, tips, advice, and experiences. I think I speak for many of us when I say that I learned a lot from this. Thank you.
Feel free to comment below if there is anything you would like to highlight as extra important to you, or maybe your own experience with any of the topics Craig discussed.
We really hope you find this helpful. If you’d like to see more AMAs, you can like this comment and if you’d like to answer questions yourself (you can be completely anonymous and help others learn from your experience), you can sign up below.