Anxiety/Panic & MMA -- Part 2

I'm creating my own thread because I really need answers, and I didn't want my questions to get lost in the other one (and thanks to brennawa for the original post).

Firstly, I don't know if the problem I have can be classified as a true "anxiety disorder." One of the symptoms of the disorder, as I understand it, is that it can hit you at any time -- when you're inside the house or walking down the street, etc. As for me, the anxiety/panic happens to me whenever I'm near any sort of confrontation -- verbal or physical. My hands start to severely shake, my throat closes up, have a hard time speaking, my mind starts to go blank....a feeling of "flight" basically. But, again, this only happens when I'm in a heated situation. I've been told I may just have anger management issues, but I don't think that's it.

I've also always had problems with sparring. I used to go to a traditional karate school, and in sparring sessions, I'd have the worst time because I'd always be on the defensive and not try to hit the other guy. My legs would feel like they weighed a ton, and I'd feel paralyzed.

I've read the other thread, and a few mentioned SSRI's. I don't really want to get on drugs, as I've don't like the idea of having to deal with withdrawals or being on it for the rest of my life. But to anyone who has suffered from the symptoms I feel, have medications really helped?

Also, I live in the Southern CA area. If anyone can recommend any teachers or schools who can help me with sparring and learning how to fight, I'd really appreciate it.

And I would be grateful for any advice or insights from anyone regarding my problem. Thanks a lot.

Try looking for this book:

Mind Over Mood :Change How You Feel By Changing the Way You Think
Author: Greenberger

Developed by two master clinicians with extensive experience in cognitive therapy treatment and training, this popular workbook shows readers how to improve their lives using cognitive therapy--one of the most effective and widely practiced forms of psychotherapy. The book is designed to be used alone or in conjunction with professional treatment. Step-by-step worksheets teach specific skills that have helped thousands of people conquer depression, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and relationship problems. Readers learn to use mood questionnaires to identify, rate, and track changes in feelings; change the thoughts that contribute to problems; follow step-by-step strategies to improve moods; and take action to improve daily living and relationships. The book's large-size format and lay-flat binding facilitate reading and writing ease.

It's not an anger thing, its anxiety at its finest. I've had it all my life. I would definately talk to a doctor about it. Medication has changed my life and I have also had some help from shrinks also. There is nothing wrong with being on meds or talking to shrinks! Paxil, lexapro would definately help you out with the problem that you've got. Xanax probably wouldnt be a good choice. Again talk to a doctor, trust me bro, dont take the chance of just living with your problem. Take care of it now!

Thanks, guys, for all the info so far. I really appreciate it.

I've heard a lot of good things about CBT and will probably try that, once I can afford to (I don't think insurance covers it?).

Vaghisubmission, how long have you been on medication? Again, my only reservation about taking drugs are the side effects (particularly, decrease in energy and sexual drive). Also, because I've heard anti-anxiety meds are not something to be taken for the rest of your life, why even start in the first place? Aren't they just a temporary fix?

I've been on paxil for about 5 years. I definately had some sexual side effects and because of that I finally switched to Lexapro not too long ago and it has fixed that problem. One other thing I noticed is that I did have some withdrawals when getting off paxil but you have to wean yourself by slowly decreasing your dosage over a period of weeks. As far as it being a temporary fix, the 5 years I was on paxil I never had a problem... not one panic attack. Which is pretty amazing considering the fact I used to have at least 5 to 7 of them a week. I was a pretty miserable guy until I got on meds.

Elusive - According to what you just shared, I would not guess that Anxiety disorder is your problem. Anxiety Attacks usually occur at random, they can wake you up from a dead sleep, happen at work, while you are having a conversation, etc. Your symptoms dont sound like that is the problem to me. It may just be that fighting/confrontations are foreign to your personality. It does not mean you are a wimp or you are soft. You are probably a tough fella, but not everyone is calm under fire like fighters are. I know I'm not. Hope this help.

I used to be like that, but the more I trained the more I grew out of it. Mine may have been a simple lack of confidence. Cognitive behavior therapy may help. Also, try to learn how to relax yourself...

JrAsparagus and MWNightmare are beyond correct.

I'm no physician, but with the symptoms you described,
you do NOT need drugs. Fight or Flight is a natural
response in everyone, all of us have experienced
tightening of the throat, butterflies, legs feeling
like lead, etc at one time or another.

Simply making a conscious decision to RELAX and breathe
slowly and calmly when these symptoms arise will do
wonders to quell them. But an effort does have to be
made, and you will find yourself calmer and more
clear headed for the effort.

I would also recommend training on a daily basis. The
more you acclimate yourself to a "flight" inducing
situation (something as simple as light, friendly
sparring) the better you'll get at dealing with it.
And there are TONS of great places to train in SoCal.
You practically live in the best place in the country
for MMA, BJJ, etc.

anxiety d/o is different than panic attack or agoraphobia

There is a very good book called "Don't Panic" that has some very good, straight foreward advice on dealing with many different types of anxiety. Definately worth checking out.

Guys, thanks again for the help.

I'm glad to hear that some of you can relate to my experience, and am relieved to know that maybe what I suffer from isn't a true "anxiety disorder."

I'll look into finding a good school in my area, and see where that takes me first.

MuaySteve, JRAsparagus, MWNightmare, and ArtVanderlei I totally agree with as having your sistuation pin pointed.

I'm a layed back and mellow guy, during my youth I didn't have a killer instinct and any competitive sistuation made me feel as you do. As I grew into exercise and MA, I learned how to deal with it much better. Stretching and especially Breathing Deep helped me tremendously for it keeps me relax, Yoga might be a good thing for you. Later I learned mentally to enhance my Killer instinct through properly changing my mind set/attitude helped me to harness what I like to call "Controlled Rage". So the book MuaySteve talks about might be something to consider as well as even other motivational speaker type of books like Tony Robbins.


Don't Panic IS a good book. Glad someone brought it up.

CBT is the way to go. One form of CBT which is frequently used for anxiety that is specific to certain situations, is called Systematic Desensitization. (Google it.) You can also try to find a psychologist who works on a sliding scale.


"As for me, the anxiety/panic happens to me whenever I'm near any sort of confrontation -- verbal or physical."

What are the automatic thoughts that you are running through your head? What is the "worst that could happen"?

Thoughts --> Feelings ---> Behavior

Also, check out

Jerry will hook you up with some crazy monkey which might help get you off the defensive when sparring.

Here's a list of cognitive distortions and what it might look like in a MMA or sparring experience:

ALL-OR-NOTHING-THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect you see yourself as a total failure.

"If I have a good sparring session I am a bad ass.
If I tap I suck."

This distortion leads to spazzing imo.

OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

"I got punched in the face. I'm going to lose. People will think I suck. I should quit. I'll never get better."

MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

"Damn it, he passed my guard like nothing! This class sucked. I didn't learn a thing. My instructor sucks."

DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusions.
Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.
The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.

"My training partner thinks he's better than me cause he tapped me. No one likes to spar with me because I can't hang with them."

MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."
EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

When you are fatigued you are vulnerable to this.

SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "He's a goddam louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

sovann's list is CORRECT and a good read.

To steer away a little bit from CBT, some folks relate conflict/confrontation with violence and have a hard time differentiating sparring/sport from violence or abuse. You might take a look at what that means for you. When you see people fighting physically or arguing verbally, what is your reaction?