One of the reasons I don’t like to go anywhere is my fear of passing out in public. Until recently, I thought I was alone in this somewhat irrational fear of fainting when I leave the house. Like with most things, there are others out there who fear this!
Turns out that people with an anxiety disorder often fear fainting, although it rarely happens. Panic attack symptoms are quite similar to the feeling before you pass out.
Although I am not a medical professional, I thought I would share some ways I cope with being afraid of passing out once I leave my house. Please see a doctor before assuming your fear is irrational.
How I Cope with My Fear of Fainting in Public
Does this actually happen to you? First and foremost, do you pass out a lot? If so, seek medical help right away. I do not, and that is why I call this an irrational fear. I have raging anxiety which makes me feel like I could faint, but I don’t. I have fainted a total of three times in my 43 years on Earth. Once was due to alcohol abuse and the other two times were thanks to low blood sugar.
Again, none of this is medical advice, and please see a doctor first and foremost. But, I am here as an anxious person sharing how I personally deal with my fear of fainting.
Being the natural hermit that I am, this one is the hardest for me. Sometimes, I find that if I leave my house at least once a day, it gets easier to do so. It’s when I go a week or more without going anywhere, that I am so out of practice that my panic flares to even go into my backyard. Practice makes perfect, right? Even just a quick walk outdoors seems to help me make leaving feel a bit more natural.
Use the Buddy System
Bring a friend if you can. This isn’t the easiest thing to do and can maybe create some undesirable codependent habits, but it’s helpful on the terrible days.
Monitor your Hormones
TMI alert, but I have learned over time how my anxiety levels fluctuate with my cycle. PMS, for me, includes paralyzing anxiety. If at all possible, I try to plan as few outings as possible during this time. Of course, everyone is different, so I recommend keeping a calendar to see if you can find a pattern. Even if you can’t change your plans, sometimes it’s helpful to know that what you’re feeling is hormone havock and not something more sinister.
Make sure you are well hydrated before an outing. I like to add electrolytes to my water occasionally. This is especially important if you have increased anxiety due to a hangover. I don’t drink anymore, but when I did, my anxiety was off the charts the next day.
Take some deep, cleansing breaths before you go and any time you start to feel a little off balance. There’s a reason people always say to take a deep breath — it really does work. I often need the reminder, so I thought I would include it.
Learning breathing techniques has also helped me relax on a plane a lot more!
Different from deep breathing in that meditation is a practice. Over time, meditating regularly can help rewire the brain and let you get better control over your anxiety.
Get those endorphins going to help relieve stress. Again, this is only if you are healthy and know your fear of fainting is due to anxiety.
Talk it Out
Get on the phone with a loved one or even a therapist to discuss how you feel. Maybe you can get to the root of the reasons why going somewhere makes you feel like fainting.
Check your Stats
It might sound ridiculous to give yourself a mini-physical before going anywhere, but if it helps you, who cares? I have most definitely taken my temperature, blood oxygen levels, blood sugar, and even blood pressure before heading out into the world. The tools to do this are all affordable to get yourself a little DIY health check kit.
Pulse Oximeter – Thanks to the pandemic that shall not be named, I already have one of these little things. Simply clip it to your finger to measure the oxygen levels in your blood. I am not the most active person, so sometimes my percentage is a little low.
No need to panic if you see a lowish number, just do some deep breathing, and you can usually see the percentage increase in real time. My nurse friend told me to take a deep breath, and then act like I’m blowing out birthday candles. Do this while you are still wearing the pulse oximeter, and you can watch it go up.
Thermometer – I think we all know how easy it is to take your temperature. See if knowing you don’t have a fever helps you leave the house without thinking you will faint.
Blood Pressure Cuff – My blood pressure naturally runs low, which is a legit way to feel faint. Sometimes a quick blood pressure check can allow me to see if it’s just anxiety, or if I do have something else happening.
Blood Sugar – The one time I actually did pass out in public was due to blood sugar. When I feel dizzy and light-headed, I like to check my blood sugar to rule that out before assuming it’s anxiety.
Wear Comfy Clothes
The last thing I need is tight clothes to make me claustrophobic, to add to my anxiety. No, thank you. Thankfully, I don’t go many places that have a dress code, but even if you do, you can most likely find comfortable options.
If you are in a store and feel faint, find a manager or another person and tell them. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Wear a Fanny Pack
So, if I faint, what the heck happens to my purse? This is a thought that keeps me up at night. To fix this most likely irrational fear, take the bare minimum and put it in a fanny pack. They are back in style if you care about that. You can also use a cross-body strap to keep your purse closer to you.
Know the Stats
It’s helpful to know how rare it is to faint from anxiety. Although you might feel like passing out, it probably will not happen. In my experience, there seems to be a good 10 seconds or so before you pass out. That’s not a lot of time, but it’s enough to at least sit down, pull over, or tell someone to grab help.
Also, if you are in fact having a panic attack, that raises your blood pressure and fainting is typically caused by a drop in blood pressure. Read more here.
The odds are low, but never zero…
It’s not helpful to me when someone tries to tell me that’s not going to happen. Thanks for the positivity, people, but we need to explore every possible scenario in this brain. Keep reading for what if you really DO faint.
If you Do Faint
Okay, so another thing that helps my anxious brain is considering the worst possible outcome. So, ask yourself the question “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Although you shouldn’t be embarrassed if something out of your control happens to you, you might be. Try to get over that because we are all humans. Especially during these current times, our bodies and minds are being bombarded, and it’s all too much.
Would you make fun of someone if you saw them faint? Of course not! Most people would only want to help.
Falling and getting hurt after fainting is a legitimate concern. Keep in mind there is usually some warning before you go down. In my experience, my ears started ringing, and my vision got fuzzy. There was definitely time for me to take a seat.
Another horrid thought is someone taking your stuff while you’re out cold. I’d like to think better of humanity and hope that would never happen, but it’s crossed my mind. Again, bring only what you need and wear it as close to your body as possible. If you’re like me and have a purse that houses a small convenience store that would probably spew out all over the place if I went down, it’s time to downsize.
Pets at Home
I hate leaving my pets alone, so that is always a worry of mine too. What if I faint and end up hospitalized, and my pets are alone at home. Carry a card that states you have pets at home to help with this concern. Also, your emergency contact should have the means to get into your home and take care of your pets in case of an emergency.
So, there you have it. These are my thoughts and concerns that go along with my fear of fainting. Hopefully, this was a little bit helpful and I didn’t add to your list of things to worry about.
Examine your to-do list, too. Personally, my biggest issue lately is overwhelm. I put so many things on my daily to-do list that it’s no wonder I’m dizzy and faint each day. I’m currently working on that to help my overall anxiety level!
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Most importantly, know that you are not alone in this fear. There’s even a name for it – Asthenophobia (seen here) – fear of fainting or weakness.