Dealing with anxiety in church

Hi, does anyone here get anxiety that’s triggered in church? How do you deal with it?

Do you know what is triggering your anxiety in church?

There is a phobia called Ecclesiophobia, and there there is social anxiety. It could be either. It may be associated with disapproval, that is fear of others disapproval. Some people have taken medications for this, but that also brings side effects, and then there is cognitive therapy. We are not supposed to give advice here. I am sorry you are experiencing this. I have had anxieties in varying degrees through the years. I found little to help, except familiarity with the situation.

yeah this is the wrong section of the forum for such questions, try browsing the group section of the forum near the bottom of the page, plenty of groups that discuss mental issues or you may want to start your own group in discussing anxiety.

I have social anxiety disorder (albeit rather mild compared to many. I can leave my house and somewhat function normally).

When I first started going to the EF it would be really bad because I was really scared of being judged if I missed a genuflection or mess something up. Also when we have to go up to the communion rail to receive a blessed item, which requires venerating the priest’s hand as well and worried about doing it wrong. If someone behind me was singing loudly, I would start having irrational thoughts that they were doing it as a means to to show that they were better than me and judging me negatively, walking down the aisle after Mass I have to stare at the floor because it feels like everyone is staring at me and judging me, when I go up to receive communion at the communion rail and the person behind me kneels at the other end I am plagued with the irrational thought that they did it to spite me because they don’t want to kneel next to me, etc.

I even have empathetic anxiety for other people! Once our priest either lost his place singing the preface, or noticed he was singing the wrong preface, or something which required him to stop and there was a long pause with him seeming confused. I had a mild anxiety attack for him until he picked it back up. And then there’s all the times when something doesn’t quite go right in the sanctuary, I have anxiety for whomever made a error, or something.

And then there is confession…

How do I deal with it? I just suck it up as my cross to bear and push through the discomfort with the joy of knowing that when I die and go to my judgement, my social anxiety won’t come with me. :smiley:

Is it Mass in general or just at one parish in specific?

My daughter gets anxiety in church too! We sit in the back and she knows if she needs to use the bathroom or get water she can just stand up and scoot out the door. Knowing she is not “stuck” in a place with no way out helps her. Maybe even standing in the back would help you? (That is why I never tsk tsk anyone who stands in the back during mass) My daughter is an empath and can pick up on other peoples feelings as her own so that doesn’t help being in a crowded area. She has actually told me the feelings of people around us and has physically experienced them. She knows to pray for them and specifically what they are feeling. We do try to go less crowded masses. Funny it only happens at church well

Okay, so going to mass and going “PPHHHHHHBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBTTTTT” as loudly as you can, is not the key to solving this…(but out the door before and after might? :slight_smile: )

It’s a pretty big thing, and there are lots of ways it could be caused, lots of ways to get over it. But I really think your best bet, other than prayer, is to go to a family therapist at Catholic Charities. The fees are based on income (so no sweat if you don’t have bucks). And these people help guide you to sensible solutions right for your life…amazingly good stuff! How to knock down your own walls of Jericho…these miracles can occur. (aside: ever contemplate the psych/soc going on inside that place with those crazies marching around…and then the physics…).

You can do this…do this…
and later…you might be able to help others do this.

This is the same with me. Sitting in the back by the door definitely helps. However, my anxiety gets extreme when I’m approaching the priest for the Eucharist. My heart races and I get chest discomfort. I feel like I’m going to faint. There have been times I have had to avoid taking the bread because my panic attacks were so bad.

To answer some other questions asked in here, my anxiety is triggered in Mass in general, not just my particular parish. I also get this anxiety triggered in any setting where there’s a bunch of people and we’re listening to someone in quiet, such as in a college classroom.

I also get anxiety from public speaking or anything where eyes are on me.

Often the problem might ,as previous posters have mentioned, may be a form of social anxiety or also agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is the feeling of being unable to escape a situation causing anxiety, depending on the size of the parish it may be quite uncomfortable to have to get up and leave making someone feel like they can not leave. That would be an example of agoraphobia. It is a personal decision on how to cope with it personally it is my methodology that conquering the panic and anxiety is superior to coping with it per se. Since this is a problem that deals with the church talking to a priest or a Catholic therapist or psychologist would be helpful. Some people prefer to deal with it alone and without professional help which is perfectly fine assuming the problem is not severe. In the case of dealing with it alone there are many books and resources out there to help. I believe it is Anxiety for Dummies or a similar title which many people like though again with secular resources I would urge people to take some of the advice with a grain of salt since many of these can lead you to “New Age” “treatments” though that particular book seems to be fine. Check out the local catholic book store or online for catholic resources.

Hi StreetRider8,
Yes-this happens to me-I have an anxiety disorder. I am prone to panic attacks-and not just in church…but more frequently there than anywhere else.

I recently starting meds after decades of trying alternative treatments, as well as self medicating…It was a good decision. It took a while for the meds to work, and for my body to adjust…but my brain is quieter, and anxiety is manageable. My only regret is I waited so long to finally ask for help from my PCP.

Yes. How I deal with it changes at different times. There has been one very kind priest whom I have connected with, and with whom I talk. Holy days/ holidays are rough.

I hope that you find similar light in the dark times, and that it doesn’t last too long.

Mine was due to agoraphobia and my strategy until it lessened was to sit near exits among other things. Also I hated to get in one of those mile-long pews where you get scooted to the middle! :eek: A friend of mine similarly afflicted and I used to compare notes on different parish church layouts. It was kind of humorous in a way - St. So-and-so’s has short pews but they’re on the east side and the exit’s on the west . . . :hmmm: so which is the lesser of two evils?" or “I was doing fine till the usher made me scoot down for this family of 8! :bigyikes:”

So, I feel the pain and hope and pray it gets better for your daughter as well. :slight_smile:

See an exorcist as soon as possible.


These are good suggestions, though probably already known by instinct. I have mild anxiety in church. Its annoying because I get to Mass early to prepare, so I never know who is going to sit with me or if I’ll end up “trapped”. My fear isn’t so much of being trapped, but if being trapped with gum-chompers. Years ago, I quit attending my parents church, and the real reason wasn’t that I disagreed with the doctrine (at the time), but because my mother always had gum. And guess what? Every Single Time I go to Sunday Mass (it doesn’t seem to happen on weekdays), no matter where I sit, someone sits very close to me with gum. If I sit in the very last pew, a gum-chomper grabs the “reserved for ushers” bench behind me…:stuck_out_tongue:

Please, see your doctor and get a FULL physical.,bloodwork, everything.

Many years ago I suffered as you do and was given a lot of similar advice, none of which helped, especially where church was concerned.

It was 30 years before the right diagnosis was reached; I have CFS which we call M.E. ie a real physical illness that can easily produce emotional and psychological symptoms which can attach to different places as you are feeling. fear of fear they call it rightly.

Now I know why I feel bad in places and can decide and choose.

A while ago, a dear friend in the US emailed telling me that he r father had been diagnosed as agoraphobic. He was about to be put on medication

I gave her the same advice and she knew me well enough to follow it. Emerged then that her father had mild parkinsons, easily controlled with vitamins etc.

Mind and body are so closely connected. And maybe we here do not psychologise as much as in the US.

Now the only trouble I have is when folk still do not realise this and try to persuade me that it is all in the mind etc and that I must face it down , then the real answer is rest and draw away a while.

Listen to your body, please and respect it. I have a strong feeling that these psych issues always have a physical cause.

And please avoid psych meds…

Interesting! Is CFS Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

As far as the phbbbbt. I was joking as some sort of stress release is necessary to cope. However, raised in a very guilt laden type family and church setting, if my behaviors weren’t ‘perfect’ , I honestly thought I was going to hell as I wasn’t honoring my parents, was an embarrassment, etc. and to them, a sin is a sin…there was no differentiation between venial and mortal sin.

I am however intrigued by the daughter with empathetic response. I have this but not just at church. Once before mass (I usually like to pray a rosary before mass), I was kneeling and started trembling, how odd! Five minutes later, an elderly lady came in, sat in front of me, with a nervous disorder! Other times, I get responses totally off the wall from people, negative against me for no apparent reason and others, as if people are responding emotionally for me, but opposite of what my real response is (I usually go into prayer in difficult situations or if something causes me pain-as if some will lash out and ‘cuss’ for me???). It does not make life easy in the work world…I’m not crazy, just sensitive…

I have a few mental illnesses and one is paranoia, one is social anxiety and the third one affecting church is thinking that priests can read my mind and think I am bad or have done bad, even when I’m sitting at the back of the church (which I always do because I’m scared of priests).
What has happened is I broke a commandment and my soul needs to be cleansed in confession. I’m terrified of going to confession. I don’t know what to do. I’m really sorry for my sin which was an impulsive theft of a box of diabetic test strips. What do I do? I am donating money to the Diabetes Association in reparation for my sin but as for confession? I am so upset about this. I feel like a really bad person.:banghead:

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