Trouble with anxiety during Mass


I didn't know where else to put this.

I've posted a few times about going to Mass as a Protestant in order to understand Catholic practices from experience and not from stereotypes. I've gone to Mass with my boyfriend's family a good several times, and have been slowly experiencing reduced anxiety for it. The anxiety comes from not being used to the atmosphere of a Catholic Mass and feeling like I don't belong and am doomed to be judged. (I know this is the paranoia talking. I'm not judged outwardly, nor is anyone making me feel unwelcome. I just feel unwelcome.)

The past few times I've gone, I've been able to focus on the message and the music but I still experience anxiety when it comes time for Communion. Since I cannot receive Communion, I receive a blessing instead, which I'm told is perfectly fine. It still makes me very nervous and last time I went up I accidentally got so nervous I broke skin on my hand from clutching with my nails and had marks for a week afterward.

My boyfriend doesn't want me to continue going if all it's going to do is give me panic attacks. I told him that it's only Communion that does it anymore and I want to continue to go.

I don't know how to reduce this anxiety and I don't want to make the rift in our relationship because of this break open again.


It is perfectly fine to remain in your pew during communion time, perhaps that would be less anxiety producing.


You can remain in the pew during communion. Just sit back and let others pass by and then kneel and pray or meditate, or just wait. Don’t worry what the others think, they will just assume you have reasons for not receiving , like maybe you have not yet made first communion, maybe you went earlier in the day, maybe you have not been to confession…ir maybe you are a visitor from another faith. They will not worry about it. You shouldn’t either.


I did that the first few times and was told that it’s even more awkward to just sit there and that I was causing more of a reason for people to think I didn’t belong there.


I know that this may be easier said than done, but we need to quit thinking or caring about what anyone else in church thinks. We go to Mass to be with God, we should be thinking about Him and our relationship with Him, not about the other people there.


[quote="KaraGordon, post:4, topic:346213"]
I did that the first few times and was told that it's even more awkward to just sit there


Who told you this? Whoever it was was (a) wrong and (b) pretty uncharitable.

[quote="KaraGordon, post:4, topic:346213"]
and that I was causing more of a reason for people to think I didn't belong there.


Honey, NO ONE in a Catholic Church will think you "don't belong" whether you remain in your pew or not. That is the silliest thing I have ever heard, and sounds more like some sort of anxiety on the part of the person who told you this than an actual fact.

Many Catholics remain in the pew and do not go to communion for various reasons. There is nothing to worry about.

Honestly, whoever told you all this stuff and got your anxiety up in the first place needs a good trip to the woodshed.



This is something I don’t think a lot of fellow Protestants understand, so they feel weird about staying in the pew, as though they are outcast, not welcome, or don’t belong. I think it is good to be reminded that others don’t know why the person is in the pew instead of receiving.


The persons who told you thus are incorrect, but bigger question is, if you go forward to receive a blessing only, you are still acknowledging a belief in the presence if God in the Eucharist to certain degree by going forward. That’s cool if that is what you believe, but if you are not there yet, if that belief is not there yet, then I don’t think your conscience would let you go forward. Your conscience should be respected.


It’s perfectly acceptable to remain in the pew during communion. It may feel awkward to you, at first, but if you’ll just look about, you’ll notice many CATHOLICS doing just that who are either in a state of mortal sin and need to confess before being able to receive. There are different reasons.

Perhaps you never even noticed this before, because you might have been so focused on yourself. I’m Catholic, and there are times I sit back in the pew and see others doing the same. It felt strange at first, but I got used to it. I’ve never, once, seen anyone ever ask someone “Hey, why aren’t you receiving communion?” No, we know we are welcome to go. If we’re not in a state of grace, even as Catholics, we are absolutely NOT supposed to receive unworthily.

Further, I had never even seen this blessing that people go up to get during communion until within the last few years. I saw, for the first time, people crossing their arms across their chest, to symbolize they wanted a blessing, not communion.

I had to actually ask someone, “What’s that all about?”

I saw this and even encouraged others to do the same until recently, when I read on the forum one of the apologists was saying NOT to go up for the individual blessing, that everybody should really get the same blessing at the end of mass.

Well, it’s almost like a form of favoritism, that some get this extra blessing, some don’t. We are trying to give everyone the same treatment, more like equals.

That’s why the apologists will encourage people to shake a person’s hand during the “sign of peace”. Well, one explained…if you kiss one person on the lips, hug another, shake another’s hand, you are putting each person on a different level with your actions. We are to strive to be consistent, at least in church.

So, I’d say, simply stay in your pew during communion, for all the above reasons, and hopefully you’ll have fewer concerns, then. God bless!


You can remain seated during communion and say your prayers. Many Catholics for various reasons may also be remaining seated during communion. If someone says you bring more attention to yourself remaining seated; they are wrong. Most Catholics come to mass to worship God and not to see who’s receiving or not. And if they are there just to see who’s receiving; then they have a whole set of different problems. God Bless you.
Pax et Bonum:bible1:


I'd watch The explanation of The Mass from a protestant perspective by Michael Cumbie. It's on YouTube somewhere.


I’m surprised you don’t see more people staying seated during communion. Technically, anyone with unconfessed sins should not be receiving. I have sat in the pew for the last six years and although I sometimes do feel like I stand out as the Protestant wife :slight_smile: what can I do, that’s who I am! I am now enrolled in RCIA and pray that at Easter vigil I will receive the Eucharist.

But for you, try to find a seat that feels safe, remind yourself that EVERYONE is welcome at mass. Especially you, always you. Enjoy the time to watch others as they receive. It was a part of why I am converting- I can see a spiritual experience on others’ faces as they come back to their seats so I know it is a real communion with Jesus happening. I have not ever gone up for a blessing, no particular reason, just more comfortable staying seated. It’s really no one’s business why :slight_smile:


honestly, i’m going to go against the grain of this thread (as a hellbound protestant heathen, no less :p) and suggest you should reconsider going. speaking as someone who’s fought through some mental issues of his own, it’s not healthy to keep throwing yourself into environments that trigger that sort of anxiety.

spending time in the house of the lord is meant to bring comfort and solace from the world, not heap even more trouble on your heart. sure, people find that comfort and solace in a catholic mass, and praise god for it. but we’re 7 billion people on this planet and we’re all different. praise god for that also!

the best advice i can give you is to pray long and hard with your boyfriend about this issue, and meditate on the scriptures together. if you let him, god will mould your will to what he knows is best for you.


The only advise I can give you as another that can’t partake of Holy Communion is to do what you feel comfortable doing. Personally, I stay in my pew because, like you, I get panic attacks if I even think of going up. I do sit at the end of the pew so people don’t have to step over when its time for communion. While they are going up I just pray and when they are almost back I get up and let them back in before resuming my prayers. Don’t be afraid to stay in the pew if it is more comfortable. I bet of you look around you will see others not going up.

Over time it does get better, but for now do what makes you comfortable.


I totally know that paranoid “people are watching me” feeling but fortunately I haven’t felt that way in Church. I suffer from a lot of anxiety and get panic attacks, it’s become worse the last few months so I know that feeling but of course no matter what I say here, only you know exactly how YOU feel in your situation. Each person’s anxiety is different…

Rest assured though, nobody is looking out to see who is left seated during Communion. People are and should be reflective at this time, in their own thoughts and prayer. The only time they’d look around is to see when it’s their turn to go up etc. If I had to squeeze past someone who was left seated/kneeling I wouldn’t give it a second thought why they aren’t going up , and I am sure pretty much everyone else would do the same.

Another example is say, in our parish we can even still leave our bags at our pew when we go up to Communion. Now I don’t at all suggest anyone start doing this, as unfortunately you can’t trust that anyone in any parish is going to be trustworthy. I’ve been to other parishes where they remind people to take their belongings with them at Communion. I feel I should take my bag with me, as I’m still fairly new to this parish but I am starting to recognize everyone. For some reason I still feel comfortable enough to leave my bag there and that is a good feeling and again it shows how people are focused on receiving Communion, not on who’s left sitting etc.

Do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable though. Where do you generally sit? Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable sitting where you can see most parishioners as opposed to feeling like all eyes are on you? If staying in your pew, kneeling and bowing your head in prayer works, give that a go. Deep breaths and know you need not feel so anxious, you’re there to praise God, no matter what. Ask Him to fill you with a sense of calm. Hope everything works out for you :slight_smile:


:thumbsup: Yes! I have never noticed who did and did not go up for communion unless they were in my pew and i had to step around them. Nor did I question why someone didn’t go up for communion or think it was because they didn’t belong there.

It’s church! Everyone is welcome!


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