Do you have a panic disorder that makes you very uncomfortable at church, or too nervous to attend. Do you fear the bouts of anxiety or panic attacks will happen in the middle of church service, and disrupt everything? Do you need advice on how to cope with anxiety and panic feelings when going to church?
Attending Church with a Panic (Nervous) Disorder
I am an introvert by nature, and tend to feel a little uncomfortable around large crowds. In addition, for years I suffered from this horrible condition called cholinergic urticaria, which is a type of physical hives that developed on my body anytime I became hot or nervous.
So for a few years, I became a hermit and tended to avoid any socialization. During this period, I was also just becoming a Christian, and God was in the process of sanctifying me and leading me to the truth (which is a lifelong process). When I finally got my hives under control, I noticed that the combination of being out of the public for so long, plus my natural tendencies to be more reserved and introverted, led me to a point where I would also get anxiety and feel extremely uncomfortable around people.
Nevertheless, after a while I started to realize that attending church is something God wants all of His followers to do. The scriptures are very clear about the need for Christians to attend a church (see: Is it a sin not to go to church?)
So I had to realize that I had two forces struggling inside of me: The flesh which wanted to avoid church because it may have been an inconvenience or uncomfortable, and the spirit which wanted me to go to church to fellowship with other Christians, learn the Word of God, and also use my talents and spiritual gifts to edify the body of Christ.
Eventually, I yielded to the spirit, and realized that I needed to be involved with a local church.
So while I wasn’t technically diagnosed with a panic attack, I did have very many of the same symptoms, and I can totally relate with both the mental and physical struggles that can accompany it.
And while I know that the feelings of nervousness or panic attacks are very real, the truth is that many of those symptoms can be controlled or improved over time.
Tips on Joining a Church with a Panic or Nervous Disorder
First of all, if you have extreme panic attacks or nervous disorder, I’d advise that you seek out a Christian counselor (preferably one who is a member of a local church). This may help tremendously in getting you back in the habit of doing things in a more public way. If you have only a minor case of anxiety or panic, then you may be able to overcome them naturally over time.
Second, I’ve found that an odd thing happens when you isolate yourself from people: You tend to get even MORE anxious and shy when you’re around them. So while it may seem backwards, the truth is, a great way to feel more comfortable around people is to start forcing yourself to be around people. The more you are around people, the more comfortable you’ll get. Eventually, you may even be the life of the party.
Third, you may want to express your concerns to the pastor privately before attending the first time. If your panic attacks include physical symptoms (hives, breathing difficulty, etc.), then you can make arrangements ahead of what you can do if an attack happens. Perhaps you may excuse yourself from the meeting and go to your car or the restroom. Or if a certain medication works, you may take that medication to help control your symptoms on that particular day.
Fourth, you’ll definitely want to take others along with you. By getting several friends or family members to go with you to a new church, you won’t feel nearly as overwhelmed and nervous. They will help you feel some stability during the process.
What to Do If You Can’t Attend Church Temporarily?
If you ever find yourself at a point where you must withdraw from church to seek professional Christian counseling, or cannot attend church for an extended period of time due to a physical malady, then here are some tips to feed your spirit while you recover or get treatment:
1. You can listen to GREAT sermons online every day on Youtube or directly on ministry websites. My favorites are Adrian Rogers (lwf.org), David Jeremiah, Billy Graham, J. Vernon McGee, Charles Stanley, and John Hagee. You can actually listen to them online free of charge (billygraham.org, lwf.org, www.jhm.org/, etc.).
2. You can spend time reading your favorite verses in the Bible. This is a great way to learn God’s word and grow spiritually. I’d recommend a good commentary Bible such as the MacArthur Study Bible. This way, you can both read the scriptures and have a great teaching resource–all on the same page.
3. Spend time in prayer. Talk to God about your problems, sins, dreams, etc. Remember that you serve a mighty God who cares about your problems, and can give you strength in the midst of your weakness. God does answer prayers, and you should seek His face in your times of despair.
4. Talk to other Christians online in a forum (such as Carm.org forum), other Christian websites/blogs, and more.
5. Continue to tithe to your local church, or some ministry. It’s important that the Word of God can continually be spread, and not attending church is no excuse for disobedience in other areas, including finances.
6. Fellowship with other Christians locally if possible. This may mean visiting with Christians in your own home, or in their homes. If you were previously apart of a local church, try to invite some of your friends or fellow Christians to fellowship or have a Bible study.
Conclusion: Panic or Nervous Disorders Are Real, But Don’t Use It As An Excuse
The fact is that panic or nervous disorders can be very real, and very debilitating for those going through it. However, don’t let Satan use this as an excuse to break fellowship with God, stunt your spiritual growth, or avoid obedience to His commands.
Pray for God to heal you, and/or to give you strength and grace to deal with your problems. Try your best to seek out a local church too, and use online resources in any event that you can’t attend. If you cannot attend temporarily, then try to follow the 6 tips above to stay in close fellowship with God, and so you can continue to grow spiritually.