Why am I scared of Restaurants?

restaruant anxiety

I have lived with panic attacks long enough that I can usually tell what situations will warrant high anxiety. I know that doctors, hospitals, sick people, TV shows set in hospitals, and any conversation centered around death or disease always trigger my anxious side, and often lead to an attack. This makes sense because I am terrified of dying and feel out of control in a situation where I have no control.

However, there are a few locations that very frequently give me the same feeling…locations that are not fixated on illness: restaurants and movie theatres.

These places have only been giving me trouble for a few years now, and it has mostly been a mystery for me. I love eating, spending time with friends, and relaxing in front of a big screen, so why do I tend to freak out while doing these things??? It’s just not right.

A friend of mine has the same problem, but she knows why her anxiety strikes at these times. She feels claustrophobic and forced to stay in her seat for fear of disturbing others. These feelings drive her crazy and make her entire experience one big ball of anxiety.

I understand this, but I cannot relate. I do not get claustrophobic. I do not care if I disturb others to get up to go to the bathroom….so why, WHY do I panic? Where is this coming from? I am sure it stems from a terrible experience I once had or relate to restaurants and theatres, but I cannot put my finger on it.

It doesn’t happen every time either, it seems mostly random. It is worse when it’s a big group as opposed to just Husband, and me but that’s the only detail separating the calm from the panic that I have pinpointed.

For anyone who is lucky enough to eat at restaurants without panicking here’s an idea of what it is like for me during an especially anxious dinner….

I arrive, happy to see people and happy to order lots of food. We wait for food, have great conversations, and I start to get slightly uneasy. The food arrives and everyone is excited to finally dig in, minus me. All of sudden, the food I once desired seems impossible to stomach. I’m sweating, my heart is pounding, I feel nauseous, and am 98% positive I am going to pass out. I force myself to eat a couple bites because I start fearing that people will notice something is wrong. I go to the bathroom because I feel so ill. I take deep breaths, splash water in my face, and feel the cold water run over my burning hot hands…anything to make me feel calm. I manage to stay upright through the rest of dinner, and start checking my phone only to distract myself from my own negative thoughts. What seems like 8 years later, the check comes and I can finally leave.

What sucks, is that once I get home, I feel awesome and ravenous. All I want to do is eat, which drives everyone else nuts.  Didn’t we just spend $50 on your dinner that you barely touched???

After lots and lots of soul searching and deep thoughts the best reason I can muster is that I am scared of dying in a crowded place. My biggest fears in these public places is that I will have a heart attack and either no one will notice or no one will be able to help. Also, I fear having an attack in a public place. If I am going to freak out I want to at least be in the comforts of my own home.

I have no remedy…yet. I have no answers…as of now. All I know is that the more I go, the more honest I am with the people around me, the better I feel. I’ve got to be with a friend who gets the crazy and lets me hold the popcorn. I need someone to know I might not make it through the movie, to make it through the movie.

Anyone else ever experience this? If so, please share! I love not feeling alone, and I’d really love any advice you may have.

We will be watching a Walking Dead  marathon from the comfort of our own couch tonight. Wohoo!


4 thoughts on “Why am I scared of Restaurants?”

  1. When I started eating at places again, it started with take away. I think it had something to do with the pressure – if I wanted to leave, I could. The more I did it, the less it effected me and now I can eat in restaurants. Like you said though, it’s a lot easier if whoever you are there with understands your anxiety. I would get a lot of comments from other people at the table asking what was wrong with my dinner because I was hardly touching it. I was just waiting until I could get home and relax so I could eat the rest of it. For me it is the ability to leave if I want to, so with restaurants it’s the pressure to stay and eat a meal (also having to pay for it at the end) and with the movies is it having to stay until the end – plus you pay for it too, so it is a waste of money if you go, I guess.
    I’d have to say that the more I face my anxiety, the easier it gets. And by facing it I mean facing exactly what triggers anxiety. It sounds like you really need to face the whole illness thing. I know how you feel, as I get very anxious around food and me, I suppose just because I spent so long of my life ill (often with my head in the toilet) and I don’t want it to happen again. But the more I stress, the worse it becomes.
    You’ve probably already tried to face the illness problem before, but perhaps try facing it again?

  2. how can you watch walking dead? talk about death and disease, are you crazy? i’m halfway through season two. Its great.

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