alot of what I know has to do with children and childhood anxiety disorders, but many things apply to adults as well.
1. Get a good therapist that offeres CBT Treatment (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). CBT is the best known treatment of anxiety in both children and adults, and I've seen it work wonders numerous times!
2. Baby steps.. but you gotta make them- work gradually. A person with anxiety cannot expect to one day make it all the way out for a day at the mall. You have to set a schedule for yourself, and find a personal cheerleader that will give you positive reinforcement when you achieve your goals (I'm sure us on the IBS boards would be great cheerleaders for this).
So for example, week one you could say today I will go out for half an hour. When you do this, pick a place that you feel most comfortable outside of the house, and that is less anxiety producing. However, make sure that this place is out of the house. After a week of doing this, reward yourself with a special meal, or by doing something you love.
The next week, begin by staying out somewhere for an hour and increase the time accordingly. Also, throughout the weeks, as you begin to feel more calm in areas that are less anxiety producing, begin visiting areas that are more anxiety producing. All the while realizing just how far you've come, receiving positive feedback from us here on the boards, and by rewarding yourself.
3. one thing that helps some people is to design a special symbol. For children this can be a small cut out that says NO FEAR, or a picture of a super hero. With adults, you could easily adapt this by using a key chain, or a special saying or quote that you carry around that would symbolize the fact that you have no fear and will not allow anxiety to rule your life. This way, everytime you begin to feel anxious outside of the home, you can look down at your special symbol (which you carry in your purse, pocket, car etc.. put them everywhere) and realize YES! I can do this. I know it sounds cheesy, but I know a quite a few people that this has been successful for.
4. Make a thought chart!! this will help you identify some of your automatic thoughts, which are thoughts that occur without warning, and without you realizing how they got there. When these thoughts are negative they can result in anxiety. So basically think of situations from the past few days where you felt anxious. Identify the situation and the specific feelings you had. Then identify any automatic thoughts that seemed to go along with it. You could set up your chart in three sections..
your automatic thoughts.
this will help you become more aware of the negative thoughts you are having that is helping to maintain a high level of anxiety.
the situation- going to a birthday party
your feelings- anxious, worried and scared
your negative automatic thoughts- what are you thinking that is causing you to feel anxious and worried. perhaps you're afraid no one will talk to you, that everyone will notice you are anxious etc. only you know your negative automatic thoughts.
5. Are things really that bad? Ask yourself three questions.
a) whats the evidence? if something seems really bad, or if you are looking at something in a negative way, how much evidence is there that things really are as you think they are?
b)is there any alternative evidence? so, you are thinking that something bad is happening or might happen. is there any evidence out there that indicates otherwise? is there another explanation?
c)what if? if the negative thing you are thinking really does occur, whats the worst possible thing that realistically might happen to you? have you been through worse and still survived? have other people experienced this problem and still survived?
6) A big step in overcoming anxiety is diminishing negative automatic thoughts. these are the voices in your head telling you, you can't do something, or need to worry about something. Its important to recognize what your negative thoughts are, what thinking error did you make and what is a more realistic way of thinking about it?
7) map out a plan. Just like with IBS and finding the bathroom, don't make yourself do something incredibly uncomfortable. you may feel better about doing something outside of the house if you decide before hand that you can leave quickly if you start to panic. Don't force yourself to fight anxiety all at once. do it gradually.
8. increase positive self statements. when mapping out a plan, or a problem situation, write down positive self statements about yourself that can help motivate you to follow through with the situation. ie. although i'm scare, people really seem to like me. I'm a friendly person etc.
9. cognitive distractions- this can be used anywhere, and involves thinking about either the funniest or happiest memory you have. The memory is best if if can bring an instantaneous smile or laugh.
10. Rational Emotive Imagery- mentally experience the event in the safety of your own home. this is similar to making a plan.
I hope this helps! I'll add more as I think of them!!