Anxiety & Panic Support

Anxiety?  Panic Attacks?  You are not alone!

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults and costing more than forty-two billion dollars a year in doctor bills and workplace losses. In spite of these large numbers, anxiety disorders are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed. People with anxiety disorders live with overwhelming fear. Many of them believe that there is no hope for recovery.

-Ask Yourself the following questions-

Do I avoid going places because of my anxiety?

Do I live in constant fear of that next panic attack?

Do I feel alone, like I'm the only person with this problem?

Have I gone from doctor to doctor looking for answers, but to no avail?

Have I given up hope of ever getting better?


Help is Here!

Open Door anxiety and panic attack support groups are located in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Open Door was founded in 1986 by a recovered agoraphobic who wanted to help others who were trying to cope with anxiety and panic attacks. Open Door offers an educational program that teaches effective strategies in anxiety management, promotes a better understanding of anxiety and panic disorders, and gives encouragement and support in a caring and nonjudgmental environment. It reassures us that recovery is possible.

If the program could be condensed into one word, it would be allow. Members are encouraged to allow their thoughts, their anxiety, even their panic attacks. Nowhere in the program are they told that they must get rid of them, or that they must do something to change them. People with an anxiety disorder constantly give themselves the message, "Do something!" They feel trapped. Accepting or allowing is the best thing they can do to alleviate the feeling of entrapment. By doing so, they are giving themselves choices.

An Open Door member wrote, "It's difficult to remember when life was not so full of choices. As I listen to others in the support group, it amazes me how far I've come on my road to recovery and how grateful I am to the Open Door, my therapists, and my support people. I'm also amazed at myself for the courage and determination to get better. It has not been easy, and now it is not that hard. I would have never believed life could be so sweet."

Open Door Meeting Locations:

East St. Paul: Call Rachel at 952-818-7343  

Edina: Call Mark at 651-485-1882

Edina: Call Shawn at 651-239-8381

St. Paul Highland Park: Call Les at 612-229-1863

Edina: Call Scott at 612-998-6160 


There is no charge, no pre-registration. Meetings are facilitated by persons who experience, or have experienced an anxiety or panic disorder. All groups follow the same format; a structured program based on the book, Embracing the Fear: Learning to Manage Anxiety and Panic Attacks. Books are available for use at the meeting sites. 

If you have attended an Open Door meeting we would like your feedback. Please take a few minutes to complete the following survey. Thank you.

In 2007, Open Door merged with NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI is a leader in the mental health community. It strives to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, and bring about positive change in the mental health system through education, support, and advocacy. For more information go to

(Updated - Aug. 5, 2016)

We offer the following:

  • Bi-weekly support groups
  • An Anxiety Management Program
  • A New look at self-talk
  • Answers to your questions concerning anxiety disorders
  • An end to your feeling of isolation
  • Hope for recovery


Embracing the Fear, Learning to Manage Anxiety and Panic Attacks *
by Judith Bemis and Amr Barrada, PhD 
(Published by Hazelden, 1994)

This book offers an alternative approach in dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, one that is built on paradox. Through this program you will acquire new insights, helpful coping strategies and a self-talk that is supportive and nurturing. You will discover that there is hope for recovery. 'Embracing the Fear' offers a three-part program: Managing Our Anxiety, Listening to Our Inner Dialogue, and Lifestyle Awareness. Managing Our Anxiety consists of 14 strategies for dealing with panic attacks, as well as chronic or generalized anxiety. Listening to Our Inner Dialogue explains how self-talk plays an important part in initiating and perpetuating our anxiety and panic, as well as helping us make it more manageable. Specific examples are included. Lifestyle Awareness helps us gain a better understanding of how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others. It raises our awareness of how we deal with everyday life events and how our way of dealing with them can set us up for anxiety or panic attacks.



The Anxiety Disorders
  What Causes Anxiety Disorders
  Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol
  Gaining a New Perspective
  What is Recovery?


  Introduction to the Program
  Managing Our Anxiety 
  Listening to Our Inner Dialogue
  Lifestyle Awareness


  Strategy 1: Accepting Our Anxiety Disorder
  Strategy 2: Practicing a Self-Nurturing Inner Dialogue
  Strategy 3: Allowing the Sensations of Anxiety or Panic
  Strategy 4: Slowing Down
  Strategy 5: Letting Go of Control
  Strategy 6: Taking Risks
  Strategy 7: Allowing Catastrophic Thoughts
  Strategy 8: Learning and Talking About Our Anxiety Disorder
  Strategy 9: Keeping Our Expectations Low
  Strategy 10: Accepting Setbacks
  Strategy 11: Taking the Time Limit Out of Recovery
  Strategy 12: No Longer Anticipating Panic Attacks
  Strategy 13: Recognizing Our Inner Strength
  Strategy 14: Reaching Out to Others


  Putting the Program to Work

Going to Church
    Going to the Dentist
    Going to the Supermarket
    Going to the Hair Salon
    Shopping at the Mall
    Going to a Restaurant
    Going to the Theater, Concerts, or Large Group Events
    Going to a Social Event or Party
    Going to Work, to a Conference, or on a Job Interview
    Driving Alone
    Riding on a Bus, in a Van, or in a Carpool
    Driving on the Expressway
    Taking a Trip
    Flying the Unfriendly Skies



  Some Thoughts on Self-Care
  Organizing an Anxiety/Panic Support Group


(Lynn's Story, page 29)

"At a recent support group meeting, a young man asked, 'Does anyone else get up in the morning dreading a panic attack?' Now, I can remember feeling that way, but to my surprise I realized I no longer think about that. This question made me reflect on how far I've come. I know that I might have setbacks, but I also know that 'allowing' them to happen, getting lots of practice, and accepting where I am now in my recovery help me through the tough moments. I used to panic everywhere--church, movie theaters, restaurants, home, social functions. I thought I was nuts! I avoided most of these places in fear of the dreaded attack. However, I am enjoying my successes now and it's wonderful!"

(Delores's Story, page 82)

"The early days of agoraphobia were confusing and terrifying. I remember holding onto my desk at work and asking, What is happening to me? That was the fall of 1965. It's a wonder I was even able to hold down a job. In the beginning I had no idea what was happening, nor did the medical profession have any answers. For months I struggled with the belief that I was either seriously ill or that I was hopelessly caught up in the grips of a mental illness. My days and nights consisted of fighting the feelings that had become so overwhelming. I was constantly analyzing them, asking Why? and desperately trying to cling to some sense of sanity. There were times I thought I was dying. A therapist said, 'No, you're not dying, but there will be times when you'll wish you were.' I didn't believe him at the time, but the day would come when I would understand what he meant only too well. Survival was the name of the game in those early days. I wouldn't give up trying to find a solution to my problem. What I did discover was by hit or miss, since no one could give me any answers. One thing I learned was that keeping busy helped. Unfortunately, it was like being on a treadmill; I was okay until it stopped. My life became a whirlwind of activity with the ever present fear of what would happen if I ever stopped to relax. I also discovered that by not being so impressed with the feelings I was able to keep some perspective. (This was the 'grit-your-teeth-and-plow-through' period.) Most important, I discovered that when I no longer cared whether I had a panic attack or not, they occurred less often. As though it were yesterday, I remember remarking to my doctor, 'I've decided that if I pass out on the street someone will help me. I just don't care anymore.' It was the beginning. Later, I was told by my therapist, 'It's when you stop caring that it goes away.' And it did! Therapy was the final step in my recovery. I learned definite strategies to use when dealing with panic attacks. A complete change of attitude evolved, which helped give me back my zest for life. Fear was replaced with accepting and allowing. My expectations were lowered; even my whirlwind pace was challenged. Someone had finally helped me to get off the treadmill." 

Book Endorsements

This is one of the best self-help books I have read on agoraphobia. I wish this book had been around when I was afflicted by my panic disorder. I would highly recommend Embracing the Fear as worthwhile reading.
-Al Kasha, Oscar-winning composer, writer, and producer-
I have found that recovery comes from acceptance, from letting the panic come without fighting it. I’ve learned this and so much more from Embracing the Fear. It has given me my life back.  -Lori-  

 Since reading ‘Embracing the Fear’ my life has changed from anxiety-controlled to self-acceptance and self- love. It has taught me a new approach in overcoming my agoraphobia and has encouraged me, once house-bound, to return to college to renew a career abandoned 2- years ago. I recommend this book to anyone suffering from anxiety. -Debby-

Book Reviews

A book reviewer once wrote, "If you can imagine, there is no straining and striving to overcome your disorder, no 'hard work,' no guilt or shame, no pressure or deadlines. The basic principle is a most permissive one that is sensible, balanced and emotionally healthy."
-Encourage Newsletter, July/August 1994, Scottsdale, AZ. Written by Pat Merrill, Editor-

(The following reviews are from

This book saved me!! - I must admit that Lucinda Bassett’s program (15 week taped program) and Dr. Bourne’s ‘Anxiety and Phobia Workbook’ are remarkable. . .but I feel that this book ‘Embracing the Fear’ was the last ‘pill’ I really needed to help in my recovery from agoraphobia. Once housebound, I have read many books on this topic. This book is wonderful. . .I have underlined and highlighted almost the entire book. THIS is the first book that talked to me about MY fear. . .not fear of dying like so many other books describe but fear of the TERROR of a panic attack. I KNEW I was not dying. . .I was just avoiding my life trying to protect myself from having one of those dreaded attacks away from home. I HIGHLY recommend this book. I am currently finishing up my master's degree in counseling and will definitely use this with my anxious clients. I can't tell you how much this book has helped me. It is like my second bible. -Matthew's Mom-

This one is the best because I’ve read them all - I have consumed every book out there on this subject. This is the best book for helping the patient cope and understand the condition. It has more helpful coping strategies than any other book on the market. It is upbeat and gives you the sense that you can handle this, and that you will be fine. I love their attitude. -A Customer-

After 15 years of terror -
This remarkable book helped me to understand and see myself and my world in a new light. Being a male who "white knuckled" my life for 15 years, the book allowed me to seek a new awareness nearly opposite from what I felt the path to serenity and peace would be. No one can know the traps of panic disorder like those who live it. The recovering authors’ insights have moved my struggles to insights, understanding and acceptance of myself, turning burdens into gifts. A life changer for me, I have shared with others, on my fourth copy. 
-A Customer-

Life Saver! -
When I read this book a few years ago I thought bull this will never work. But trust me it does. Facing and embracing the fear instead of running from it does work, but you need determination and keep practicing the steps in the book. It WORKS! -A Customer-

A new way of thinking about anxiety - When the author said we give ourselves two impossible choices by telling ourselves we can't stay because of fear and panic, yet we can't leave because of the failure and humiliation, she really hit it on the nail for me. Giving myself two possible choices - it's okay to stay, and it's okay to leave - opened up a new reality for me. I never told myself before I read this book that it's okay if I leave a panicked situation. I always beat myself on the head and feared it meant I could never go back. I didn't realize how harshly I was treating myself until I saw another possibility, the "B-Talk," which is about accepting myself, giving myself options, and seeing anxiety from a new way. This book is a real life changer. - My Two Cents"-


This book is available at,, & local bookstores
Also through Hazelden Publications (1-800-328-0098)



The Power of Acceptance, Finding Peace from Anxiety and Panic Attacks  by Judith Bemis
(Lightning Source, 2008)

'The Power of Acceptance' is a sequel to 'Embracing the Fear.' It delves deeper into the psychological factors that trigger anxiety and panic attacks. It stresses the importance of a healthy self-esteem, of setting boundaries, and feeling more in charge of our lives. Its content is more personal than the former book. It answers readers' questions, such as "What are our thoughts about taking, or not taking, medication?" "Does acceptance mean that I can't do anything about my anxiety?" "Am I being negative by lowering my expectations?"

Written by a recovered agoraphobic, this book speaks from the heart. Those of us trying to cope with persistent and unexplainable anxiety or panic attacks need to be reminded that we are not alone. We discover, through coping strategies and gentle self-talk, that we no longer have to try so hard to fix or control our anxiety. We no longer have to live in fear. 


Chapter One: Origins

  The First Panic Attack
  Looking at the Problem
  Anxiety Disorders
  Defining a Panic Attack
  Diagnostic Symptoms of a Panic Attack
  Why Am I Panicking?
  Panic Attacks and Heredity
  Other Factors to Consider
  What Can Trigger Anxiety or Panic?

Chapter Two: The Power of Acceptance

  The Meaning of Acceptance
  The Gentle Voice Within
  This is Who I Am Today
  Slowing Down in a Fast-paced World
  Lowered Expectations, a Positive Approach
  Feeling the Fear and Taking the Risk
  Goals, Time Limits, Setbacks

Chapter Three: Acceptance in Everyday Life

Chapter Four: Growing in Awareness

  Growing in Awareness
Getting in Touch With Our Feelings
Taking Charge of Our Lives
Becoming More Assertive
Establishing Boundaries
Dealing With Confrontation
Moving into a New Comfort zone

Chapter Five: Awareness Through Journaling

  How to Journal
  Recording Our Progress
Recording Our Feelings
Writing Unsent letters
Writing Prose and Poetry

Chapter Six: Beyond Acceptance

  Questions on Self-care
Thoughts on Medication

Parting Thoughts - Recovery

Defining Recovery


Appendix: Questions from the Support Person's Perspective

The power of acceptance is a challenging concept for those of us who feel trapped in a cycle of fear. Perhaps the notion of accepting or allowing seems too simple a strategy for dealing with anxiety or panic attacks. Seeing the problem as complex, we look for complex answers. However, I repeatedly hear people say, "The thing that helped me the most in my recovery was acceptance." Despite its effectiveness in breaking the anxiety-panic cycle, accepting seems contrary to what we think we should be doing, that is, trying hard to control our anxiety symptoms. However, this need to control only builds up a resistance, which, in itself, creates a problem.

How do I know when I'm accepting my anxiety?  

Tuning in to our self-talk is one way of knowing whether or not we are accepting our anxiety. What are we saying about it? If we are telling ourselves that we shouldn't have this problem or that we have to get rid of the anxiety we are not accepting. Instead, we are trying hard to control our symptoms. However, we need to allow them to run their course. At a support group meeting, someone once commented, "I understand the concepts we're discussing--acceptance and allowing the sensations of panic. I really think I'm doing that. So, why am I still panicking?" She then went on to say, "Each time I feel the anxiety building I say to myself, Oh, dear! Here it is again. How long is this going to go on?" This inner dialogue tells us why her panic attacks are continuing. Still feeling overwhelmed, she is merely putting up with her symptoms while desperately hoping to get rid of them as soon as possible. Even when some of us think we are accepting our anxiety, we don't always realize what we are saying to ourselves and the difference our self-talk can make.

Does acceptance mean I'm always going to have this problem?

"I'm having a difficult time with the idea of acceptance," said another support group member. "I feel that if I give in to my anxiety or accept it, it will continue to get worse and I'll always have it." Many of us think that if we don't put a stop to the anxiety or panic it will get worse. However, fear of being unable to control the anxiety and the anticipation of it getting worse play a big part in perpetuating the problem. It's the accepting, the surrendering to our anxiety and panic symptoms--not fighting them--that can help break the anxiety-panic cycle. While acceptance on a long-term basis may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, trying to accept our anxiety one day at a time is more realistc and achievable.



(Mara's Story, page 75)

"I remember standing at the entrance to the grocery store, anticipating the anxiety I was sure I'd have as soon as I stepped through the door. While mustering up my courage, I visualized the locations of the items I needed. I then went directly to the shelves, quickly gathered up my groceries, and headed for the checkout counter. With any luck there wouldn't be a line. I had rushed through the store on many occasions seeking to get outside before the panicky feelings hit. What a surprise I got when I discovered that slowing down and allowing the panic actually made it easier for me to stay in the store and finish my shopping. As I became more accepting of the anxiety symptoms, I discovered that I was no longer afraid of them, and they became less and less of a problem."

(Bev's Story, page 105) 

"The first night I went to my support group I felt hope. I sat quietly and listened. The aloneness I had been experiencing diminished. I heard that I wasn't the only one having those crazy feelings. Whew! What a relief! Naturally, I expected the quick cure. I would get these terrifying feelings in tow and get on with my life! But that's not how recovery works. Yet hope remains. Sometimes my day begins with fear, but the feeling is shorter-lived, nowhere as intense, nor does fear haunt me as often as it did in the past. I allow the fear to do whatever it needs to do, remembering always that it is only a feeling and that I am safe. Letting go takes practice, but it really has worked for me. So many areas of my life have changed for the better. This program works! The difference is amazing when I keep my expectations low, stay with the panic feelings, and believe that they will pass. This is a process that moves slowly. No time limits. No quick fixes. But there is hope." 

Book Endorsement

"We finally have a whole book devoted to the healing properties of self-acceptance. People suffering from emotional problems should find this book extremely helpful in their quest for recovery."

Amr Barrada, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Edina, Minnesota


Book Reviews

(The following excerpts are taken from reviews on

If you finally want to break the anxiety/panic cycle READ THIS BOOK (Oct. 30, 2008) -
There are many good books today that tackle the issues of anxiety and panic disorder. I’ve read the majority of them since the 1980’s, and I featured several in ENcourage Newsletter (no longer in print) for the benefit of folks with panic disorder and agoraphobia. But I’d like to make it clear that this particular book and author truly offers the most immediate practical help I’ve seen. In keeping with Judith Bemis’ previous book, Embracing the Fear, the reader finds "real world" examples of the actual use of ACCEPTANCE in anxious situations. This fills a big gap in available literature. More importantly, perhaps, is the clarity with which ACCEPTANCE is described and defined. (Readers will be relieved to know the acceptance is far from resignation.) The paradox and living experience of true acceptance is what heals us – on many levels. Rather than ardent striving and controlling (which is exhausting and futile), one will learn just how to treat anxiety with a light touch and gentle spirit. And it works beautifully.

P. Merrill , Editor (Scottsdale, AZ)
Founder, ENcourage Connection

(see full review on

This book hits close to home - This book is not a "how to" but rather a personal perspective that many anxiety sufferers have been looking for. When I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) I began thinking that I was the only one who was experiencing emotions and traumatic feelings of these levels. In her book, Judy simply tells her story and it is amazing how it can parallel your own world. As she states, "You are not alone," and she means it. Realizing that I was truly not the only one, I began to cry and shortly after, an immense weight began to be lifted, giving me hope.There is comfort in numbers, so they say, and realizing you are one of many that suffers, brings hope, determination, and eventually peace with your anxiety. In combination with professional help, these books (The Power of Acceptance and Embracing the Fear) have given me the tools to manage my anxiety unlike any others, and courage to begin moving forward to a more enriching life.

A. Wachholz, anxiety recoverer
Mpls., Minnesota

(see full review on

This book is available at,, & can be ordered through local bookstores



About the Author

Judith Bemis, a recovered agoraphobic, started experiencing panic attacks in 1965. Thinking that it was a serious medical problem, she continually searched for answers concerning the cause, but to no avail. After a period of being semi-housebound, she managed to white-knuckle it until a major setback in 1981 prompted a renewed search for help. A year of cognitive therapy proved to be a turning point in her life. 

Wanting to share her freedom with others, she founded Open Door Outreach, Inc. (a network of support groups for people with agoraphobia and other related anxiety disorders) and has served as director and facilitator for the organization since 1986. In January of 2007, Open Door merged with NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Ms. Bemis currently serves on the NAMI Minnesota Board of Directors. 

Ms. Bemis holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from the University of Minnesota, and did graduate work at Michigan State University. Before retiring, she taught public school music for thirty-five years and worked as a consultant for two years at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital's Behavioral Medicine Clinic in Minneapolis. She is committed to helping improve the lives of people who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks.  

Photograph by Bruce Schnack Photography

Horizontal Divider 12

-Other Resources-

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 600
Silver Springs, MD 20910

CHAANGE Anxiety Program
Nationwide Headquarters
1360 Rosecrans St., Suite 1
San Diego, CA  92106

Sunset on Winter Woods

Open Door * 608 South Russell Ave. * Minneapolis * MN * 55405 Phone: (612)377-2467

Powered by