In the past, it has often been enough to spur anxiety any time that I would witness someone else being extremely anxious. I dealt with a guest at work a few months ago who was having a severe panic attack. While I maintained my composure, I was feeling quite panicked on the inside. It sometimes feels that panic can be contagious.
This most recent situation, however was quite different. An employee of mine had a severe panic attack the other day at work. Seeing her this way did not cause me to panic this time. I was able to calmly sit by her side and try to help her.
I even confided that I also have had panic attacks. This helped to ease her nerves a bit, I hope. But I am positive that it helped me to ease mine. This I think was the primary difference in the two situations. The first time, with the guest, I was new to the job and not comfortable with discussing my own issues with anxiety. This fed the anxiety. This time, I was much more comfortable and willing to try and share my own experiences and help this girl.
While I don't think I got anything at all through to her (she ended up popping a pill and becoming almost instantly dopey, a way in which I never handled my problems) I did learn something about myself. And about other's perceptions... I did encounter a few people saying she was just doing it for the attention. This renews my focus on being unashamed of my anxiety disorder. I am in a position to be a role model to some, and them seeing that I too have struggles can maybe offer some guidance to those in trouble and some perspective to those who criticize.
Anxiety can be contagious, but only as much as you let it in. Another's anxiety is just a trigger like any other. You can fend it off in the same ways. A calm and centered mind is the best defense.