Panic Attacks and feelings of inadequacy


I studied Computer Science and Engineering in college. Got a job right out of college doing product/technical support for an IBM i company. The technologies at work were not ones I was familiar with at all and the nature of the support position meant that I was doing many different unrelated tasks (I was also put on customer projects and some internal dev). There was also not much in the form of formal training or pair programming, and there are not any code reviews. I’ve been at this company for a little over 3.5 years now and was recently moved into a developer position. However, I feel like my first 2.5-3 years I haven’t learned much related to the job technologies and haven’t advanced myself as a developer at all (on my own time I have been studying front end development for the past 7 months but I still find my skill in that area lacking). This year through a series of events at work, I realized that I have anxiety or panic disorder and I have been feeling like I am a terrible developer and very inadequate. These feelings continually trigger my anxiety and panic attacks and the cycle continues. I am seeing a therapist but I feel like alot of the traits from the successful developers at this company and others are traits I do not possess. These guys love to code in their spare time and even in the middle of the night sometimes and can literally get any problem solved in any language in very quick turnarounds. I feel like it takes me forever to pick stuff up and understand it, and I miss little details from being distracted or anxious. Do any of you feel this way? How do you cope with it? Does it go away with experience? Are any of you dealing with anxiety or panic disorders because of these feelings? Just looking to hear that I’m not alone, or that someone in a similar position previously eventually figured it out…

Thanks for reading.

Same here.

I’d say, yes and no. Though I feel more experienced now, those feelings of inferiority creep up some times - mostly in interviews. But…

… I read that Sun Tzu wrote “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

…btw. just wanted to add, I quit my Job without having a new one, need some time to heal - after that I think I’m interviewing a lot, looking forward to that experience </irony> :wink:


I felt that way at my previous job. I realized I was more of a builder than a creator. I was spending a lot of time on maintenance and testing while other devs had more leeway and could spend time creating stuff and in the process adding to their github portfolio.

It’s pointless to compare yourself to others that way. You are a different person with your own strengths/weaknesses.

You might think you know what’s going on in their lives but you don’t. You don’t have all the facts. Maybe the turnaround was indeed very quick but the code is crap.

I don’t spend all my evenings/weekends coding either. I’d rather spend my time exercising or relaxing. I don’t have to meet other people’s standards. It’s your life.


I was thinking about doing the same thing. 6 months off… that would be so awesome… except I’m basically broke.

I almost quit a month ago. I had to suck it up because I really can’t afford to be jobless for a month or 2.

I’ve been talking to other companies lately. Even had an interview this week.

I put a lot of thought on my priorities. What do I look for in my next job ? I would really like to know about yours as well.

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It’s good you’re taking some time off to work on you. I’m way too scared to even consider that. I saw a psychiatrist on Thursday and after a 90 minute session I’ve been put on zoloft. I’m hoping being more calm will let me focus better and promote better learning. Will see how it goes.

So how did you get over that? You switched jobs? Or did you do something at that last job to change this?

Yeah. I have this problem where I am have deeply tied my self worth to my career (so currently this job). To the point where last night I kept dreaming about code for a project I’m working on. It’s like I can’t even subconsciously let it go. And if I’m not doing some coding or studying in my spare time I beat myself up and feel guilty because well…I said I’m not that good so why aren’t I trying to change that as much as possible you know?

@Fifty6, do not beat yourself up about not being able to ‘let stuff go’. I spent several years ruminating and then some more ruminating about why I did ruminate in the first place.

Not sure if this helps, but as your subconscious mind will bring up those things if you like it or not - try to use them as a pointer to the root cause. If you feel guilty because you did not study, can you name why you feel guilty? Your answer is you are not good enough, ok, then ask why this should be true, and ask why this might be false. Or, when you dream of your project and code, can you remember the setting, the persons involved? Was there a bug? What kind of bug? How did the persons involved react? Were you reprimanded? How did you feel? etc.

Not sure if I brought my point across :worried:

The startup closed shop.

I knew things were going nowhere but I stuck around out of loyalty for the guys working there. I can say It was one of the best job I ever had. I was getting bored and feeling unchallenged at the end but my anxiety and stress were in check. I was doing much better in my personal life as a result.

When I interviewed for new jobs, I was lucky enough to get offers. I didn’t do much front-end development in the previous years so I thought it would be a good fit when I was proposed a job at another startup that would allow me to do front-end work.

Long story short… yeah I did learn a lot and I’m a much better web developer now but I’ve been really anxious and stressed out in the last months.

I feel like it’s a pattern in my job history… boring job followed by highly stressful job followed by boring job…

I feel the same way. Sometimes my anxiety is taking over and the only thing that keeps it in check is opening my laptop and work. It’s hard not be emotionally invested in the company when you work at a startup.

I think an important thing with anxiety is to stick to the facts.

Leave out those judgmental embellishments, and stick to what you know from direct experience.

You obviously have skills or otherwise you would not have been employed at the same company for 3+ years. You mention recent events have raised you anxiety level. Perhaps you think you’ll lose your job or that some people don’t like you.

I’ve felt the same way before… having a sleepless night before a meeting thinking I would be criticized when in fact everything was fine… or thinking I would get fired when asked to meet in private when in fact in was for a totally different reason.

I think I understood your point; use those moments to figure out why you are thinking those things and where they are coming from? In other words view them objectively. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve with therapy and medication. But at this moment I just view them as further fuel and confirmation that I’m not cut out for this.

Yeah the problem is I definitely relate to “impostor syndrome”. I keep feeling like I’ve just been coasting by unnoticed and now someone’s finally gonna notice since I was recently moved into junior dev and figure out that I in fact am not that good.

I didn’t expand on some of the events that happened this year, but essentially I was tasked with creating a mobile app for a conference earlier this year. I worked for 2.5 months on it while still doing technical support and was really burning myself out. When I finally got someone to look at the code near the deadline, it turned out I was doing alot of things wrong and the code was messy. The developer who was helping me with it was agitated and wondered why I was doing alot of these things incorrectly. This ultimately triggered my anxiety and panic for the first time this year as those dormant feelings of inadequacy were finally being validated. We eventually pumped the app out and there weren’t any major hiccups (code was ugly) but I felt so disappointed in myself (I thought that project was my time to shine). I was a mess the month after and tried therapy but couldn’t stick with it. That summer I was okay and just kept doing support, had a yearly review in the fall and got a raise.

Recently, I can’t really pinpoint the relapse but I am confident it’s these feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure and finding out I am not suited for this field, coupled with my anxious nature and low self confidence.

All-or-Nothing Thinking
When you’re caught up in this cognitive distortion, if you fall short
of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. There’s no middle ground.

From my point of view, you managed to complete the app even though it looks like you didn’t have good support from your team. You mentioned …

… like it’s something you requested several times. Obviously when you’re near a deadline, it’s not a good time to refactor the whole app.

So when we look at the facts:

  • You shipped even though you were put in a tough spot
  • It worked
  • You got a raise

Those are all positives.

As a side not: the startup I work for has an iOS/Android app. They re-wrote it like 3 times so far.

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Thanks for giving your perspective. It’s hard to see facts looking at all the negatives from the inside. When I’m feeling alright I can see what you’re saying is true and I should focus on those positive facts at all times. It’s when the anxiety rears it’s head that I lose sight of these things and start panicking and believing nothing but negatives. Hopefully the CBT and medication help combat this so I can move forward.

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I feel the same way, in moments of clarity I can make sense of the “sense” and talk myself out of feeling like a complete failure when I’m really just hitting a road block.

Unfortunately our minds are machines that need rebooting and a software update that isn’t readily available for a quick fix, although I wish there was one because it would definitely fix a lot of the things I know I’ve been struggling with, quickly. I have been going to therapy for a while and after being a workaholic for so long, I feel so burnt out that I can’t even look at computer without feeling nauseous… And I’m running away from all responsibilities, my anxiety is through the roof and I keep blaming myself for letting it get “this far”. But our bodies, I think, let us know when it’s time to stop, reassess and celebrate the small wins.

If we don’t, we never fully recover from the burn out, the voice in our heads that repeats we aren’t good enough, and the feelings of inadequacy.

I think CBT will help you, we need to unlearn old patterns and help to jumpstart new ones, but the key is patience, delaying instant gratification, and having a good support group… Trust me I’m hugging myself as I write this because I surely am waiting for this to “hurry up and pass”…

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Are you doing therapy? How long have you been working in the industry? Hows your job going so far?

Yes, I believe I have had dormant feelings of inadequacy all my life that I never addressed, just brushed off. Same with some depression and anxiety. I think my body is finally crashing telling me “Hey, you got alot of shit to fix!”

And its just so hard, because these feelings keep permeating into my work and I can’t focus at work and keep going into my head and keep thinking Im going to fuck up or have an attack, etc. etc. and then I just get so tired I can’t get stuff done. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m hugging myself too man…I’m hurting bad.

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I’ve been in therapy for 9 years and just found out that it was “supportive” therapy than actual CBT which could have made me progress a little further. The difference is one makes you dependant on the clinician wheras the other allows you to see that you can be your own therapist.

When it comes to inadequacy and all that, I actually just spoke about it on the CodeNewbie podcast: You may benefit from it, or at least realize you aren’t alone.

I had to take a break from my job, and I so scared but at the same time excited that I actually took the step towards change. The biggest thing I’ve been wanting to do is live and not be so afraid that I’m just exisitng. If you find yourself not being able to focus (and it’s not chemical - like ADHD - in which case you should try check out nootropics), or check out GABA for anxiety, and taking time out to take time out for you (which is so hard to forget in a distracting world), then burnout happens which it sounds like you have small symptoms of.

I wrote a small ebook: around getting out of your own way. It’s funny but I’m still learning as I write about stuff that helps other people as I feel like I’m a struggling hypocrite.

It’s okay, keep writing, keep talking, and keep trying new things. I feel the hurt too, but I’m trying to believe that this too shall pass.

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Thanks for the links. I listened to the podcast, it was very inspirational. It’s always great to hear that people with similar or even worse struggles and circumstances make it out on top. It gives me a glimmer of hope that I can be one of those people one day.