In the first part of this mini-series, “Why am I having a panic attack?“, we discussed the basic science behind why an attack takes place, and the effects that take place in your body.
In the second part “Understanding Anxiety Attacks“ we discussed how a person can go from having one minor panic attack to becoming house-bound and racked with fear.
In this final part, we’ll be discussing some of the simple steps you take to get back control of your anxiety by beating the gremlins that are causing the fear.
A quick recap
If you don’t have time to read the first two posts right now, I’ll quickly give you an overview.
An Anxiety (or Panic) attack is a disproportional and irrational state of panic about a trivial thing or situation. In some cases, it can seem like there’s no discernible reason at all. Attacks usually occur without warning and a sufferer can simply burst into a state of fear.
This leaves the person excessively fearful or sometimes incapacitated. Which in turn, can affect life generally, relationships, happiness, and peace of mind.
An anxiety attack can create any or all of the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitation (increase in heartbeat)
- Hot flushes, or chills
- A surge of overwhelming panic
- Feeling detached, or unreal
- Trembling, or shaking
- A feeling of having trouble breathing
- A feeling of losing control, going crazy; or fear of dying
- A choking sensation
- Nausea or stomach cramps
- Chest discomfort, or pain
Generally speaking, anxiety attacks usually peak within 5-10 minutes and rarely last for more than 20 minutes, or so.
A traumatic experience initially causes the trigger for an anxiety attack. Sometimes though, the sufferer may have no recollection of that experience being traumatic.
i.e: One of the most popular causes of a panic attack is agoraphobia (an extreme or irrational fear of open, or public places).
The traumatic experience may have been that they were scolded by their mother while they were playing in the park and the subconscious has chosen the environment as the cause of the trauma.
The next time the sufferer is taken to the park (or any other open, or public place) they suffer a panic attack.
The trigger for attacks can be any area of that experience;
- the situation at the time
- the environment
- the person creating the experience
- even a particular word, or sentence that was used.
One of the most important things to remember is that trying to avoid the onset of a panic attack, will only cause it to happen more frequently. Or, in some cases leave you with a life that is so restrictive, that it isn’t really a life anymore.
Don’t fight it
By trying to avoid it, your mind is constantly worrying about whether your current situation is likely to be dangerous. Rather than enjoying the fact that you’re in beautiful surroundings with people you love having a great time, your subconscious is constantly flicking through your memory banks. Vigorously searching to see if this situation compares to any situation you’ve been in previously that resulted in likely danger.
Because you’re so keen to avoid these situations, your mind develops links to things that really, don’t have any connection. This causes you to become anxious, then fearful of another attack. So you leave the area and put another item in the ‘things to avoid’ column of your existence.
The way past this is to try to look logically at the current situation. Then identify why this situation is not a threat to you (unless it is of course. In that case get out of there!! :-0 ).
One of the quickest ways to do this is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen in this current situation?”
By trying to find the worst-case scenario in a situation, it allows you to see the situation in a rational light. Otherwise, all you see is one that’s clouded by unconscious fear.
If this doesn’t work as well as you expected and you begin to feel the initial symptoms of a panic attack, there are many ways to control the symptoms;
Try to relax
Although it almost seems impossible to relax during an attack, you mustn’t submit yourself to your emotion. Breathe slowly and deeply. Deep breathing helps calm you down and relaxes your mind and body. During an anxiety attack, consciously focus your breathing, it’ll help to slow down your heartbeat. It’ll also distract your attention from the attack, which helps you recover faster. It may help to practice deep breathing exercises even if you are not stressed, or feeling anxious.
It’s important to stay focused and calm yourself; you have to be in control. Keep reminding yourself, speaking out loud if it helps, that thousands, or possibly millions of people do this thing you’re scared of, and never come to any harm.
Remember that negative thoughts feed the panic. The trigger only starts the attack, it’s your fear of the symptoms that help it build in strength. By positively taking control over your fear and reminding yourself that no one ever died from a panic attack, you’ll overcome it.
Remember that it’ll be over soon – and it will. Anxiety attacks don’t generally last very long, so there’s no reason to feel like your world is over.
Talk to someone you trust
It can be your friend, your spouse, a relative, or even a therapist. Often, having someone who listens and understands what you’re going through makes a lot of difference. This is because it allows you to share your emotions rather than keeping them to yourself.
It’d be great to hear about your panic beating experiences. Share your knowledge and help others be just as successful.