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Panic Attacks: Stop Scaring Yourself!

WHAT IS A PANIC ATTACK?

Panic Attack!

A panic attack is a period of intense fear and worry that a person experiences with or with out an identified trigger that appears to come out of nowhere.

A panic attack usually does not last for more than 10 minutes.

People who have experienced a panic attack at some point in their lives have described it as the most terrifying and uncomfortable situation they have ever been in, especially if the person was having a panic attack in a public/social situation.

More times than not, panic attacks are mistaken for heart attacks and many people rush to the ER for medical attention. People usually are diagnosed with panic attacks when the doctors find absolutely nothing wrong with them. It takes a lot of time for most people to accept that what they experienced was “just” a panic attack because of how intense the feeling could be.

A panic attack can be seen as some kind of a “glitch” in our autonomic nervous system which is responsible to send a general “alarm” to our bodies to either “fight or flight” when we are in a dangerous situation. People who experience panic attacks may have an over sensitive or hyper-reactive autonomic nervous system.

TWO TYPES OF FEARS:

During a panic attack a person will experience two types of fears.

The primary fear is the initial and physical experience of pure panic; racing heart, interrupted breathing, sweating, etc.

SYMPTOMS THAT COMMONLY OCCUR DURING A PANIC ATTACK:

1.) Numbness/tingling sensations

2.) Dizziness,faintness, difficulty balancing

3.) Racing and/or Pounding heart

4.) Chest Tightness

5.) Sweating

6.) Shaking

7.) Hot Flashes

8.) Feeling unreal or as if you’re in a dream

9.) Nausea or abdominal discomfort

10.) Shortness of breath

11.) Fear of dying

12.) Fear of “losing it”

13.) Fear of losing control

14.) Intense need to flee or escape

The secondary fear are the thoughts that follow these physical sensations a person experiences during a panic attack.

THE CYCLE:

Treating individuals who experience panic attacks and a variety of different anxiety disorders, I’ve come to learn that addressing the secondary fears (thoughts) first have been extremely helpful in decreasing the intensity of the attacks. Let’s take a look at some of the very common false beliefs and thoughts that most people have during panic attacks.

“I’m going to stop breathing”

“I’m going to pass out”

“I’m going crazy”

“I’m going to embarrass myself”

“I’m going to fall”

I’m going to have a heart attack”

“I’m going to die”

These thoughts and internal dialogue will only intensify your panic attack, so cut it out!

Not so easy right?

Well here are some facts about panic attacks that may help you negate these thoughts and help you kick panic attacks in the ass.

MYTH BUSTING!

Busted!

You will NOT suffocate because of a panic attack:

When distressed, your body tends to tighten the muscles, and that includes your neck and chest muscles which reduces the extent of your respiratory function. This does not mean there is anything wrong with your lungs or breathing at all. If you are not taking in enough oxygen, your brain will utilize it’s built in mechanism to force you to take deeper breaths or gasp. Yes, the feeling of suffocating IS NOT PLEASANT, but trust that you will not actually suffocate. There are no recorded deaths of suffocation during panic attacks 🙂

You will NOT faint because of a panic attack- Due to hyperventilation, (fast,fast breathing) during a panic attack, you may feel light headed which may give off the impression that you are going to faint. NO! Your blood circulation to your brain has slightly decreased. This is far from deadly. Allow the light-headed feelings to diminish, they will with time, along with slowed breathing.

Guess what!!? During a panic attack your heart is beating a little quicker; people usually faint when their hearts slow down.

So Much Panic!

You will NOT fall during a panic attack:

Sometimes you may feel as if your legs are too weak to hold your body which triggers the thoughts “I’m going to fall”, which then leads to “I’m going to embarrass myself or get hurt”.

Adrenaline is released during a panic attack which sometimes causes dilation in blood vessels in your legs. This feeling is JUST a feeling. Your legs are not actually weaker, they are just as strong as they were before the panic attack.

You will NOT go CRAZY during a panic attack:

A common reaction to rapid breathing is the sensation of feeling “not in reality”. Again, this is JUST a sensation. If you experience a feeling of disorientation or “dream like”, tell yourself that this is just a reaction to a change in your breathing. People do not go crazy from a panic attack. Mental illnesses are complex and usually progress slowly over time. There are no recorded “psychosis” due to a panic attack.

Stay Strong!

You will NOT have a heart attack during a panic attack- A healthy and strong heart can beat 200 beats per minute for as long as several weeks without a problem! Your heart can withstand a lot more than you think it can. There is a MAJOR difference between what your heart feels like during a panic attack and during a true heart attack.

THE DIFFERENCES:

During a panic attack your heart may pound and beat more rapidly and sometimes people complain of some pain. This pain quickly subsides.

During a true heart attack, there is much more consistent pain involved and intense pressure against the chest. This pain gets worse and worse.

EKG research indicates that during a panic attack, there are no abnormalities in the heart other than rapid beating. EKG tests indicates quite a few abnormalities in the heart during a heart attack.

APPLYING IT:

Now that you have learned a little more about the realities of panic attacks, try to replace your catastrophic thoughts with your knew FACTUAL knowledge. You are not going to die from a panic attack. Yes, they are scary, traumatic, and serve as interruptions in the lives of many, but don’t give them THAT much credit.

You may tell yourself, even after learning and knowing all of this, that during your next panic attack, that this one is different. you may tell yourself, “This time it’s really a heart attack.”

Well now you will know that that is one of the most common thoughts people have during panic attacks.

A last piece of advice- Embrace the symptoms. The more you try to avoid these symptoms,  such as isolating yourself, constantly seeking medical attention, avoiding walking,talking and just being during a panic attack, the more you will reinforce your false beliefs that they are dangerous. You are stronger than a panic attack. Laugh at it. Millions of people experience panic attacks.

THERE ARE NO RECORDED DEATHS DUE TO PANIC ATTACKS!

You will NOT go CRAZY during a panic attack:

A common reaction to rapid breathing is the sensation of feeling “not in reality”.

Again, this is JUST a sensation. If you experience a feeling of disorientation or “dream like”, tell yourself that this is just a reaction to a change in your breathing. People do not go crazy from a panic attack. Mental illnesses are complex and usually progress slowly over time. There are no recorded “psychosis cases” due to a panic attack.

You will NOT have a heart attack during a panic attack- A healthy and strong heart can beat 200 beats per minute for as long as several weeks without a problem! Your heart can withstand a lot more than you think it can. There is a MAJOR difference between what your heart feels like during a panic attack and during a true heart attack.

ATHLETES WOULD BE DROPPING DEAD:

If our hearts could not sustain some rapid beating once in a while, don’t you think athletes would be dropping to the floor left and right?

You may tell yourself, even after learning and knowing all of this, that during your next panic attack, that this one is different. you may tell yourself, “This time it’s really a heart attack”. Well now you will know that that is one of the most common thoughts people have during panic attacks.

A last piece of advice- Embrace the symptoms. The more you try to avoid these symptoms,  such as isolating yourself, constantly seeking medical attention, avoiding walking,talking and just being during a panic attack, the more you will reinforce your false beliefs that they are dangerous. You are stronger than a panic attack. Laugh at it. Millions of people experience panic attacks every day.

No One Dies From Panic Attacks!

THERE ARE NO RECORDED DEATHS DUE TO PANIC ATTACKS.

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8 Responses to Panic Attacks: Stop Scaring Yourself!

  1. I have had them for many years but since i’ve stopped eating food with artificial flavourings and sweeteners they have almost completely disappeared…..
    Maybe if you have them regularly you should try to explore that option. Even when I am very anxious and nervous the panic attacks will not come. I am not saying this will work with everyone but you should give it a try.

  2. I have General Anxiety Disorder with Panic Attacks. I have always been an anxious person, even as a child. My panic attacks started about 20 years ago and like others it was very debilitating. To me they are the worst feeling that you could ever imagine having. After my sister died in 2003 I started going to therapy to deal with the loss of my sister and discovered that it was very helpful also with my anxiety. I was against medication because I thought it was a sign of weakness and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop the panic attacks myself. I was so miserable that I decided to try Lexapro. I knew several people that were taking it for various reasons with little to no side effects. It has been a Godsend for me! I wish I would have started it a long time ago. Within 2 days of taking it I felt so much better. I have accepted and realized that I will probably have to be on something the rest of my life. So if you are experiencing panic attacks please don’t give up! There is help out there for you! Every type of treatment is trial and error and what works for one may not work for another. I’m no longer embarrassed about my condition. I talk to others about my experiences so that maybe I can help someone else.
    Robert Jhonson
    antianxiety-drugs.com

  3. metaphyzgirl says:

    Great article well written. As a retired Mental Health Nurse I have worked with many clients who experienced panick attacks. Your description of this and what action to take to reduce/stop these attacks are right on target.

  4. tovah11 says:

    Really good post! I’ve known a couple of people who have experienced panic attacks and they describe it as the worst feeling they ever had.

    I hope this brings some peace to those who have panic attacks.

  5. krismerino says:

    I’ve been having panic attacks since my mid-twenties…. great post.

  6. otuss says:

    I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you have any other questions just ask 🙂

  7. Chris Walder says:

    I myself have had a history of anxiety and panic attacks, so I relate to this a lot. great post!

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