Can you remember your first panic attack? Did you feel like you were losing control?
Maybe its too much to think about. But once you understand anxiety and panic attacks and what to do about them, life can get much easier.
The first time I had a panic attack I felt sick, dizzy, scared and shakey. I wanted nothing more than to get home, get out and get away. But it wasn’t that easy. I had to go to work, to carry on and to hold it together.
Confusion in her eyes that says it all. She’s lost control.
Ian Curtis, Joy Division, 1979
You may be surprised to learn this, but panic attacks are normal. Most people I know have had one. Panic attacks only become a problem when they start to rule your life. Here are some examples:
You often feel panicky either at home or when you are out
You are anxious and worried about having a panic attack in more places than you used to
You’re often afraid of having another one
You avoid places and activities to reduce the risk you’ll panic
You often look for escape routes when you are sat somewhere
You carry props in your bag to help you feel less anxious just in case
Why does anxiety get this bad?
There are two main reasons:
Your mind has come to expect the anxiety so it’s on the look-out and honed-in on signs that you’ll panic. Your mind also gets busy with worries of what might will happen e.g. “I’ll lose control” “people will see I’m anxious” “they’ll think I’m weird” “I can’t cope with this” “what is wrong with me”. Once this spiral of thinking or ‘minding’ starts its gets worse. It snowballs. The interpretations get more wild. Normal bodily sensations get evaluated as signs that something catastrophic is about to happen e.g. a heart attack or going made. All this makes your anxiety rocket!
And the second reason is that you DO lots of things to try and make it go away. You’ve developed habits like:
Rationalising and getting into a mental debate
Self-blame or criticism
Whilst it is natural to do all of these things, they might not be working. Take this question:
Has anything you’ve done to control your anxiety worked to permanently fix the problem?
So…you’ve got into a pattern of trying to get rid of and fix your panic attacks. But just because everything you’ve tried to date hasn’t worked, it doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless. It just means that your strategy to control the anxiety is.
In therapy we teach you ways to break free of these habits. We teach you alternative ways to cope with the panic so you can keep moving and keep living.
You can book in to see a therapist and begin learning some tools to make panic a thing of the past.