It is generally known that everyone will experience a panic attack at least once in their lifetime. How you react when it happens, will be the ultimate deciding factor between a progression towards Panic Disorder or a return to your normal life. Panic attacks occur suddenly, without rhyme or reason and because the symptoms are so frightening – rapid heart beat, dizziness, tightness in the chest, numbness in the arms, weakness in the legs, etc. – it creates for the sufferer a moment of terror, believing they are experiencing a heart attack and about to die. These symptoms can last anywhere from ten minutes up to three hours. Often enough, the victim will seek immediate and urgent attention. Here is where the difficulty begins.
Your moment of horror has subsided; you are assured it was not a heart attack and that you will live for many, many more days to come. How convinced are you? Do you still have doubts? If it happens again, will you feel the same, thinking you are experiencing a heart attack for real this time? If you still had doubts or were not entirely convinced, you are headed on a path to panic disorder. I say this from my own experience. I was very doubtful even after my doctor assured me I was not dying and that I was fine.
I could not believe that something so awful was just a fluke in my body’s mechanism. I was certain something else was going wrong and they just had not yet picked up on it. That mode of thinking was the beginning of my reign of terror with Panic Disorder. Having convinced myself that the doctors had missed something in their diagnosis, my mind took on the role of detective, searching for clues. Every normal, body reaction was a suspect in my investigation and my vivid imagination became a life sentence, holding my dreams captive, while allowing my paranoia to roam free. Had I taken the time to educate myself on this malady or discussed more openly and thoroughly with my doctor at the time of the first incident I could have saved myself many years of grief. The truth is there is no known cure for panic attacks but there are several techniques to help you regain control over it and eventually eliminate the frequency of occurrence.
Over the years, I employed these techniques and was able to overcome an uphill battle against this debilitating illness, finally putting the real criminal behind bars. Some of these techniques involve, medical check ups, washing dishes, walking, dusting and more. I know a few of these may sound strange to you but believe me they make a positive impact. One of the things I did to begin the quest of regaining control was to visit my doctor for a routine checkup. If I was in good shape, it would be easier to convince myself during a panic episode that it was exactly that and nothing more. If I was in good shape, it was not likely I was having a heart attack. Having the strength of this knowledge in my subconscious gave me a small window of control over my fears.
I would just keep repeating to myself “It’s only a panic attack. I just need to wait it out and I’ll be fine. ” It’s not an easy thing to do by any means, but you would be surprised the feeling of control that comes over you when your symptoms begin to subside and you realize, this time, you did not freak out. It makes you want to shout from the roof top “I did it! ” I can tell you one thing that absolutely annoyed me no end and for those of you who have a loved one or friend suffering with panic attacks, this tip is for you…please do not offer to fix some tea or to get them a glass of water during their crisis. We know you feel helpless and want to help, but tea or water is the LAST thing needed. Just being there is enough.
Has anyone ever had this happen? My Dad drove me crazy one night. It was 3:00 a. m. when I woke to a panic attack. I swallowed an extra tablet but had to wait for it to take effect. In the meantime, I began pacing around the living room in large circles.
My Dad woke up and realized what was happening. Immediately, he offered to make me some tea. I told him I didn’t need anything, I just needed to keep pacing until it stopped. So then out he comes with a glass of water, saying I should have something, I will feel better. I was too caught up at the time to give an answer, so he stood there with the cup outstretched. When I didn’t respond, the next thing I knew my Dad was pacing behind me around the room rubbing my back and offering this glass of water! It was truly a comical scene, but I just wasn’t equipped to laugh at the time.
Truth be told, I wanted to shove that glass of water where no-one could find it. Drinking a glass of water when my stomach was in upheaval was enough to make me start all over again and I did not have the strength to explain this. I felt so bad because I knew he was just scared for me, but it was not helping. Don’t be too sympathetic or too brash. Speak in even, direct tones – almost matter of fact. Give subtle reminders like, “I know you’re feeling horrible, but remember, it will soon pass. ” You can offer to go for a little walk outside with them or ask a question totally unrelated to the scene, e.
g. “By the way, did you see the letter from…. that came for you? ” The reason behind this is distraction. Anything to distract the sufferer’s mind from their symptoms, helps the calming process to kick in. What are some of the ways you regain control? Another strategy I applied, especially if I was affected at work was to start dusting.
My desk was one of the cleanest sometimes. For some reason the energy I used to move objects and concentrate on dusting the crevices and corners had a reverse effect. By the time I was through cleaning my desk, I was feeling energized and in control once more and no-one was any the wiser to the turmoil that had threatened to overtake me only moments before. Panic attacks do not have to be a life sentence. Get in tune with what works for you and start to implement those strategies today. Until the next time, I am wishing you all good health!