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Copying with Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and how to help them

Of all the effects that the subconscious mind can have upon the body, the full-blown panic attack has to be the most obviously dramatic - and one of the most frightening.

Coping with Panic

There is much that can be done to help the situation, including some effective self help methods.

The symptoms of an attack can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Hot flushes
  • Fast heart beat (tachycardia)
  • Fast breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Feelings of breathlessness
  • Legs and arms 'turning to jelly'
  • Trembling
  • Clammy palms
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Visual disturbance
  • Paralysis
  • Whole-body tingling
  • Numbness,
  • Creeping sensations on the skin (especially the scalp)

Without doubt, though, the most obvious and distressing symptom of the lot is FEAR.

The individual experiencing these symptoms knows there is nothing to actually be frightened of but this often only serves to make matters worse; and anybody who thinks that a sufferer should simply 'pull themselves together' has not the vaguest idea of what an attack of this sort actually feels like.

It is a self-cycling phenomenon in two specific ways:

  • After each attack, the sufferer begins to dread the next, being absolutely certain that it is going to be at least as bad as the last and probably worse.
  • Blood chemistry. Fear initiates the fight/flight reflex and this produces a surge of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. The autonomic nervous system then causes the breathing rate to speed up so that the rate of oxygen exchange in the lungs increases. Now the heart has to speed up in order to keep pace with this, and the speeded up heart rate is instantly noticed by the victim to be translated as fear... which produces a surge of adrenaline to recycle the whole process.

Now the imagination starts to work overtime, producing an overwhelming feeling of certainty that something awful is about to happen... and when it comes to a battle between imagination and willpower, imagination will win every time, so it is no good repeatedly telling yourself that there is nothing to be frightened of.

Preventative measures

Understanding the reality of what is happening is more than half the battle of dealing with the panic attack and is probably the best preventative measure of all.

  • Understanding that the whole thing is triggered by the primitive fight or flight reflex which was actually designed to protect our species - put simply, your subconscious is trying to protect you
  • Understanding that no actual harm can come to you, even though it feels like it can
  • Understanding of the self-cycling nature of the attack so that you can actually take steps to combat what is happening
  • Understanding that however bad it gets, it WILL pass
  • Understanding that the mind/body simply cannot sustain these feelings indefinitely - they do have to stop.

Understanding all these things can help enormously. And once you get any one attack under control and you will gain confidence; this will make the next one easier to deal with and you will then gain even more confidence... and so on. Now here are some other preventative methods:

Therapeutic Strategies

  • Medication can work astonishingly well in many cases, especially with some of the newer drugs that are becoming available
  • Analytical Therapy aimed at discovering why the attacks occur can be astonishingly effective
  • Cognitive Therapy designed to 'reframe' the perception of the attacks can be enormously powerful
  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). This is one of the latest therapies and is often effective
  • Hypnotherapy There are various forms of hypnotherapy and all can often provide amazingly effective and lasting relief

Self Help

Once an attack has started, the fear tends to self-cycle rapidly leaving the sufferer feeling totally helpless and 'out of control'. Wrong. If you ever have this feeling, remember that it is your body that is doing this, your subconscious reactions, your irrational fear... so it is actually you who is controlling it. OK, so you are not controlling it in the way you want to, but that is only because you have practised panicking, rather than relaxing.

So now let us look at ways to make changes in the way you do things.

  • Breathe easily
    Controlling the breathing is an excellent - probably the best - way to bring an attack under control, because it is the easiest component of the 'attack' to bring your mind to bear upon. Try this: Breathe out, all the way, then hold your breath out for several seconds before breathing in slowly enough that if a feather was held in front of your nostrils it would not move. Then exhale steadily and in a relaxed manner. Repeat the exercise, always breathing in slowly. Once the breathing is steady, the heart rate will rapidly slow down and the blood chemistry will soon correct itself.

  • Don't fight
    One of the ways that can be astonishingly effective for some people is to simply not bother to try to control it at all. Just sit down and observe your body reactions with interest and wonder how long your subconscious is going to be able to maintain it; no need to be afraid - this is actually much easier than it sounds if you remember that no actual harm can come to you during an attack. For some people, as soon as you decide to just let it 'run it's course', the whole thing subsides instantly.

  • Exercise it away
    Since part of the cause of the panic sensation is the body's preparation for physical activity such as running or fighting, you can do a lot worse than exercise for a few minutes, to 'burn' the adrenaline and other chemicals up. Some people actually find a distinct urge to run when an attack starts. You can jog on the spot, or perform just about any other physical activity which would, in the normal way, cause you to warm up and breath a little harder than usual. Only attempt this method if you are at least reasonably fit.

  • Visualisation
    Create a VMI (Vivid Mental Image) of absolute tranquillity; a beautiful calm lake surrounded by tall trees with mist-covered hills in the distance; a beautiful beach on a tropical island where you can just sit and watch the ocean; floating in a small boat along a trickling stream in warm sunshine; laying on a grassy bank somewhere, listening to the sounds of nature; floating on air and just drifting, with nobody wanting anything and nobody expecting anything; staring lazily into a fishpond on a warm summer's day, watching the fish and listening to the small fountain that plays into the pond.... All these are useful images and you can probably think of many more that may be even more relaxing for you. Make it vivid in your mind and really concentrate upon it, and your panic will soon subside. Once you have created your 'VMI', it is there, of course, whenever you need it.

  • Self-hypnosis
    An enormously successful and totally safe self help method that you can use at some time when you are not feeling any signs of panic. Create your 'VMI' and tell yourself that whenever you see it in your mind's eye you will instantly feel as totally calm as you do at the moment you create it. You can find out more about hypnosis and self hypnosis here - and you can even download a totally free, professionally written, seven lesson self-hypnosis course.

The Most Important Thing!

The most important thing to remember is twofold:

  • you CAN get better!

If you need further help, please Contact us

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