A Panic attack is an intense feeling of fear, a feeling of impending doom. Sufferers may feel that they are going crazy or that they are on the verge of a heart attack.
Panic attacks may feel terrifying at the time, but they are not dangerous, it is just a flow of adrenalin surging through your body; adrenalin is the cause of the symptoms you feel like, dizziness, racing heart, feelings of unreality, feeling out of control, hyperventilation and many others.
You may feel like you will collapse or faint but you will not, as you can see no reason for these feelings, you presume something terrible will happen if you don't make a quick exit. This is the reason that panic attacks can terrify people, as they have no idea why they felt like this, they may blame it on the place they were at the time, a cafe or maybe the cinema.
There have been many studies about the cause of panic disorders and although the results are still inconclusive, in my experience and the studies of others, the main cause is due to a prolonged feeling of worry and stress. The worry cup fills up over time until it overflows and manifests itself into a full blown panic attack. There can be other factors like a childhood event, emotional or physical abuse or, as in my case, substance withdrawal. But whatever the cause, recovery from any form panic is possible with the right help and support.
The scary part for most people is that these feelings of panic don't seem to come when they are in a situation of danger, these feelings can come at any time of the day for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, what can keep people in the cycle of panic is the fear of having another attack and the avoidance that can go with it. They may have an attack of panic when public speaking, or while driving and then associate driving with panic, thus avoiding getting back behind the wheel. In a few cases, people may retreat indoors as they believe that by doing this; they can avoid all the situations that may bring on an attack of panic.
Treating Panic Attacks
Understanding what is happening during an attack of panic can be the first step to moving towards recovery. An attack of panic, or adrenalin as I like to call it, does not mean you are going mad or having a heart attack. An attack of panic cannot harm you no matter how you feel; it is something that always calms down in time.
Recovery involves using the right techniques and again understanding. Many people do not realise how close their thought pattern is related to how they feel. What you say to yourself before an attack of panic and during one, can have a massive effect on how you feel. You may spend all day worrying about a particular event or situation, building up the worry through the day. Is it any wonder when you get there you feel panicky?
You may feel the first symptoms of panic and create a whole host of 'what if I collapse' and 'oh my God I cannot cope'. By doing this, you are adding fear to fear, intensifying your feelings of panic. I tell many people to try and stay calm in there attitude while feeling the first signs of panic, to try and watch their thought pattern and watch out for all the 'what ifs'.
The stage you really need to get to is the stage where you no longer fear another attack, easier said than done when all you may have done so far is avoid and run away from how you feel.
The technique is to come out of your safety zone and try and see Panic through without trying to control it or put a stop to it, to go with the feelings of Panic. By doing this you are telling your body there is nothing to fear, your body reacts to what you tell it and if your willing to let the feelings come with trying to put a halt to them, you may feel panic rise but it will not grow, it will not grow because it has nothing to feed on and this is what panic feeds on fear, it feeds on all the "oh my god I can't do this", "what if I make a fool of myself?", "I need to get away", you are telling your body you are in danger and it reacts accordingly by adding more adrenalin and feeding your feelings of fear.
A lot of people think that if they let panic come without trying to stop it or run away from it that something terrible will happen, they will reach the point of no return, trust me this place does not exist. This is what helped me recover, your instinct to run away during an attack of panic is a normal reaction, but you really need to go through the feelings of panic, to move towards them willingly. All you fear are these feelings FACT, it is not the cinema or the crowded shopping centre you fear it is a fear of how you will fear when you get there.
When you start to move towards these feelings, saying "ok come on do your worse, do what you have to do I no longer care" you stop adding fear to fear, see what lies at the other side. When I started to do this I realised there was no dark place in which I would collapse or lose control. I had seen panic through. I had stopped avoiding as this was obviously getting me no-where. This can take practice and I am not pretending it is easy but this is the way forward. If you do this again you have dealt with your self and not the situation you find yourself in, in time it will not matter where you find yourself, every situation will be like the other, you will realise for the first time that you do have some control over the way you feel, that there is hope of overcoming these feelings. Fear loves avoidance so start to take some of its power away, by actively moving towards your feelings of fear.
Many peoples lives are dominated by panic and I know how hard this can be and letting panic come and trying to stay calm while your body rages around you is not easy, but there is no need to climb a mountain in one day, just to do what you feel comfortable with, little victories can add up and give you the confidence to try more so you can start to broaden your life.
Instead of saying to yourself "I can't cope", "I must get out of here" just say "I am fine it's just adrenalin nothing bad is going to happen to me". If your planning to go somewhere don't fill your day/weeks worrying about it, just go and you may find that you do enjoy yourself and many of the fears you held came to nothing. It is not always how you feel but your attitude to how you feel that can make all the difference.
The person who taught me all those years ago said to me "Paul you are far better moving towards your fears than running away from them". This is the best single piece of advice I have ever been given.
I have seen many people overcome panic to lead a full and normal life. But again there is no overnight cure and avoid paying out to anyone who claims there is, also don't put all your faith in a new tablet or pill, recovery does not come this way. It really is all about knowledge and an understanding of how are body works and reacts and with the right teachings recovery is achievable.