You’re shopping for new clothes at the mall — a favourite pastime of yours. Upon entering the store, you feel something is wrong. There arises a tingling sensation in your hands. You become acutely aware that your breathing has shallowed. Your heart is beating faster than you can breathe. These sensations are further overwhelmed by a feeling of imminent danger. You rush out of the mall to go home. Sound familiar? Panic attacks are frightening. Thankfully, there are successful coping mechanisms that can help.
If a person experiences repeated panic attacks, it seems logical to avoid places where they occurred. Panic attacks are not logical. They happen unexpectedly, even while having fun. Avoidance is not suggested. Research encourages people not to avoid the places where an episode was experienced. Expose yourself gradually to those places (exposure therapy). Some individuals may have a single panic attack in their lifetime. For sufferers of repeated panic attacks, avoiding places that once brought happiness may fuel future attacks.
Know Your Triggers
One may never fully know why a panic attack happens. However, medical science agrees that everyone will have triggers. The next time an attack occurs, be cognizant of what may have led to it. Who were you with? What time of day was it? What were you thinking? Answers to these questions may lead to understanding. Don’t seek to solve panic attacks but do observe any patterns. Be kind to yourself in this discovery process. Remember the acronym: H.A.L.T. This stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. When a person feels one or more of these sensations, it could be panic inducing. Listen to your body.
Mindfulness is being aware of your present moment. If a panic attack occurs, don’t fight it. Studies show that fighting a panic attack may heighten symptoms. Instead, allow panic to come — invite it. Your body’s alarm system is misfiring. Adrenaline will settle. Feel your feet on the ground. Focus on your breath. Breathe normally. As alluded to earlier, be aware of what you are telling yourself during a panic attack. Remind yourself that your body is fully capable of dealing with panic. Develop some affirmations. You’ve been through this before. You’re not in danger.
Stop the What If Syndrome
For reoccurring panic attacks, sufferers often ask this during an attack: What if? Even when a doctor confirms a patient’s health, researchers have noted patients often ask themselves endless loop questions during an episode of panic. “What if I was misdiagnosed? What if I am really having a heart attack?” Be assured that the diagnosis of panic attacks is accurate. Remember, you are getting better at this.
Always consult your physician first. Then reach out to people you know you can trust. Don’t feel embarrassed. There’s a good chance those closest to you may have gone or are going through something similar. You will feel relieved that you are not alone. It’s much easier to deal with issues when you don’t have to face them alone. Remember, there is healing and help available.
Jason Waddle | Contributing Writer