How ’bout I share a guest-post? What better way to learn and heal than to tap-in to the experience of someone who’s been there? What is a panic attack? Got you covered!
Several weeks ago, Ryan Rivera of calmclinic.com asked if I’d consider posting an article he’d written. After giving him the old “run it by me,” he sent along what you’re about to read. I know you’ll find his thoughts relevant and helpful.
The Panic of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are perhaps the most disruptive of all the anxiety disorders. No one likes living with anxiety. Anxiety causes stress that can affect your life every single day – a nervousness that makes nearly everything you do a little bit worse.
Living with anxiety is already very difficult, and negatively affects your quality of life. But panic attacks are arguably the most difficult event to deal with when you suffer from anxiety. Panic attacks completely stop your life, and until the panic attack goes away it’s nearly impossible to do anything.
Many people feel like they’re dying, and it’s not uncommon for those who experience a panic attack for the first time to go to the hospital, thinking that something terrible must be wrong with them.
Panic attacks can be unbearably frightening. But the worst part of panic attacks is not the initial attack itself – it’s that panic attacks become a cycle.
How Panic Attacks Are Self-Fulfilling
Panic attacks are scary events. They can be triggered by any severe anxiety reaction, but they are often caused by paying too much attention to your own physical reactions and anxiety.
Your heartbeat raises for a natural reason (experiencing a frightening moment, exerting yourself, etc.), and as soon as you notice the change in your body, panic kicks in – and suddenly your entire body is starting to experience a panic attack.
It’s that hyper-attentiveness to your own body that causes the most problems. Panic attacks tend to occur in people who are experiencing some type of anxiety. But the panic itself is very often triggered by paying too much attention to your own body and your own body’s reactions. That is where panic attacks start to become an even bigger problem.
Here’s a step-by-step regarding how panic attacks become a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- Panic attacks are scary events.
- People that have panic attacks worry they will have a panic attack again.
- That worry makes them pay more attention to their body’s responses.
- People experience anxiety worrying about the panic attack.
- Anxiety sufferers are hypersensitive to their body’s anxiety symptoms.
- Over-sensitivity to those anxiety symptoms causes another panic attack.
- People expect to feel a panic attack more often, and the cycle begins again.
When you suffer a panic attack you run a very serious, and very common, risk of experiencing more panic attacks in the future.
Stopping the Panic Attack Cycle
Panic attacks do not mean something is wrong with your body. You can be in the best of health and suffer from serious panic attacks. Panic attacks are strictly an anxiety-related problem, and while it often feels as though something is wrong with your body, it’s your mental health that you need to learn to manage.
Yet regaining that management is still difficult. It starts with education – not just your education, but also the education of physicians. One problem is that most medical doctors fail to understand the reality of a panic attack. As doctors, they always assume an internal cause. And like most doctors, once they’ve decided there is an internal cause, they prescribe medicine.
That medicine is often extremely strong. Some doctors prescribe powerful tranquilizers, while others prescribe anti-anxiety medicine. Still others prescribe both, giving those who suffer from panic attacks a life-altering and addictive concoction that can change their entire personality – and may still not stop panic attacks from occurring.
Once you’re on these medications, you need to stay on them, because the moment you stop taking the medicine the panic attacks are nearly guaranteed to come back. All the while you’ll continue to be dulling your mind and changing your personality at the mercy of these far too strong medicines.
Before panic attacks – or any generalized social anxiety, for that matter – can be successfully cured, anxiety sufferers and doctors need to better understand what is really occurring and why it is not a medical problem, rather a mental health problem.
Breaking the Panic Attack Cycle
Stopping your panic attacks takes commitment. While it isn’t a medical problem, it is a long term issue, and one that does involve many life changes.
You’ll need to accept that you have a panic attack problem. You need to address your underlying anxiety, and find ways to cope before, during, and after a panic attack. You’ll have to confront any fears and find safe and healthy ways to reduce your daily stress.
It’s going to be a process, and it’s one that doesn’t have a quick fix. But if you are able to commit to life changes, and focus your attention on ways to boost your mental health, you’ll find that over time your panic attacks will start to get more and more manageable.
Ultimately, you will be able to completely manage your attacks and experience a panic-free lifestyle again.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera suffered from severe panic attacks and was able to successfully manage them over time. You can find out more about his experiences at calmclinic.com.
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