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My Intention is Not to Have Panic Attacks: But I think myself into one anyway.

Updated on June 3, 2013

What are Panic Attacks?

The DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th edition revised) defines the following :

Panic attacks:

A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or
more) of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached
a peak within 10 min
1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
2. Sweating
3. Trembling or shaking
4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
5. Feeling of choking
6. Chest pain or discomfort
7. Nausea or abdominal distress
8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
9. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being
detached from oneself)
10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
11. Fear of dying
12. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
13. Chills or hot flushes

Panic Disorder is defined as:

A. Both (1) and (2)
1. Recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks
2. At least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or
more) of one (or more) of the following:
a. Persistent concern about having additional attacks
b.Worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences
(e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, ‘‘going crazy’’)
c. A significant change in behavior related to the attacks
B. The presence (or absence) of Agoraphobia
C. The panic attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of
a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general
medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism)
D. The panic attacks are not better accounted for by another mental
disorder, such as social phobia (e.g., occurring on exposure to
feared social situations), specific phobia (e.g., on exposure to a
specific phobic situation), obsessive–compulsive disorder (e.g., on
exposure to dirt in someone with an obsession about
contamination), Posttraumatic stress disorder (e.g., in response to
stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or separation anxiety
disorder (e.g., in response to being away from home or close

Not all of the symptoms have to be present for an episode to be considered a panic attack. As few as 4 symptoms may be present to qualify. It becomes panic disorder once the person has attacks that are out of the blue and they begin to fear having another attack more than the anxiety itself.

Using your Mind to "Unthink" a panic attack

According to Psychology Today, mindfulness involves living in the moment without judgement. Avoiding our ego driven wants in favor of just being here and now. It give us an opportunity to detach from the feeling state and observe, things in our environment. Many of us are so caught up in the challenge of living up to others' expectations of us that we pass judgement on many people around us. The next time you see someone, pay attention to your immediate thoughts. "Oh what a nice outfit." or "Why did they do that?". We attach labels to people and situations as good or bad. These thoughts are not limited to others. Think about the last time you made a mistake. What did you say to yourself? Many people berate themselves, "that was stupid", "I'm never going to get this finished". Our thoughts contribute to our mood.

If we continue to give ourselves negative self messages, we will lower our mood. It sounds simple, just stop the negative self talk, but it is not that simple to change a habit. First we have to identify the self talk when it happens, then find an alternative, more positive self talk to replace the old one . For example, when you say' "that was stupid", you could replace that with " I made a mistake, but I did the best I could at the time". Simply take the time to listen to what you think about yourself and others makes a big difference in mood.

Another technique is to spend a few minutes simply thinking about nothing. That can be very difficult, especially if you are anxious. By taking a few minutes alone using deep, slow breathing you can release a lot of anxiety. Too many people say they do not have time to spare, but that is one of the reasons they are stressed. Being mindful involves taking even just 5 minutes alone to focus on nothing more than breathing in and out. Thoughts may pop into your head, but let them go without placing value or emotion on the thought. Once the thought is over go back to focusing on your breathing. Be sure to use proper deep breathing to avoid hyperventilation. Proper deep breathing includes sitting upright, inhale through the nose for a count of four. Allow the air to expand the abdomen, not just the chest. Then slowly exhale for a count of eight. This will help you to focus on the current moment and refocus when thoughts wander.

By practicing even brief moments of mindfulness, you will be able to refocus your anxious thoughts with decreasing effort. People who have panic attacks have a lot of stress for which they have no outlet. When the stress gets out of hand it is important to have good coping skills.


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