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Coping with Panic Attacks Successfully

Updated on September 7, 2014
debbiepinkston profile image

Debbie is a licensed counselor in the state of Arkansas. She lived in Venezuela and worked with a local orphanage there for many years.

Panic attacks can make a person feel as if they're dying or going crazy.
Panic attacks can make a person feel as if they're dying or going crazy. | Source

Understanding Panic Attacks

Many people all over the world suffer from panic attacks, and I was one of them. One day when I was 17 years old, out of nowhere I suddenly felt an incredible sense of fear and dread come over me. My heart started racing, I broke out in a cold sweat, and my hands started shaking. I had the urge to get up and run out of the room, but I didn't know where I would go! My skin burned all over and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I was nauseous and felt faint. Slowly the feelings faded, but I was left with a pervasive feeling of anxiety and dread.

What had just happened to me? Was I going crazy? Was I about to die? I didn't tell anyone what was going on in my head. I thought that if I was going crazy my parents might take me to a psychiatrist and I would be placed in a mental institution. Now those thoughts seem irrational, but at the time they were very real and dealing with this fear became my daily routine. Not knowing what had happened to me was the worst part of the ordeal.

I lost weight and lost interest in activities that once were enjoyable. I spent most of my time trying to figure out what was happening to me and how I could avoid it. This became a vicious cycle as I felt anxious about having another panic attack, and the anxiety fueled the panic. After several weeks I felt as if I was trapped in a prison of my own making and there didn't seem to be a way out.


Trapped!

Not knowing what is happening can be the worst aspect of panic attacks.
Not knowing what is happening can be the worst aspect of panic attacks. | Source

Finally some answers!

I finally stumbled onto an article about panic attacks, and finally I knew that what I was experiencing had a name! What a relief to find out that this was something that many other people had experienced! Knowing that I was having "panic attacks" was the first piece of the puzzle.

I read all I could find about this disorder, but at that time it was pretty slim. The internet was not widely used (maybe not even in existence at that time) so I had to rely on the local library. I found out that brain chemistry has a lot to do with panic attacks, as it does with depression and other mental illnesses.

I also learned that my thoughts could either hurt or help my brain chemistry, and I worked hard at turning my negative, self-pitying thoughts to positive ones. It was hard work! The brain naturally wants to take the path of least resistance, meaning that it doesn't like change and wants to continue the "stinkin' thinkin" if allowed to. I had to make a daily, hourly, moment by moment deliberate choice to say "NO" to those thoughts, and think of something positive instead...ANYTHING positive! Sometimes all I could find to think was the pretty blue color of the sky, or to give thanks for a part of my body that works well such as my feet. The point was to find something positive to replace the negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts come into our heads uninvited, like mosquitoes that buzz around us and decide to land on our skin to have a meal. It is our choice, however, whether we let the mosquito sit there and feed on us, or if we brush it away! I also like the saying "You can't stop a bird from sitting on your head, but you can stop it from making its nest in your hair".

Brushing away the negative thoughts and replacing them with something positive is hard work but well worth it!

Many people take medication for their panic disorder. Some doctors prescribe tranquilizers, aimed at reducing the anxiety that produces the panic attacks. Tranquilizers can be effective in reducing anxiety but they are addictive and don't really treat the cause, which is unbalanced brain chemistry. Antidepressants are more effective in the long run (not initially) because they work on improving the neurotransmitter supply which in turn helps the individual to feel more calm and positive. Antidepressants are not addictive and take about 2-3 weeks to begin working. They are usually prescribed for a 6 month period and sometimes for life, depending on the person.


Finally a way out...
Finally a way out... | Source

From Panic to Peace

Panic attacks are the body's way of going into alarm mode, the "fight or flight" response to a threat. Sometimes there is a real threat, but often there is no real danger. Sometimes is it the result of chronic stress, illness or trauma that can lower our endorphins and send our bodies into this panic mode.

Learning as much as you can about panic attacks is the first step to finding relief. Training your mind to think the thoughts that will improve your brain chemistry is the next step. Relaxation exercises and meditation are also very helpful, as is exercise.

Medication, specifically an antidepressant, can balance the neurotransmitters in your brain, helping you to naturally feel more calm. Support groups are helpful and there are many online support groups open to anyone needing help. Panic attacks are horrible things to experience, but with education, support, retraining our thoughts, and medication, peace is entirely possible!

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    • debbiepinkston profile image
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      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Nyamache, thank you for adding the part about yoga and meditation. I find that exercise and being out in nature helps a lot as well. I'm glad you took the time to read my Hub and I hope it will be helpful to those who may be experiencing these strange feelings and don't know what's going on.

    • Nyamache profile image

      Joshua Nyamache 5 years ago from Kenya

      Great hub, I liked this part most "like mosquitoes that buzz around us and decide to land on our skin to have a meal. It is our choice, however, whether we let the mosquito sit there and feed on us, or if we brush it away! I also like the saying "You can't stop a bird from sitting on your head, but you can stop it from making its nest in your hair".

      The choice is ours of whether to let negative thoughts in our minds and cause us to panic or not to let negative thoughts but allow positive thoughts to dominate our mind thus relaxing our minds. Yoga and meditating are some of the ways of making the mind to relax thus eliminating panic.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Good hub post and one that will help many out there who are looking for a solution to their problems with this. Very well done.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Great article. I wonder how many thers have experienced a panic attack and didn't realize what it was. We need more education for sure.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Panic attacks are the worst. I had a very difficult time with them during an episode of ppd. Thank you for writing about it!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi, Debbie

      My friend's daughter has this disorder. When they first began no one was quite sure what her problem was. But her Mother found out more by reading about it on line. When she realized what it was and saw how paralyzed her child was she went to the doctor. She is on medication to control her condition.

      It is important for this information to be out here so that those who may have those symptoms can discover if that is what is troubling them.

      Thank you for sharing this information with us.