The Quick Guide to Curing Panic Attacks
Combat Panic Disorder and Live a Normal Life
Your heart rate increases...Your throat goes dry... You hear the blood pounding in your ears... All rational thought disappears and you're caught in the grips of an overwhelming panic attack.
Panic attacks can strike at any time and without warning - walking to the shop, in the shower, driving to work, even relaxing at home.
I suffered from panic attacks for years and as a result have built up quite an impressive library of self-help books on panic attacks and anxiety disorders. My favourites and the ones on which I’ve based my suggestions in this article are outlined at the end of this article.
There seem to be different theories about what causes anxiety and resulting panic attacks from repressed emotions to negative thoughts and chemical imbalances.
I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that panic attacks occur during particularly stressful times in your life. Usually it involves emotional or nervous fatigue due to ongoing stress of some sort or even a short burst or trauma like a death in the family or a terrible shock. What causes that stress is irrelevant to me. When I had panic attacks I just wanted to know how to make those irrational thoughts and panic symptoms go away.
So here’s what you need to know to make that happen.
Step One: Identify Your Fear
Firstly you have to identify your fear. What exactly is it that you are afraid of? Are you afraid that you’re going to have a heart attack? Or that you’re going to faint or pass out? Are you scared you’re losing your mind, going insane? These are some of the more common fears associated with panic attacks. Please write your fears down. It’s important to be very clear in your mind what you fear, so you can work to eradicate that fear from your life. You can’t fight something if you don’t know what it is.
Often, panic attack suffers are convinced there is something wrong with them and they rush off to the doctor and have all sorts of tests done, only to discover there is nothing physically wrong with them, and that they are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
If this is happening to you, I know it can be overwhelming and confusing. Do yourself a favour and read up about anxiety disorders and panic attacks. The more you know about the subject, the easier it is to overcome.
Right, so back to combating those panic attacks...
Step Two: Understand Your Fear is Irrational
Panic attacks are not a natural fear. They are not based in reality. In fact, they are irrational and unrealistic. Although you may feel they are life threatening, they seldom are.
· Fact: A panic attack will not give you a heart attack or a stroke.
· Fact: You will not pass out because you’re having a panic attack.
· Fact: Panic attacks do not cause insanity or loss of control.
Step Three: Combating Panic Attacks for Good
Now the good part. What you need to do to eliminate panic attacks for good is to confront your unrealistic fears. I know this sounds scary and your instant reaction is probably to recoil in horror but hear me out. When you ignore or avoid the situations you fear, they inevitably get worse. When you confront them, your anxiety will often disappear. This is because it is irrational.
So what you have to do is prove that your fear is irrational. Put yourself into the very situations that you fear, and see what happens. This will prove to you that your fear is unrealistic and as a result your panic attacks will disappear.
There are two ways to do this:
1. Full on exposure
2. Step-by-step approach
I opted for full exposure. My fear was that I was going crazy. My irrational thoughts had convinced me that I was having a nervous breakdown. I didn’t want to go out in case I lost control or became confused and disorientated in public. And so in addition to my panic attacks I developed agoraphobia. I was at my wits end.
After reading extensively I understood my thoughts were probably unrealistic but I was at a loss about what to do about them. So I forced myself to walk my son to school every morning. When I was out had a moment of blind panic, heart racing I waited for it to pass. I broke out into a cold sweat, my throat was bone dry. In time it passed and I felt a bit better. I was still shaking when I got home but the important thing was I had done it. I did it again the next day and the next. Then I went to a job interview by myself in town. I had to catch two trains and walk half a mile to get there – and back. I had a few nervous moments but in actual fact it was a lot easier than I expected. Once home I realised I could do it. I wasn’t going mad and I wasn’t going to lose control in public. Every trip after that proved to me my fear was irrational and all in my head. After a few weeks I was cured.
If you don’t feel able to cope with full exposure, rather set yourself little goals to do every day. Small steps that will prove your fear groundless. It may take a little longer but in time you will prove to yourself that your fear is unrealistic and that you actually have nothing to fear at all.
Once the fear is gone, so are your panic attacks.
Please note that this is my opinion based on my extensive reading of the books below. This is only a quick guide to combating panic attacks and I suggest anyone desperate to cure themselves from panic attacks read the books below. This is a high level article and a personal portrayal of how I cured my panic attacks. Understanding your fears and your triggers will help you to combat your panic attacks more quickly and more effectively.
“The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns
"Essential Help for Your Nerves" and "Self Help for Your Nerves" by Dr. Claire Weekes.