What is a panic attack?
Everyone knows what panic is, and it is common to feel panicky from time to time:
• You get the sense that you are being followed on your way home from a party, late at night.
• You discover you have had your wallet stolen.
• You are sitting an exam. You look at the paper and realise you don’t know the answers to any of the questions.
• Someone runs in front of your car and you almost hit them.
It would be normal in any of these situations to feel a sense of panic. The feeling would be understandable and would pass fairly quickly.
A panic attack is a bit like ‘normal’ panic, but different in a number of ways:
The feelings seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and are not usually related to the sort of frightening situation described above.
The feelings are a lot stronger.
As the feelings are UNEXPECTED and STRONG they can feel extremely frightening.
Panic attacks affect people in many different ways, but there is usually a frightening feeling that something really awful is about to happen.
Lots of people have panic attacks, although they can affect people in different ways. Some people have only one, others may have them for many years. Some people have them every day, some people only once in a while.
Some physical conditions can cause symptoms similar to panic attacks as well.
For example: certain medicines taken together;
- thyroid problems;
- drinking too much caffeine;
- hormonal dis-balance
- low blood sugar; etc
It is a good idea to consult with a medical doctor to overrule any concerns that your problem may have a physical cause.
Spiritual healing, relaxation and auditing can help to rejuvenate your inner self into a confident mode. An individual auditing program can address your spiritual disproportions and release the build up stressful charge.
Panic affects your body, your mind and the way you behave.
The following are some of the most common symptoms experienced by people having a panic attack. Some people have all of the symptoms, others just a few. We can distinguish physical and spiritual symptoms:
- Heart pounding, beating fast or skipping a beat
- Heart seems to stop, followed by a big thud, chest pains
- Changes in your breathing, either gulping air, breathing fast or feeling short of breath
- Pounding in your head
- Numbness or tingling in fingers, toes or lips
- Feeling as though you can’t swallow, feeling sick
- Feeling as though you’re going to faint, wobbly legs
- Feelings of utter terror
- Feelings of unreality, as though you’re not really there
- You feel anxious in situations where you had a panic attack before
Frightening thoughts such as:
“I’m going to have a heart attack”
“I will collapse or faint”
“I’m running out of air”
“I’m going mad”
“I’m going to be sick”
“I’m losing control”
“I’m going to make a complete fool of myself”
“I’ve got to get out of here”
- YOU AVOID: situations that have caused panic or that you fear might cause panic, for example going shopping.
- ESCAPE as soon as you can when panicking, for example, rushing round the supermarket to get out as soon as possible
- PREVENT what you think is going to happen, by doing something to make yourself safe, for example, gulping air if you think you are going to suffocate or sitting down if you think you are going to faint, or lying down if you think you are having a heart attack or scanning your body for evidence of something being wrong
- SEEK HELP In one study a quarter of all people having their first panic attack called an ambulance or went to accident and emergency, they were so convinced something dangerous was happening to them.
People often try to cope with a panic attack by doing things they have found or have been told are helpful, for example, distracting themselves or trying to relax.
Whilst all of these things can help to stop a panic attack they can also become part of the problem if not addressed professionally with individual program.
A panic attack is a strong feeling of terror that comes on very suddenly and has to be addressed with a physical program and spiritual counselling. People often have lots of frightening thoughts and think something awful is happening. They often try to avoid or escape the panic instead of releasing their charges.
Understanding Panic – What causes it and what keeps it going?
All of the panic symptoms described above are nothing more than an extreme form of fear. Fear is our natural response to a situation perceived as threatening. Fear can range from mild anxiety through to full blown panic.
But why have fear at all when it’s such an unpleasant feeling? In a way, it is a bit like pain. If you were to break your ankle, it would feel very painful, which would be a warning to you not to walk on it. If you heard a noise downstairs at night, you might feel frightened, which is a warning that you might have to deal with a dangerous situation. Fear is very useful. It prepares your body for action.
This has been called the “fight or flight” response. So that when you feel fear, what is happening is that your body is preparing to fight or run away from the thing it feels threatened by, or possibly to stay completely still and wait for the threat to pass.
If we take the example of the noise downstairs. Let us suppose it is a burglar, as you fear. You may wish to stay absolutely still, so as to prevent the burglar from attacking you. You might want to go and challenge him or you might need to run away should he come after you. Your fear response would help with any of these. When you are frightened you breathe more quickly so that you can get lots of oxygen to your muscles. Your heart beats faster to pump the blood faster round your body. Your digestive system closes down to allow your body to concentrate on the more immediate threat. This is your body’s normal healthy reaction to situations where your body feels under threat It is your body’s alarm system.
The problem with panic attacks is that usually they occur when there is no obvious physical threat there at all. Your body is reacting as though it was about to be attacked when in reality it is not. In other words it is a false alarm. It is a bit like the annoying smoke detector which goes off at all the wrong times, because it is sensitive to small amounts of smoke. Or the burglar alarm that goes off because of the cat. Or even more annoying, the car alarm that is triggered by the wind. These are all alarms that can be triggered when there is in fact no danger. The same can be the case with your body’s “alarm” system. Sometimes it can be set off when there is no real danger.
The problem is that our mind’s “alarm system” was designed to cope with dangers in order to survive.
Nowadays, we are rarely faced with the sort of life or death threats we were faced in our past lives. At present we have very different threats, mainly related to stress. Financial worries, overworking, moving house, divorce for example, can all be stressful, and can raise our anxiety levels to the point where our “alarm system” is triggered. It is a bit like a “stress” thermometer – which when it reaches a certain level results in panic. Whilst a panic attack may be unpleasant, it is not dangerous. Quite the opposite. It is a system designed to protect us, not harm us.
To recap, panic is a form of fear. It is our mind’s alarm system signalling threat. It prepares our body to fight or run away from danger. But as there is no physical danger it is a false alarm.
Panic attacks can start for a number of external reasons related to physically and emotionally painful past experiences:
As mentioned, stressful events can cause anxiety to go up, which may lead to the alarm system being triggered. Are you aware of any stress in your life over the last few years? For example, work stress or being out of work, relationship problems, loss of a loved one, financial difficulties.
Panic attacks often begin when a person becomes over-concerned about their health. This can happen for various reasons. Sometimes people with panic attacks have recently experienced the sudden death of someone they know or are close to. They then become very worried about their own health, and look for signs that they may be developing the same illness. They are often aware of medical ‘mistakes’ where serious illness has not been picked up, and so become worried that there is something seriously wrong. This leads to raised anxiety. They then think the anxiety symptoms are evidence of a serious illness, which can result in panic. Think back to when your panic attacks began. Do you know anyone who died suddenly, for example from a brain haemorrhage or an asthma or heart attack?
OTHER HEALTH-RELATED REASONS
Sometimes panic attacks occur for the first time during a period of ill-health. For example some viruses can cause dizziness. Pregnancy or the menopause can cause changes in the way our body works that can lead to a first experience of panic. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, or low blood sugar can also lead to feelings of faintness. Can you think of any ‘health-related’ reasons for your panic attacks?
Panic attacks often begin when there are feelings from the past or present that are being “swept under the carpet”.
Maybe you have relationship problems, or something from the past you need to deal with?
What keeps panic attacks going?
As you will remember panic affects your body, your thoughts and your behaviour. All three work together to keep panic going.
Firstly, the physical symptoms can be part of the problem.
For people whose breathing is affected by anxiety, something called hyperventilation can occur. This just means someone is taking in too much air and not breathing it out. This is not dangerous but can lead to feelings of dizziness, and is often taken as further evidence that there is something seriously wrong.
Secondly, the physical symptoms and anxious thoughts form a vicious circle that keeps panic attacks coming back again and again. Also, focusing your mind on your body can lead to noticing small changes and seeing this as a threat.
People often find it hard to believe that our thoughts can produce such strong feelings as fear. But if we believe something 100% then we will feel exactly the same way as if it were true.
Thirdly, how a person behaves before, during and following a panic attack has a big part to play in whether panic attacks keep happening. The avoidance, escape, and safety behaviour all add in to the vicious circle.
What techniques can help to cope with and reduce panic attacks?
The good news is that panic attacks are very treatable. You may find that your panic attacks have already started to reduce because you have now better understanding about the condition.
As we have seen, panic affects your body, your mind and your behaviour. It makes sense to try to deal with each of these. You may find some techniques more helpful than others. Not everyone finds the same things helpful. Also, if you have been having panic attacks for a while, it may take some time for these techniques to work. Don’t expect miracles straight away, but keep at it and you should see the benefits soon, when you’ve found the techniques that work best for you.
There are at least two things you can do to help with the physical symptoms of anxiety:
- Controlled breathing
These techniques are helpful for a number of reasons:
Panic attacks often start in periods of stress. These techniques can help you to deal with stressful situations better, and reduce overall levels of anxiety.
People relax in many different ways. It might be that looking at your lifestyle would be helpful. What do you do to relax?
Write down six things you do, or could do to relax. For example, swimming, reading, walking. As well as finding everyday ways of relaxing, there are special relaxation techniques which can help with the specific symptoms of panic. We have already seen that one of the things that happens when you panic is that your muscles tense up. To help yourself you should try to relax your muscles whenever you start to feel anxious. Relaxing in this sense is different from the everyday ways of relaxing like putting your feet up and having a cup of tea (although that is just as important!). It is a skill, to be learnt and practised. There are relaxation tapes, and sometimes classes, which can help. Yoga classes can also be helpful.
As we saw earlier, when someone becomes frightened they start to breathe more quickly, so that oxygen is pumped more quickly round the body. However, breathing too fast, deeply or irregularly can lead to more symptoms of panic, such as faintness, tingling and dizziness. If breathing can be controlled during panic, these symptoms may be reduced and so the vicious circle described earlier can be broken. You must breathe more slowly.
There are at least four things you can do to help with the way your mind fuels a panic attack:
- Stop focusing on your body
- Distract yourself from frightening thoughts
- Question and test your frightening thoughts
- Try to work out whether something else is making you tense
A specialized Councelling ( auditing ) program and drills will help to overcome panic attacks.
Try to notice whether you are focusing on your symptoms, or scanning your body for something wrong. There really is no need to do this and it makes the problem far worse. It may be helpful to use the next technique to help you stop the habit. In particular, focus on what is going on outside rather than inside you.
This is a very simple but effective technique. Again, you need to keep distracting yourself for at least three minutes for the symptoms to reduce. There are lots of ways you can distract yourself. For example, look at other people, and try to think what they do for a job. Count the number of red doors you see on the way home. Listen very carefully to someone talking. You can also try thinking of a pleasant scene in your mind, or an object, like a flower or your favourite car. Really concentrate on it. You can try doing sums in your mind, or singing a song.
The important thing is that your attention is taken off your body and on to something else. Use what works best for you.
Distraction really does work. Have you ever been in the middle of a panic attack when something happened that totally took over your attention, for example the phone ringing, or a child falling over?
Practise relaxation, slow breathing, distraction and thought challenging when not anxious until you have learned the techniques.
Remind yourself during a panic that you have panicked many times before and nothing awful is going to happen. Use distraction, relaxation and slow breathing to help you get the panic to go away.
Challenge your unrealistic thoughts during a panic, using some more realistic thoughts you have written down.
Try not to avoid, escape or use safety behaviours, instead test out what really happens.
Try to sort out any worries or troubles that you have.
Talk about them; don’t sweep them under the carpet.
Specialized spiritual counselling is a beneficial way to achieve spiritual balance and continue advancing through spiritual fulfillment, while addressing your worries.
Disclaimer : This article is for general information purpose. Please consult medical professionals in respect to any medical conditions and treatments.