When Panic Attacks

Have you had a panic or anxiety attack?
Do you live in fear of having another one?

Marcy had a panic attack on an airplane. Heart pounding. Dry mouth. Shortness-of-breath. She thought she was having a heart attack. She was confused and frightened since the feelings “came out of nowhere.” She was afraid of making a scene.

Because she was terrified of having another attack, she started avoiding elevators, buses, tunnels–any situation where she might feel closed in or trapped.

Her world got smaller and smaller as she avoided more and more triggers. She couldn’t tell anyone what was going on so, over time, she grew isolated and depressed.

Avoidance is a natural response to anxiety in its many forms. But avoidance perpetuates and intensifies fearful thoughts.

Anxious people think anxious thoughts. And anxious thoughts lead to more anxiety. One writer called adrenalin “boo juice” because it’s a physical reaction and we literally scare ourselves.

In a panic attack, we mis-interpret the body’s reactions and start thinking inaccurate, catastrophic thoughts. “I’m going to faint.” “I’m having a heart attack.” “I’m going to die.” Our anxiety continues to increase–unless we know how to stop it.

Fortunately, there is a solution and a way out:

  • learning how to recognize and then change anxious self-talk.
  • moving through our discomfort in gradual, safe steps.

Treatment for anxiety disorders, using cognitive or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is very specific and structured. It includes learning new skills and ways to cope.

Worry and anxiety are a part of life. We can’t make them go away, but we can learn ways to manage them so they don’t overwhelm us or limit our capacity for living.

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