Panic Disorder: Are You Under Attack?
It’s a dangerous world in which we live. From nuisance crimes, like tagging with spray paint, to burglary and murder, it can happen any time, any place.
That’s the problem! You never know where or when you’ll find yourself in danger, and if you don’t know how to manage your natural feeling of panic you may make things worse.
When we have panic attacks, thank our ancient ancestors. Ancient life forms lived in danger, and developed a “fight or flee” mechanism that puts the body in fight mode or “get-the-heck-out-of-there” mode.
However, a panic attack is more than just a feeling. It takes its toll on the physical self. Look at the symptoms:
- hot or cold flashes;
- heart racing;
- chest pain;
- shaking or trembling;
- profuse sweating;
- confusion and the need to “escape.”
Now, there are times when these feelings might be the normal reaction. Lots of professional performers talk openly about coping with stage fright. You’re the keynote speaker at an event two months out, and you focus on that event weeks in advance, running through (and worrying about) everything that could go wrong.
Anticipation anxiety is common, but when a social invitation triggers a panic attack, chances are you won’t be attending.
People who experience panic attacks live in an ever-shrinking world.
Chances are, if you have a panic attack in a crowded movie theater you’ll avoid going to movies.
If you almost had an accident on Main Street you may take a long way around just to avoid the place where you were traumatized, if your heart starts pounding with a group of friends in a LOUD restaurant, there’s no danger, but the fight or flee mechanism in your brain doesn’t know that and here comes another panic attack.
As you experience more triggers, your world shrinks. Maybe you’re fearful of leaving your familiar town. Maybe you’re uncomfortable outside the safety of your four walls. Your panic disorder may confine you to one room in the house!
Your world shrinks each time you experience an attack.
Living with panic disorder is common among military, law enforcement, and others who put their lives on the line to protect us.
When we’re all running away from perceived danger, people in the military, law enforcement, EMTs, run toward the danger – brave men and women. When a burglar steals while you’re out, you feel violated long after your big screen TV has been bought and sold on the street three times.
Those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience panic attacks in inappropriate places.
You’re at the grocery store. No danger. All of a sudden your heart pounds, you hear every conversation around you and your brain experiences stimulation overload.
The lights are too bright. The ambient sound too loud. You hear phantom sounds that no one else hears. Your senses have flipped into fight or flee mode at the local big box grocery. And for no reason!
Intellectually you know there’s nothing to fear. You know it. But you can’t stop the horrible feelings PTSD suffers describe as “feeling like I’m going to die.” The racing heart. The confusion and fear you can’t identify. The nervous sweats. Feeling nauseous.
You know, in your mind, there’s nothing to fear but when your brain throws that switch, you break into fight or flee mode.
Now, if you experience panic attacks going to the mailbox, life is no longer fun.
You’re trapped in your little prison. But here’s the thing: you also hold the key to that prison door.
There are numerous therapies to help those with stress or panic disorder.
One type of therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the individual is gradually introduced to a panic attack trigger overtime – baby steps to wellness.
Traditional medical resources rely on pharmaceuticals, like Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan, to prevent panic attacks. Indeed, these mood-altering medications are effective in controlling symptoms but the cause of the panic attacks is still there.
Desensitization is another course of treatment.
The individual confronts the triggers for panic attacks with the support of the therapists or good friends.
Hypnosis has also shown great promise in treating panic disorder and improving quality of life.
Self-help is also essential in managing anxiety disorder. Before you start any treatment for panic attacks, keep in mind that maintaining control is a journey, not the endpoint.
Cut down on stimulants like coffee, certain teas, beverages, and even chocolate.
Lower stress levels by getting organized. You won’t have to rush to that all-important business meeting if you leave 15 minutes earlier than usual. Eliminate obvious sources of stress.
Exercise every day. When you put in 20 or 30 minutes for a brisk walk around the neighborhood, an hour or so later you’ll enjoy what athletes call “the runner’s high.” The brain produces endorphins that prevent fatigue and make you feel energized and happy – naturally.
Stop watching yourself. You’re at a crowded party, but instead of enjoying the canopies, your inner self stands off to one side and watches the physical you interact.
Highly sensitive people tend to be overly critical of themselves, fearful of not living up to expectations. Stop looking at yourself. Stop judging what you say, or how you look.
Forgive yourself for everyday missteps. They happen.
And visit an in-client facility that has on staff experts in reconfiguring the brain to more effectively address panic disorder with the right combination of therapies – tradition and leading edge.
Don’t live in fear of people “finding out” you suffer from panic disorder. Contact Hawaii Island Recovery to discover how to eliminate panic attacks and the negative impact these episodes have on quality of life.