Dealing With Panic Attacks And Fear

Dealing With Panic Attacks And Fear

It’s important in Dealing With Panic Attacks And Fear to understand what they are. Typical symptoms include:

  • Fast beating heart
  • Sweating uncontrollably
  • Difficulty in getting breath
  • Sense of impending doom or feeling your might be dying
  • Sometimes physical pain in the arm resembling heart attack symptoms
  • Racing thoughts

These symptoms can come on quickly and be suddenly overwhelming or some of them may be present for hours sometimes days.

They happen because the ‘threat system’ in our brain has been activated. This is a part of our brain called the amygdala.¬†It classifies threats to our life and activities our ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response. If this threat system is activated inappropriately or to often we can have an anxiety or panic attack.

If you are prone to anxiety and fear you may develop panic attacks, or if you are exposed to traumatic events your threat system can be set to ‘on’ constantly from this and panic attacks develop from that.

We know a lot about how to reduce and eventually eliminate panic, anxiety and fear. You may find short term medication will be helpful to manage symptoms, but for long term recovery psychological therapy and behavioural change will produce great results.

The areas to work on in your therapy are

  1. Learning relaxation. Muscle tension is a core feature of the threat system activation, as your body gears up to ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. Learning to relax your muscles communicates with your amygdala¬†signalling there is no threat
  2. Manage your racing thoughts. Your mind is racing trying to identify the threat to you. There isn’t one. So two techniques might be helpful. Cognitive restructuring of the triggering thoughts, balancing your emotional reaction to your triggers by looking at the evidence for or against them. Developing more balanced thinking in response. Also mindfulness based meditation has two benefits. It focussing your thinking, stopping the racing. It manages your breathing, stopping the hyperventilation that leads to the feeling of breathlessness
  3. Look at your triggers. In time away for the attacks, look at the triggering thoughts and situations. Some you may be able to avoid is they are a current threat. Some you can use exposure therapy techniques to desensitise your responses. Some you can use cognitive restructuring techniques to balance your responses. Some you can use reframing techniques to reorient your relationship to the experience
  4. Look at your diary. Are you overscheduling, not giving yourself down time, trying to fit things in between an already packed schedule. Maybe your lifestyle is telling your amygdala you are under threat? ¬†Maybe it’s time to look at that diary, begin to delete some things, start to add space into it
  5. Exercise. Exercising regularly will flush your musculature of the buildup of hormones such as cortisol which trigger fear responses. Cortisol is what produces muscle tension. ‘Burning it off’ with aerobic exercise will be beneficial
  6. Seek psychotherapy. For issues around panic connected to life trauma and life events seek professional help. If the trauma related to childhood maltreatment or neglect then psychotherapy will be vital to recovery. The same is true of the panic relates to miltary service or as a result of work such as first reponding (ambulance, foire etc.) A professional will be able to teach you all the techniques mentioned above for genralised anxiety, through you can buy manualised versions of CBT which are very helpful as well

4 Comments

  1. Found this very helpful and interesting. I am at present being treated for Depression, severe anxiety and panic attacks, partly with medication and partly through seeing a Psychiatrist. Many thanks.

    • Hi Tracey, thanks for the feedback, I’m glad you’re getting the help you need with your depression. Best Noel

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