In the UK, 10.6 Million people have occasional panic attacks every year. 641,000 people are diagnosed with a ‘Panic Disorder’.
Since records began, there have been no recorded deaths from a Panic Attack and no records of anyone fainting. The feeling of panic is due to an evolutionary process known as the ‘Fight, or Flight’ response. The body is designed to survive and needs to ready itself to either fight its attacker, or run from it, whichever one it decides is the safest option.
It does this by getting the Adrenal glands start to produce copious amounts of adrenaline. This is fine when you’re in the jungle, confronted by a Tiger, on in a foreign country facing a wild snake in a field, but in the case of a Panic Attack, the sufferer is releasing adrenaline sometimes because of situations that are not harmful, or in many cases enjoyed by the majority of people. Agoraphobia, or the fear of open spaces is a popular cause of panic attacks, which means that going on a family picnic, or visiting the beach with their Children becomes an impossibilty.
This happens generally because of habit. Initially, a person experiences a mild attack, but the symptoms seem so extreme (because there’s really nothing about the situation they’re currently in to be scared of), that they become afraid of experiencing it again and that fear becomes the trigger for the next attack.
Many people when asked to describe their symptoms cite that they thought they were having a Heart Attack, or felt that they were going to faint. Yet, as anyone who’s seen a medical, or hospital show on TV knows, the chemical they use to re-start the heart of a person who’s suffered a heart attack is Adrenaline. Adrenaline works by speeding up the heart which increases the amount of oxygen in the body and raises blood pressure. People faint when blood pressure drops and they die when the body stops getting oxygen. Adrenaline males the body stronger and more resilient and no one has ever come to harm because they suffered from a Panic Attack.
So, if a panic attack is simply your body reacting to what it ‘perceives’ as a harmful situation. Once you begin to feel the attack start, it’s a relatively simple process to stop it in its tracks, by following the three steps below;
Break the pattern:
Shout ‘STOP!!’ in your head. This will interrupt the emergency message that triggered the attack in the first place. People tend to play the same negative thoughts over and over again in their minds when they start to feel the symptoms of a panic attack. By shouting STOP!!, you’re interrupting the panic and allowing time to remind yourself that you’re not really in any danger.
Identify to yourself that you’re only having a panic attack and begin to take slow deep breaths. By breathing slowly and deeply your body will naturally relax and slow the release of adrenaline.
Start to use positive thoughts:
Counteract your negative thoughts, by using positive statements. Eg. if you start to panic when you need to take a ride in a car, remind yourself that you’ve already ridden in a car hundreds, or maybe thousands of times before and never come to any harm. Also, you can make a list of the kind of thoughts that come into your mind when you begin to have an attack and write statements to counteract those, so next time you’ll be prepared.
Remember that the panic emotion is there to protect you. It’s designed to help ready you in case of danger. The problem arises because your body is reacting to the possibility of an attack, even when there’s no real danger around.
That’s why breaking the habitual pattern, breathing deeply and reminding yourself that there really is no danger, can help stop an attack as quickly as it started.