Updated: Feb 16, 2020
Let's talk about the uncomfortable and dreaded (spoiler alert) panic attack.
For those who have not experienced a panic attack, let me explain a little more about what happens. A panic attack is a period of intense fear that can have a variety of symptoms including heart racing, sweating, trouble breathing, nausea, disassociation, and fear or feeling like you're going to die just to name a few. There are other possible symptoms but you only need to have experienced four for it to be diagnosed a panic disorder. Yet one of the biggest parts of panic attacks that I believe doesn't get talked about enough is that the person has ongoing fear of having another attack or changes their behavior in hopes to avoid one. This part is what I have labeled "The Panic Attack Monster".
Extreme? Maybe. But what else would you call it? It's lurking behind corners and hiding under beds. It's the reminder of panic attacks even when you're not having any other symptoms. And for the many people who don't know or recognize what brings these attacks on, this feels like this scary anxiety boogie man who is always following them around.
There are many ways to treat and manage anxiety and panic attack symptoms. I won't go into all of them and I'll just focus on my favorite. Although it feels like you're going to die, chances are you will survive. Not discounting at all how scary and uncomfortable the experience is but I strongly believe that you will make it through. My clients probably know that one of my favorite things to talk to them about is resilience and it is one of the reasons I love my job. People are able to overcome so many things that we would typically view as impossible. What powerful people we are! Even the times when we don't feel strong, we still make it through to the other side of the attack.
To channel your resilience, I suggest that instead of fearing the possibility that your anxiety is going to return, creating a plan for when it does. Have grounding techniques and relaxation strategies on your phone or in your wallet of the steps you can take. Stay calm and remind yourself that you can do this because you have before. And reach out to a mental health professional like myself if you need additional support and resources. It's not easy but with practice and preparation, it can become more manageable.
Remember- You got this and you're stronger than you may realize!