Overcoming Panic Attacks: An Ongoing Journey

I have been suffering from panic attacks on and off for about three years now.  I also suffer from panic disorder, which, put succinctly, is living in fear that another panic attack will happen.  As of late December 2016, early January 2017, I have sought help for my panic attacks with a therapy called CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy.

I have actually made significant progress because of this therapy.  Specifically, I used to go to bed in the middle of a panic attack, and wake up the next day, still having a panic attack.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s how bad my panic attacks were.  Now, I can get a panic attack to end the same day or evening that it started.  The longest it’s taken for this to happen is four and a half hours.  The shortest length of time has been one hour.

Here are the best pieces of advice I have received.

  • If you feel anxiety coming on, one of the best things you can do is focus on the breath.  Count (in) 1 2 3 4, (out) 1 2 3 4 5 6.  If you keep practicing this every time you feel anxiety coming on, you can often prevent a panic attack from occurring.
  • Focus on something external.  I like to turn the ceiling fan on and listen to it squeak every time it makes a full rotation.  Count the squeaks it makes.  This is not only good advice for before a panic attack starts, but also good advice for when a panic attack is occurring.  This is one of the best ways I know of to get a panic attack to stop.
  • If a panic attack is happening, just let it go.  It sounds so simple, but it really is good advice.  Try to do the things you would do if you weren’t having a panic attack at all.  If there are dirty dishes, do the dishes.  If there’s trash that needs to go out, take the trash out.
  • If you are away from home, and home is your safety location, stay away from home.  The last panic attack I had was yesterday at a library, and I stayed at the library for forty minutes before deciding it wasn’t going to end there.  If you can trust that you can end an anxiety attack anywhere, you can have one start and stop no matter where you are.
  • Take medication as an absolute last ditch effort to stop a panic attack.  Medication can provide more of a psychological benefit more than a real one.  A so called “placebo effect”  You think that because you took a pill, the attack will surely stop.  If you can trust that you have the power in you to end a panic attack yourself, you can get one to end with no medication.

I am currently on my way to the library to take out another book on ending panic attacks.

I have confidence that the attacks will stop, because many people who seek help get their panic attacks to end.

I will continue to post about panic attacks as they continue to occur, and hopefully as they do not occur.  Thank you.  God bless.

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