Way to Handle Anxiety, Panic Attacks

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph. D

In the past year, 10 to 12 % of people suffered from panic attacks, phobias, and other anxiety disorders. It is the number-one problem for women and in men it is second only to the alcohol and drug problem. 

Anxiety disorders became the number one mental affliction in the 1980s. Stress keeps going up and so do the anxiety and panic attacks. The number of people who suffer a single panic attack is very large. In the past year, one in three persons experienced some sort of panic attack in response to a stressful situation, such as an examination, public speaking, or a call from the boss when layoffs are being rumored about at work.

Symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack are shortness of breath, smothering or choking feeling, heart palpitations, shaking and trembling, dizziness, sweating, hot flashes or cold chills, chest pains, feeling of unreality (such as being in a fog, in a cloud, detached from surroundings), and fear of dying, going crazy, or losing control.

A panic attack comes on unexpectedly, escalates rapidly, and subsides within 10 to 15 minutes. A panic attack has at least four of these symptoms. On average, a panic attack has six of the symptoms you just read. An anxiety attack, on the other hand, gradually builds up, it is not sudden and unexpected, symptoms are fewer and milder.

If you have any of these symptoms, you are not losing your mind and you are not different from the rest of the human race.

As you just read, anxiety disorders afflict a large number of people and surely such a big chunk of population is not becoming crazy. A panic attack is really an "emergency response." Nature has provided us with a built-in emergency response to fight or run when we face a danger.

The problem is that once the alarm is set off, it keeps going off even when no real danger exists. It is like the two wires accidentally touch each other and the alarm sound goes off. We have to learn to shut it off. 

Things to do: 
1. Remind yourself repeatedly until you can really believe that your panic attack is a natural - emergency response and you will not turn in to a shaky, flaky weakling who is about to pass out any minute. Your whole system is in high gear. You are actually stronger, faster, and quicker. Believe it. 
2. Constantly repeat to yourself that panic symptoms no doubt are unpleasant, but they are not dangerous. 
3. Know that just as you have a natural emergency response, so you have a natural "calming response." Yes, you can learn to calm yourself out of a panic attack. 
4. Unpleasant symptoms of an anxiety/panic attack can be brought into control in just five minutes if you start calming down and do not pump more adrenaline in your blood by "panicking" about the panic attack. 
5. Do not "fight" with the symptoms of a panic attack. Try to "flow" with the symptoms and allow yourself to become calm. 
6. Learn a relaxation technique and practice it daily at least two or three times for 15 to 20 minutes each time. There are many self taught methods of relaxation available on tapes and books. 
7. Learn to breathe from your diaphragm. Learn how the body breathes and how your abdomen, ribs and chest are involved in breathing. Try to breathe from your diaphragm all the time or as much time as you can by paying steady attention to your breathing. 
8. Learn to notice the advance signs of an anxiety attack before it becomes severe. Step up on your relaxation to bring about the calming response. 
9. In a panic or anxiety attack, start breathing slowly, through your nose, and allowing your diaphragm to take part in breathing. 
10. Say silently inside your head something reassuring and calming, such as, "I am becoming calm....It will take a few minutes. .. .I can handle it as I have handled it before. . .I am calm and steady. "
* This is an educational article for general information and not professional advice. Consult a professional for your specific case.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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