t’s a beautiful sunny day and all is right with your world when without warning you’re hit with a panic attack. There’s no monster under your chair, no earthquake opening the road to swallow your car, and no instant terminal illness. Yet you feel wrapped in total terror and unable to shake it.
You can literally feel your heart pounding against your rib cage. Your hands are sweaty and your grip is weak. Feeling like your head is spinning, you have to pull over to the side of the road because you’re certain that you’re going to pass out.
If this happens at work or while shopping in the grocery store, and you begin clutching your heart, some kind stranger may notice that you’re turning pale and looking deathly ill.
Chances are someone will dial 911 and the drone you’ll hear will be the ambulance coming to pick you up. At the emergency room, you’re instantly surrounded by heart monitors and the defibrillator is on stand-by.
Even to medical personnel, you look like a heart attack about to happen or in progress. Only after all the tests are in do they realize that what’s really happened is a panic attack. The entire incident may have lasted only an hour or two, but to you it feels like an eternity. You leave the hospital exhausted and embarrassed.
Panic disorder usually begins in young adulthood, around ages 18-25. It may begin after a traumatic event like an auto accident, getting stuck in an elevator, or losing a job. Yet for many of the 6 million people who have panic disorder, there’s no clear reason why it started. One thing is common – every one of them feels helpless to stop it.
First you need to know that panic disorder is a real mental health problem, not something that you made up or use when you want attention. Those are things other people say to you, but that’s not medically accurate.
Talk to your doctor about what’s happening to you. You may want to learn how to control situations like this using a form of hypnotherapy, counseling, or psychiatric medications.
Share what’s happening to you with your significant other, a trusted friend and your boss, if you feel the confidence will be respected. Panic attacks are so unpredictable that you need support from family and friends who can help you reinforce what you learn during treatment.
You’ll learn how to use relaxation, visualization, breathing exercises and redirected self-talk to stand your ground against a panic attack. In time, you will find it easy to manage panic and get back to doing things without fear of interruption.