Moving Beyond Panic Attacks

April 15, 2021

A painting of a woman on the street, on her phone, an older woman riding by on a bike.
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Do you sometimes get so anxious and feel that you’re heading towards impending doom? You might be panicking. Now, if this happens when you’re not in a life-threatening situation, you may be one of the 40 million adults in the US who have a panic disorder. Anxiety and panic disorders affect 18.1% of the American population every year on average and, in a city as large as my Houston, panic disorder is common. The good news is that there are effective treatments.

Understanding Panic Disorder

A panic attack is usually experienced as an abrupt and intense period of fear and anxiety. Someone having an attack may experience cold sweats, numbness, shortness of breath, and other physical manifestation. Someone with this disorder can fret over something insignificant, such as walking near a building undergoing construction work; or, over something vague, such as the experience of negative thoughts. Panic attacks can also come from paranoia.

This is important because, among those who have anxiety disorders, many are unaware that they’re suffering from the condition. Even among those who do, few seek professional treatment for this specific condition.

While worrying and panicking are natural aspects of our fight-or-flight system, panicking is usually gratuitously nerve-wracking. Attacks may even lead to emotional outbursts, bad decisions, and even depression. Panic disorders can be debilitating especially when working or studying because our psychological well-being is the foundation for business and/or learning success. Because panic hinders the mind’s ability to make sober and objective decisions, it can lead to professional or academic mishaps.

Moving along to the solutions, there are indeed various approaches that you can take. Let’s take a look.

First off, you have to minimize stress. Researchers have discovered that workplace anxiety can lead to emotional exhaustion and even physical demise. Minimizing the stimulation to which your life exposes you, can prevent panic attacks. Stress is a part of life, but it should be kept at manageable levels by improving your work-life balance.

A painting of a woman on the street, on her phone, an older woman riding by on a bike.

“Take a Ride” by Tracy Ostmann Haschke

Cognitive behavioral therapy is known to be an effective panic disorder treatment. It usually involves thought restructuring, relaxation training, and exposure therapy and believes that the best way to approach panic disorders is to train the patient to deal with the emotion, rather than avoid it. CBT has proven effective for a range of other issues such as depression, anxiety orders, and substance abuse as well.

You can help manage anxiety by having a regular routine, especially a bedtime wind-down, can ease your mind because it helps breed familiarity. This predictable flow of activities minimizes overthinking and also acts as a “home button” every time something unexpected and panic-inducing comes up. For example, if you have an unexpected visitor at your house and it makes you panic, try to maintain your usual routine and let them adapt.

This is also the case with electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones. These devices are sources of endless content, emotions, and interactions, most of which do not have a bearing on your real life. Instead of questioning and comparing your life choices after seeing your high school classmate enjoying a vacation in Europe, just turn off your phone and mind your own business.

Seeking Support

Of course, the best way to deal with a panic disorder is to get professional help. Therapy and third-party counseling are invaluable, and the experts can provide a tailored program specifically for your individual case. Meanwhile, support groups provide a safe space in which to find unity among others collectively aiming to tame panic into submission.

Seeking help is always the power move. Check out Healers Magazine’s directory, or feel free to connect with me through Healers.

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