I’ve had panic attacks for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, no one knew what they were until I was about 13. I eventually started seeing a therapist and taking medication, which helped.
Since then, there have been periods where I’m seeing a therapist and taking meds, or not. My anxiety waxes and wanes depending on what’s going on with my life, so it’s pretty much unpredictable.
It also took a long time for me to find a medication that works and doesn’t have a ton of side effects. I take Buspar, and it’s worked the best for me so far.
I do have panic attacks when something bad or crazy or scary is going on, but I also have panic attacks over stupid things, or sometimes for no reason at all. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that I have to breathe. It sounds stupid, but when you take a step back and think about it, you AREN’T breathing when you’re having a panic attack. So my best advice to you is to recognize when you’re having a panic attack and do your best to slow down and force yourself to take deep breaths.
You really have to focus on the moment, not the “what ifs” of the future or analyze the past. I’m still learning how to master this, but simply recognizing when I’m freaking out even helps.
If I were you, I would find a good therapist, ideally someone who helps people deal with panic attacks and anxiety. Also take yoga and/or learn to meditate.
And while I’m not really a big fan of nonfiction books, I recommend reading Eckhart Tolle’s (sp?) The Power of Now. Some of it is over my head, but the general gist of living life “in the now” can really help with anxiety, in my opinion. If that’s too “new age” for your tastes, I’m sure there are several more books out there that can give you tips on how to cope with this.
It can be a daily struggle, but if you keep working at it, you can manage it and not let it get in the way of your life!
Good luck and be patient with yourself! Know that you’re not alone (or crazy)!