I used to have panic attacks frequently when I was a teenager… nobody knew what it was though. I went to SO many doctors. A couple suggested a psychologist, but my dad was convinced it wasn’t mental. Anyway, I basically skipped a semester (maybe two?) in college, and only took like two classes one semester… I didn’t work. I had no idea what was going on. I was basically house-ridden and feared going out or doing anything because I didn’t want to feel crazy sick in public. I also couldn’t eat because I felt so sick… for some reason all I could eat was plain hamburger burger meat and tomatoes with salt and pepper… Maybe it was partially physical as well; I don’t know.
I had a panic attack in acting class in front of everyone, it was horrible. A guy in the class was really nice and recognized what was happening and said he used to have the same problems. He recommended I read the book “Hope & Help for Your Nerves” http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Help-Your-Nerves-Signet/dp/0451167228
It was AMAZING to realize what was going on and that I wasn’t DYING… which I was afraid I was. They even had me get an MRI for brain tumors. It was horrible. The doctor gave me some Valium for the night to sleep, because I was like X_X when he said “brain tumor,” and… wow, that was the worst night ever. It knocked me out for about two hours, and then I woke up basically in a panic; I felt like a drug addict going through withdrawal. I was shaky, sweating, hot, cold, sick, my brain was all over the place… so horrible. Valium = never again.
Mine might have been different than yours… I think it depends.
I think the biggest thing I learned that helped me is to just let the panic attack happen and not fear or FIGHT it. Once I learned what it was, I knew nothing was going to happen. I wasn’t going to die, pass out, throw up, etc… and I knew it would be gone, and I just had to ride it out. Once I thought about “what’s the worst that could happen, really?” I was able to put it into perspective. In my head I’d reapet “It’s okay” over and over repeatedly, and try to just focus on those worse and nothing else, because I have a huge fear of vomiting or having some illness… so whenever I felt nauseous, it would snowball.
I was afraid to work and start working also, and sometimes I would feel myself starting to panic, and I’d try to just let it happen and take many deep breaths and again, in my head saying “It’s okay, I’m fine, everything is fine,” and only reassuring things like that. I started retail, which kept me physically busy… and I found being busy actually helped. It would be worse when I wasn’t really doing much.
Are you speaking of just GAD or panic attacks in particular?
I’ve been off my rx of Nortriptyline (anxiety/depression/nerve issues) for about a week or so now… first time in like a decade. o_o
My doctor’s theory was that it also might have been a physical problem… nerves misfiring in my stomach (which resulted in sickness/nausea, possibly, which would cause the panic attacks many times. Sometimes I just had them completely randomly though, so I most likely still had a legit panic disorder). I don’t like the idea of long term meds so I wanted to get off of them, and so far I’m pretty okay. Sometimes I feel sick more I think (could still be just a withdrawal though), but I haven’t paniced over it yet. My chest sometimes hurts, and sometimes I feel panicy and hot when I feel sick, but I’ve been able to mentally talk myself down and not let it really get to a panic attack.
In my experience though, while working was scary, it was better for me and once I had a bit of control over the panic attacks, I was able to continue, and keeping busy was good for me. Realizing what my fears during the panic attack were was helpful. Like, why was I so much more afraid of having one in public versus my house? I was mostly afraid of throwing up in front of people (or at all). And when I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, it was better. Or I would look around and find something I could quickly/easily throw up into, like a paper bag or trash cash. That was some relief. If not, I’d walk to the bathroom and cool myself down with some water or walk outside if it was the winter time.
So basically… if you’re trying to overcome panic attacks…
Figure out what makes you so afraid of having a panic attack in front of people or in public, and address that. Also, create an escape plan for when it gets bad, like going to the bathroom, walking outside, sitting in your car. KNOW those options are ALWAYS available, and you don’t have to be afraid to be in public.
Address any triggers you might have, and try to deduce what about those situations/instances causes a panic attack, and why it might be causing them.
Don’t fight them. Let them happen and know they’ll be gone, and nothing will happen because of them.
Give yourself a time frame. Look at the clock and say “I’ll feel better and it will be gone in 20 minutes.” If it’s 7:30, find comfort that by 7:50, it’ll all be over. Because usually they don’t last that long. And know nothing will happen to you between those two times except just feeling crappy.
Take deep breaths and mentally reassure yourself; don’t let other thoughts take over your mind. Just focus on those words/phrases, and nothing else.
Exercise also helps.
I’ve had a looott of history with them, so feel free to ask if you’d like any more opinions 😛