Controlling Panic Attacks
Many people suffering from Panic Disorder try to control the symptoms as much as possible and search for new and creative strategies to reduce the anxiety including cold showers, alcohol, breathing, meditating, medication, breathing, relaxation training, avoidance of caffeine, etc. All these techniques appear to work short-term, yet panic and anxiety always ends up coming back and often with a vengeance (maybe because trying to reduce the anxiety tells the body that the panic is something that needs to be feared and fixed). The paradox of panic is the more a person tries to control it, the less control he or she actually has over it.
Avoidance of situations to control panic usually starts small but quickly escalates to becoming debilitating. Initially a person tells him or herself that it’s not a necessity to go on cruises and you can go on vacation somewhere else. Then, flying doesn’t become a priority and driving becomes just as good of an option (so what if it takes 25 hours to gets somewhere rather than 3). Driving in traffic can be avoided by taking side streets. This avoidance can gradually turn into not driving long distances and having to quit jobs.
All of these avoided activities are often justified. The ability to convince and make excuses/justifications to oneself and to others becomes almost automatic. Without treatment a person can become more and more confined by the panic. Sometimes, the only place to feel “safe” is at home. People often question how they got to this place. How years ago, the person was full of life and did all of these wonderful things? What happened to that person and is there any hope of getting her/him back?
One way to stop panic is to let go of the control. The harder a person fights having a panic attack, the more likely he or she becomes anxious. Allowing panic to ride its course is vital. Giving it permission to come in, do what it has to do, and leave when it’s ready is what helps the body realize it is not that scary (and to react less strongly). There unfortunately is no magic pill and creative technique that will eliminate the anxiety. The only way to really and truly stop it is by not fighting it. This is obviously no simple task and it is no way to minimize how terrible it can feel to have a panic attack. However, the paradox to panic is that by giving into it and letting it come is the way to tell the body that it is really not that scary (which allows the body to react in a less anxious manner).