Living With Panic Attacks

Hello everyone, today I am going to talk about something that I have suffered from for several years, Panic attacks. The reason I have chosen now to talk to you about it is because although I love christmas, this time of year is one where I experience a higher number of panic attacks.

What Made You Panic?

This is probably one of the most asked questions for someone who suffers from panic attacks and although it often comes from a  well meaning sympathetic individuals, it’s not a useful or even answerable question most of the time.
I’ll try to explain what I mean when I say the question isn’t answerable by telling you about my last two attacks.

The first happened when I was out food shopping with my friend Rie. We nearly always go shopping on a Wednesday. Its our chance to catch up with each other, mooch around the charity shops, have coffee and cake and oh yes, do the shopping.
Despite the relaxed nature of the day and the fact that it’s something I enjoy, I felt a little uneasy. nothing I could put my finger on, just not quite right. A bit achy, a little bit sickly. Like I was coming down with something. These for me are the first signs of an attack happening.
There did seamed to be a lot more people around than usual, and everything was a bit crowded, but that was a feeling I got only after the attack started.

The second occasion was when visiting my mum. While sat in their living room, drinking coffee (decaff) eating cake and chatting with her, dad and the hubster I began to feel that feeling again.

Why Do People Suffer Panic Attacks?

What people experience during a panic attacks is the bodys  ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction. This usually occurs when they encounters a situation involving a possible risk to them (imagine encountering a burglar in your kitchen one night) and is designed to prep their body either to attack or run away.
The human brain is made up of conscious and unconscious processes. When someone encounters a possible threat the unconscious part of the brain reacts first before the conscious part has registered anything. This allows the body to prime itself for reaction (fight or flight). The conscious part of the brain becomes aware of the situation milliseconds after and assesses the risk. It can shut down the unconscious process if it decides there is no threat.
An example of this is this system in action is the jolt of surprise a person might get when they wake up at night and see something in the corner of the room before they realise its just an everyday object that looks odd in the dark.
It appears that individuals who suffer panic attacks  have an overactive fight or flight response. This does not mean that they are unable to react properly in situations that would normally trigger this response ( far from it, we are often the most able to deal with stressful situations with outward calmness and control).
Instead what appears to happen when someone has a panic attacks is the conscious part of their brain is not completely able to override the fight or flight process when there is no threat.

How Did The Panic Attacks Affect My Days

The initial answer is they didn’t. In the first instance I finished my charity shop mooching and them went on to do the food shopping. In the second instance I kept chatting. From the outside I was perfectly fine.
One unfortunate misconception about panic attacks is that they leave you an emotional wreck, unable to function properly while suffering form one, and I can understand why that may be thought. The symptoms of panic attacks are bad.
On the outside I am calm and happy. However on the inside I’m a wreck.

It takes immense effort to put on a smiley face mask while struggling to control the physical symptoms, and they ARE physical symptoms.

Many people think its a condition of the mind, but what people feel are symptoms caused by the release of very powerful hormones into the body ( adrenaline and noradrenaline) that slow down the digestive system ( hence the sickness) speed up breathing and heart rate ( to increase oxygen available to the muscles), and prime the muscles for activity (shaking muscles).

However I know the causes of these symptoms. I know that despite how it might feel, I am not going to collapse, and I know they wont cause me any real harm, so I am able to do what I need to do even when they are occurring. Its a bit like having to go to work with a bad cold. Its not nice, but sometimes you just have to do it.

Why Do Panic Attacks Stop Me From Doing Things?

Due to my knowledge of psychology, I understand what is happening during an attack. I don’t think I’m having a heart attack, or I’m going to die (as some  suffers believe during attacks).

However, even though I understand it, I cannot prevent it from happening or lessen the effects once its started ( its a futile as trying to prevent a sneeze).
And I don’t want to experience the symptoms either. To go back to my cold analogy, people would generally avoid carry out activities if they knew would definitely give them a cold.  

In short its peoples desire to prevent themselves feeling these symptoms that cause the problem. The thought of doing something that will trigger those feelings can in itself make people fearful and it is this fear that prevents people doing things.

There are two options to dealing with this fear, either accept the symptoms as part of your everyday life and live with it, or avoid the situations that can possibly trigger an attack. a lot of people go for the avoidance route. I do not believe for a minute that they are taking the easy option, leading as it does often to social isolation.

I personally exist somewhere in the middle of the two. While I do not let the condition completely take over and prevent me doing the things I have to do, I have to admit to avoiding situations that I know will make me uncomfortable.
Have you ever suffered a panic attack? If so how do you deal with them?

Scientific Fact* Anxious Dragons feed on blog comments. Please help keep this dragon well fed. Thank you Xxxx


*Possibly not true

58 Comments

  1. OneDizzyBee

    December 3, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I have a weird way of dealing with panic attacks. On top of controlled breathing exercises I focus on fixing images in my mind of past calming memories: my mom’s kitchen when I was a child, my favorite place to play. My best friend’s face or my husband’s smile. Anything to take me away from the here and now of the attack.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 3, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Thats not weird at all, it makes a lot of sense. Memories evoke powerful emotions, so I can see how a happy memory can override fear xx

  2. Internalbasis

    December 3, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    CBT is the best for anxiety.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      Yes, I have heard good things about it, but you have to jump through hoops to get it from our local authority, so I cope xx

      1. Internalbasis

        December 3, 2015 at 8:37 pm

        I agree. But I think health is the most important thing and there are a lot of cbt therapists out there.

      2. Internalbasis

        December 3, 2015 at 8:38 pm

        Alternatively, look at my post “When your mind is playing tricks on you”, it is about CBT.

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          December 3, 2015 at 8:41 pm

          I will check that out, thank you x

  3. relentlesslypurple

    December 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Going to be showing a friend this post, we both suffer anxiety, I am well aware the shooting pains through my heart and the sicky feeling is an attack as they started when I was quite young. So I can stay calm on the outside whereas my friend panics he is having a heart attack as he has never had anxiety until the last year or so and forgets he has attacks and what they feel like leaving him in quite a state even once it has all calmed down. He doesnt understand how at times I can have what I consider a huge panic attack yet appear fairly calm on the outside and other times its completely obvious. Because he is still learning to recognize the signs of an attack he panics even more believing there really is something wrong with him as we react differently. I am awful at getting my point across face to face as i trip over my words but I think letting him read this post will help him understand anxiety a little more xx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 4, 2015 at 9:54 am

      It is an awful thing to suffer with. I hope this post helps your friend a little xx

  4. Sara Handy Herbs

    December 4, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Sorry to read that you suffer from these attacks. Luckily for me, I have never suffered in this way. It was interesting to read why people do suffer as I had no idea to be honest. I hope you manage to find a way of improving your attacks and to have an enjoyable Christmas #PicknMix

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 4, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Thank you. It helps me to understand the biology behind them, it makes it easier to think of them as an illness rather than something wrong with how I think (is that makes sense) xx

  5. thefrugalbrownwitch

    December 4, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve suffered anxiety attacks since my teens, they usually leave me a blubbery mess but thankfully they are few and far between. They often appear with no apparent trigger, therefore I don’t avoid certain situations because I rarely know when they’re likely to occur. The only trigger I am aware of is if I laugh hysterically, it always leads to an attack.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Its hard when they are completely unexpected xx

  6. Agent Spitback

    December 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. This has given me a better understanding of what you go through x

  7. Victoria Welton

    December 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering with panic attacks – they really are not a good thing at all. I used to get them when I first left my ex with all the horrible stuff he was putting me through. They really are scary. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 6, 2015 at 5:22 am

      Funny enough mine started after I left an abusive husband too xx

  8. nightwisprav3n

    December 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I used to have panic attacks as a symptom of my PTSD. They didn’t happen often but when they did, it was horrible. I felt like I as going to lose it so many times in public and fought very hard keep my cool at least until I go home. For me, it felt like the invisible walls were closing in on me and this would always happen when I was relaxed but had this unexplained uneasy feeling that I couldn’t shake. Thanks for educating us on this though. There are some things about panic attacks I didn’t know prior to your post.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 6, 2015 at 5:21 am

      Yes, thats something else i feel, the walls moving in on me, everything gets quite claustrophobic. The only ‘safe’ place when im like that is home.
      The ones that bother me the most are the ones that happen at my mums, because they shouldnt happen there, I shouldnt find visiting my family a scary thing x

      1. nightwisprav3n

        December 6, 2015 at 7:28 am

        Mine used to happen around my kids and that wasn’t fun.

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          December 6, 2015 at 12:26 pm

          That must have been awful x

          1. nightwisprav3n

            December 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

            Yes it was. My kids were scared but now I’m good and haven’t had one in four years. I’m thankful for small mercies.

  9. acornishmum

    December 5, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    I used to get panic attacks as a child and they stopped me from wanting to do some things, so I know just how awful they can feel. Luckily it’s something that didn’t last for many years.
    Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix
    Stevie x

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 6, 2015 at 5:24 am

      Its nice to know that you got over them, but they must of been even more scary as a child xx

  10. Ann GrubbsnCritters

    December 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

    So sorry to hear about the panic attacks. I can imagine it’s tough to deal with, especially when unexpected. I get that too sometimes, just being over-anxious about something but thankfully nothing debilitating -although enough for me to “spin”. I find that breathing techniques work to calm the inner nerves. And one of the techniques that helps, if you press the point of your hand between your thumb and index finger using both thumb and index finger on the other hand together to apply pressure for a few minutes, and take deep, deep breaths. do it in sets of 3, 5 whatever you like,, it helps. Was taught to me by a yoga practitioner of you are into such things. 🙂

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 6, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you, I will try that. I am terrible for remembering to control my breathing when im having an attack and sometimes end up hyperventilating xx

      1. Ann GrubbsnCritters

        December 7, 2015 at 4:56 am

        I’m curious if it works on other people. If it does, it’s a great thing! 🙂

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          December 7, 2015 at 7:14 am

          I will let you know if/when I have the next one (always going to be when) xx

  11. Katie (Growing Up KaterTot)

    December 7, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I suffer from anxiety as well, and my panic attacks began when I was in college. They were brought on by stress from the amount of schoolwork I needed to complete. Mine left me emotionally exhausted, and I got to the point where I actually had to take a semester off so that I could focus on getting my mind healthy again. I still suffer from anxiety, but my panic attacks are few and far between. Thank you for sharing this post. It makes me feel like I’m not alone!

    1. Katie (Growing Up KaterTot)

      December 7, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Oops! Forgot to mention that I’m here from #AnythingGoes 🙂

    2. The Anxious Dragon

      December 7, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I use to feel quite alone in suffering from them before I really got into using twitter, but ive now got a cool network of people who understand and support each other xx

  12. rhymingwithwine

    December 7, 2015 at 8:25 am

    I have also suffered with anxiety for more years than I can remember and I can totally relate to that awful churning feeling of panic. I agree that it isn’t something that you will always display outwardly – people suffering a panic attack aren’t necessarily sat with their head between their knees breathing into a paper bag as it’s generally portrayed on TV. I tend to go into screen saver mode as my hubby calls it. Outwardly I’m processing and functioning like a robot, but my brain is no longer engaged in my actions. It’s elsewhere and it’s spiralling. Thank you for sharing such an honest post. It helps to know that I’m in good company 🙂 Dawn x #fartglitter

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 7, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Yes, my husband notices when Im not in the present any more. Screen saver mode is actually a fantastic description for it xx

  13. sourgirlohio

    December 7, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Anxiety is something I struggle with daily. Some panic attacks are controllable, some are not. I’ve never found the breathing did much for me, though I know people who swear by certain techniques. It’s always nice to see open discussion about it, because it’s not something people like to talk about in real life.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      I can control the outward symptoms through breathing and distraction, but i cant stop them x

  14. Mama, My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

    December 8, 2015 at 2:45 am

    I’ve had a few friends who suffered from these. Sounds awful. I hope you get can some relief soon. I think you’ve explained it brilliantly for those who are unfamiliar. Thanks for linking up to #fartglitter

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 8, 2015 at 6:01 am

      Thank you, I think its important for people to talk about what its likexx

  15. mummuddlingthrough

    December 9, 2015 at 8:00 am

    This sounds a living nightmare Tracey. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Have you checked out different types of coping strategies, or alternative therapies? X x x #besta dworst

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 9, 2015 at 8:13 am

      I dont think of it as a nightmare, it just is what it is. There are things that help, no caffeine, avoiding sugar highs and lows, breathing techniques all help. I am certainly less afflicted by them than when they first started, but I dont think I will ever be cured as such xx

      1. mummuddlingthrough

        December 9, 2015 at 8:23 am

        That’s a very positive approach xxx

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          December 9, 2015 at 8:25 am

          The only way to deal with life xx

  16. rhymingwithwine

    December 9, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Me again! I’m officially a groupie now… #bestandworst Dawn x

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 9, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Yay, I have a groupie, ive officially made it 😁

  17. helen gandy

    December 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I’m sorry that you suffer, especially at this time of year 🙁 Although I don’t suffer panic attacks I am a very anxious person and have been for many years. I take no medication or anything like that but new situations and things like that start me of feeling very anxious. It’s a horrible thing to suffer with though and I hope manage it ok. Much love and thankyou for linking up to the #bestandworst, also popping over from #marvmondays

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Most of the time I jolly along ok. I have got a great support network for when things get a bit tough xx

  18. martynkitney

    December 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Fabulous post! More people need to be open about this and in doing so have posts like this to help them.
    I get bad social anxiety and have panic attacks off of that. I try to ground myself on things I know. Things that are real. Things to focus on around me. It generally works. But as you say a good place to start is breathing. #bestandworst

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 9, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Yes, going out and social interactions are my triggers. Crowded places, having to talk to strangers, even things like ordering a meal or drink can trigger them if im not in the right frame of mind x

  19. Anna Brophy

    December 9, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    You are pretty awesome, I think. Such a misunderstood condition and obviously so varied and frightening. It seems you are an ‘overachiever’ in the flight/fight department…Thanks for sharing this. #bestandworst

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 9, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      Ha, I like that, yes I am an overachiever 😀

  20. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    December 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I love how you aren’t afraid to tackle serious issues with your posts. This explains in easy language just what people are going through. I understand the smile when your insides are in turmoil, though I don’t think I’ve ever really suffered from anxiety in the extreme. Except for when I got lost in Alton Towers! Thank you for sharing such a brave post with us at #effitfriday xx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 10, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      yes, my posts are a reflection of what goes on in my head, serious issues and total nonsense all all in there 😀

    2. The Anxious Dragon

      December 10, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      And your braver than me for even going to Alton Towers, thats my idea of torture 😉

      1. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

        December 10, 2015 at 4:53 pm

        Ahh I love the rides! IT was a long long time ago 🙂

  21. Kaye

    December 12, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Panic attacks are the worst. 🙁 My Mum has always suffered with them, I remember her having to pull over in the car when I was younger and feeling helpless as I didn’t really understand. I only had my first attack around a year ago and you really can’t understand until you’ve suffered yourself but I was terrified! Thanks for writing this, it’s helped me to understand them a bit more. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

      I hope yours was a one off xx

  22. randommusings29

    December 13, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve never had a panic attack but I have seen people have them and they look truly terrifying! You must be very mentally strong to be able to put on a brave face when having one.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
    Debbie

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 13, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      I wouldnt say brave. Its just that ive educated myself enough to take the fears that some people have (im dying, im having a heart attack etc) away.
      Its easier to deal with if you can view it as just another sort of illness (hence my cold analogy)

  23. Sandra

    December 22, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Great post. I use a mixture of giving my mind other thoughts (on mobile phone on Twitter/Facebook/reading) and homeopathic remedies – these work for me.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      December 22, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Distraction is a very useful technique for dealing with anxiety and panic attacks xx

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