Maybe you recently experienced your first panic attack, or maybe you have been dealing with this issue for quite some time now.
Either way, you know that you can’t simply “think positively” to ward off a panic attack. Telling yourself over and over again that there’s nothing to worry about won’t necessarily work either.
And while you might be able to avoid your triggers sometimes, this method isn’t foolproof, either. Sometimes, you don’t even know what set off your panic attack—the cause is a mystery, and you don’t know how to get to the root of the problem.
Why is it so hard to break the cycle of panic attacks? Because your (totally natural) fear of experiencing another panic attack can actually make you more susceptible to them. Here’s how this cycle of panic perpetuates itself.
The Build up of Anxiety and Triggers That Lead to a Panic Attack
Maybe something in your environment triggers a painful and traumatic memory of a past experience. Or maybe you notice the symptoms building out of nowhere.
Suddenly, you have shortness of breath. Your heart feels like it is racing. You begin feeling chest pain and struggle to verbalize what’s wrong.
Am I dying? What if I’m having a heart attack? Will I black out? you wonder. Although nothing is physically wrong with you, it’s impossible to “think your way out” of these symptoms, and you experience a panic attack.
A panic attack does not feel the same for everybody who experiences one. However, many people report worrying that they might actually be dying. Some even go to the emergency room because they are caught off guard by a feeling of impending doom combined with their physical symptoms. It is typical to experience overwhelming fear and a sense of complete loss of control.
People will also react differently to panic attacks. Some may try to remain calm and wait for it to be over, while others will cry. If someone is in a crowded space, they will usually try to leave if they are able since a sense of claustrophobia can make their symptoms worse. As dizziness is also a common symptom, they may feel that they need to sit or lie down. They might also feel like they’re going to vomit.
Anxiety About Future Panic Attacks
The symptoms of a panic attack can fade on their own. Generally, someone suffering from a panic attack does not need immediate medical attention. This does not mean that what they’ve experienced can be dismissed as something that was “all in their head.”
While some who went through their first panic attack might feel confused or uncertain about what happened, one trend generally holds true for all: they will be nervous about the possibility that it can happen again. This is a completely normal human reaction to experiencing such an event.
Unfortunately, though, the mounting anxiety over a future panic attack can actually make one more likely.
This is why people who experience panic attacks often feel like they are trapped in a cycle. Worrying about a panic attack means that you are dealing with higher levels of anxiety. Therefore, you’re more vulnerable to experiencing another panic attack. And with every additional panic attack, those feelings of anxiety only grow stronger.
Breaking the Cycle of Panic Attacks
How can you finally free yourself from this cycle? Panic attacks have one thing in common- they all end. Anxiety tricks you into believing that there is danger when, in reality, your symptoms are extremely uncomfortable but not dangerous. When you are able to stand up to the anxiety, you will be able to break the cycle. It may be time to turn to a therapist for professional help. Having someone who is willing to work alongside you and be patient with you as you process your fears and anxieties can make all the difference in the world.
A therapist can also help you determine what may be triggering your anxiety and panic attacks. Equipped with that knowledge, you can work together on strategies to prevent them or how to use coping techniques to minimize them and eventually overcome them.
Are you struggling to break free from the cycle of anxiety and panic attacks? You do not have to go through this journey alone. Seeking professional health could be the right step for you. If you would like to know how I could help you, please feel free to contact me.