The Key to Overcoming Panic Attacks is to Stop Being Afraid of Them
Overcoming Panic Attacks is possible.
Panic Attacks are something the sufferer has inadvertently trained their survival instinct to record as threatening. This happened when it noticed something which reminded it of that first panic attack, sent a warning to the person and that person responded with raised negative arousal i.e. by becoming afraid it would happen again and then looking for the symptoms. (see supermarket drawing).
The means to overcoming panic attacks once and for all lies in retraining the survival instinct that having a panic attack is not dangerous. Easier said than done? Of course it takes a bit of persistence and also, the first time, bravery. But do you want your life back or not?
The information on this website about overcoming anxiety the Feelgood Way will take you through the necessary steps.
"Overcoming Anxiety the Feelgood Way"
Online video course to do in your own home at your own pace,
The key to overcoming panic attacks lies in first accepting the belief, as mentioned in Causes of Panic Attacks, that if you don't think about a panic attack, it can't happen.
For many years whilst attempting to control or overcome my own panics, I often thought I was doing just that and kept wondering why it didn't appear to be working.
Then one day it dawned on me - I wasn't actually not thinking about them.
I would typically have the automatic thought, "What if I panic?" which I had learnt to recognise as it happened. I would then try and block this out of my mind by deliberately concentrating on something else.
I recall on one occasion when in church during the wedding ceremony of one of my friends, I had the "What if...?" thought. Church was one of the places where I often had a panic attack as a child so my survival instinct would start trying to get me to think about them as soon as I sat down. On this occasion I was determined not to have to leave feeling faint. In order to keep my mind off panicking I set about trying to learn the next verse of each hymn whilst we were singing the one before.
This would work for a bit but the thought of panic kept coming back. I finally realised that I wasn't really not thinking about it because every now and then I would check to see if it had gone. That equalled thinking about it so in it would jump again. In addition, if you are trying to block something out you must be aware of it, otherwise how do you know you are blocking it?
It was only years later when having a wisdom tooth removed that I finally realised the error of my ways and never looked back. I have written about some of my experiences in My Story.
To help with overcoming panic attacks it is advisable for a sufferer to learn a technique, such as mindfulness, to help them not think about panicking. It is a skill which requires a bit of practice for success, but worth the effort. Before attempting to not think about panics, however, it is important to become consciously aware of those times when the "What if I panic?" thought jumps in.
After learning some mind control skills to use (more about these here), the next step is to catch the "What if...?" thought as early as possible, before the arousal level has had the chance to increase very much, and hopefully before the survival instinct has been activated fully. This gives the sufferer a better chance of reversing the process.
When overcoming panic attacks people often make the mistake of trying to conquer the hardest symptoms in the most difficult places first and then become despondent because they fail. Always begin at the easy end.
When that "What if...?" thought occurs, the body will tense as the arousal starts to increase. The sufferer must then immediately let their body go Dead Weight - like we all did as children if somebody went to pick us up and we didn't want them to. This relaxing of the muscles helps to tell the survival instinct that we are not buying into its warning and it starts to doubt. If the sufferer also moves their mind to other neutral matters (this is where the Mindfulness training helps) the survival instinct waivers. It may have another try at issuing its warning but as long as the person remains physically relaxed and keeps the mind on other things, the survival instinct will eventually assume it got it wrong and switch off again.
7 Steps to Overcoming Panic Attacks for Good
1. Catch it at the first "What if..." thought (before your survival instinct really kicks in)
2. Trust yourself. (You must believe that if you don't think about it then it must fade away. It is only your fear of it that fuels it.)
3. Let your body go dead weight (letting your survival instinct know that you are not buying into its warning)
4. Dare to refocus your thoughts onto a calm scene. Really go there and imagine sensations as well as just the scene.
5. Never check back to see if the panic has gone - if you do it will come back again.
6. Focus back onto the here and now - be in the moment
7. if another thought of panic occurs, do it all again... and again...
Eventually your survival instinct will get the message.
If this behaviour is repeated on each and every occasion, eventually all panic warnings will be deleted and panic attacks will largely be a thing of the past.
I say, largely, here because a panic attack sufferer will always have the potential to have an occasional attack if there are abnormal stress factors in their life, but they need not become a victim again if each is just dealt with calmly.
In my twenties I would have panic attacks when travelling on the London Underground. During some trips I would have to get off the train to compose myself and get back on the next one. When on the train it was a constant battle to keep calm between stations and I wouldn't go on them in the rush hour.
One day recently I found myself on the London Underground during the rush hour when the train stopped for a very long time in a tunnel. As I stood there reading the adverts and having sneaky looks at the other passengers, I recalled that once upon a time I'd have been panicking. And now I couldn't even make myself anxious at all.
The story of my own panic attacks and how I finally overcame them for good is available to read on this website. But if you would prefer to, you can download it as a pdf to read offline - see below.
FREE pdf download
How my panic attacks started and what I finally did to lose them for good.
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