Panic Disorder Reflections

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Even a subtle stirring of the tiger would terrify me — here we go again — and set off the familiar domino effect of anxiety, igniting in seconds. This is panic disorder. Taming the Red Tiger was a long road, requiring time, the application of many techniques, therapy, and deep reflection into why I responded so viciously to certain situations. Meditation and mindfulness played a significant role; I was able to see the individual components of panic. This changed my perspective.

Both of these approaches are extremely important, and I intend to write about them soon.

How you react to a panic attack can reduce collateral damage

Your reaction can make a significant difference in reducing collateral damage. For most of us, the reaction is shame, frustration and criticism. I spoke to a dear friend who had experienced panic recently. Her experience was painfully familiar — the fear being judged, acting erratically, losing control.

How to Halt and Minimize Panic Attacks

As my friend recalled the incident, I could tell she was disappointed through the subtle hum of frustration peppering her tone of voice. My reaction was to give her a warm hug and reassurance. Her reaction was to punish herself, as if she had done something wrong. The same incident, viewed from opposite ends of the empathy spectrum.

Panic Attack Aftermath: Cultivate Compassion And Stop The Shame Spiral

Then it struck me — the key difference between where I was and where I am on the path to free from panic, is self-compassion. Many of the most caring people I know treat themselves in a manner they would never dream of treating a stranger, let alone someone they love. This is deeply upsetting. All of us deserve compassion. It makes us feel bad, lowers our self-esteem. We are extremely vulnerable in the panic attack aftermath.

Our systems are in recovery mode. We are in a sensitive emotional state. We are more than likely feeling a little lost, a little out of control. An instinctive, habitual reaction of self-criticism only intensifies this state.

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After all, panic attacks are grim. A Buddhist parable in the Sallatha Sutta illustrates the importance of how we react to misfortunate. Pain and suffering is compared to two arrows. The first arrow is unavoidable — this is pain. The second arrow is the unnecessary suffering caused by our reaction to pain. This is avoidable. Using this parable, the panic attack is the first arrow.

Granted, there are tools and techniques to manage anxiety. The focus is on the second arrow — how we interpret the panic attack. We feel we fluffed an important interview due to anxiety. We spend an evening with friends, but instead of relaxing, feel forced, unable to relax. Because panic attacks are intrusive and debilitating, the fallout can be huge, making the second arrow of suffering harmful and difficult to avoid. In my experience, the typical self-critical ripple of suffering consists of cognitive , emotional and energetic responses:.

The combination of these responses is the second arrow; panic leads to self-criticism, self-criticism leads to shame, self-worth plummets, low-self worth leads to feeling unable to cope, feeling unable to cope leads to heightened anxiety.

Those thoughts can feel real. All of these thoughts and beliefs are the second arrow of suffering which can be avoided. Compassion catches the second arrow mid-air. Compassion dilutes the sense of shame and views panic from a more gentle perspective. The below journal exercise is designed to reframe your thinking from a place of criticism to a place of compassion, reducing the cognitive ripple:.

Exercise: Journal A Different Perspective. Without planning or worrying about legibility, write about your panic attack experience as soon as you can. Allow all judgements or critical thoughts to rise to the surface in a stream of consciousness. Panic attacks often have a very abrupt onset and usually resolve over the course of minutes rather than hours.

They are often, but not always, experienced as physical symptoms, such as rapid or skipped heartbeat, difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest, dizziness, muscular tension and sweating. They are simply intense anxiety, the symptoms are real expressions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. When someone experiences a panic attack there is also an emotional response which is driven by perceptions of threat or danger.

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Panic attacks are not dangerous in and of themselves. They are simply intense anxiety, and the symptoms are real expressions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activating and regulating.

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An increase in heart rate occurs to improve the delivery of oxygen to our muscles to prepare for action like fight or flight. More oxygen is therefore needed and so breathing rate is increased, resulting in a sense of breathlessness and tightness in the chest.

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As oxygen is directed to the core and muscles, supply can proportionately decrease to the head, leading to symptoms of dizziness. The expression of these symptoms will self-regulate, so all panic attacks will cease. Again, this serves the function of having the body be prepared to reactivate for any other perceived or real threat. It may be that through reflection you can use the panic attack as a signal to examine what is happening to lead to the physical or emotional stress in your life, and perhaps make some changes.

Here are Medical News Today 's tips for coping with panic disorder. The first step in overcoming your panic disorder symptoms is to understand what is happening in your body when you experience an attack. Gathering knowledge about the disorder and working out your underlying triggers can be a starting point for dealing with the condition. Anxiety is a normal part of the body's "fight-or-flight" response to uncertainty, feeling unprepared, or trouble, which prepares us to act quickly in the face of danger.

Panic disorder results from misinterpreting sensations linked with the fight-or-flight response as dangerous, which triggers an uncomfortable and often frightening barrage of symptoms - also known as a panic attack. Living in fear of having a panic attack and therefore avoiding situations that may cause them can often create more situations and more avoidance in a never-ending cycle of fear and anxiety.

While the response may make you feel as though you are going crazy or dying, you are not. Once you understand what panic disorder is and why you are experiencing the symptoms, you can begin to learn to cope with them. The goal is not to eliminate the attacks, but to find a way to manage them without fear. Relaxation strategies can also halt the production of stress hormones such as adrenalin, which proves that we are not in any danger.

When we are anxious, we tend to breathe faster, or even hyperventilate. This is commonly called overbreathing, and it can cause us to feel lightheaded and dizzy, and even more anxious as a result.