Guess who’s back, back again… I haven’t written in here for more than a month* now, but I have been writing. I’ve been working on some exciting projects, I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old ones, read many books (or as many as having a corneal ulcer for a while allowed… more on that later), had conversations so satisfying they felt like accomplishments and overall learned a lot. Today I want to talk about panic.
*plot twist- even this post is an old post
If you’re a real Panic at the Disco fan, name 5 discos they panicked in. Thought so…
Jokes aside, panic attacks can also happen at clubs. They can happen anywhere and be triggered by anything. However, most times, other people won’t be able to tell you’re having a panic attack unless they know you very very very very well.
What even are panic attacks though? Glad you asked. Yes, majoring in Psychology automatically means I’m granted the right to read minds.
Referring to my handy dandy (I can’t believe I actually just said that) Oxford psychology dictionary, a panic attack is a period during which there’s a sudden onset of intense terror, fear, apprehension accompanied by signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, fear of dying, increased heart rate, etc.
I find them extremely interesting to research, the reason being anxiety’s nature, anxiety isn’t inherently bad, it’s our bodies’ normal response to danger, however, panic attacks and anxiety disorders run on our disability to distinguish real danger apart from well, perceived danger. So, our bodies are having the same reaction they’d have if a bunch of wolves was chasing us down.
What’s up with that, body, huh? I thought we were friends?!
“But we are, I loooooooove you”, body replied.
Our bodies and minds really do love us and fight their hardest to keep us standing, case in point being eating disorders. Somehow, we manage to live through them and thrive, despite how much we might’ve fucked our bodies up at certain times of our lives. Similarly, depression, or any other mental health issue. Our insides are rooting for us!
Actually, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute our bodies could go on functioning normally for days, even weeks, at 200 bpm. You’re not going to have a heart attack, and you’re not going to die, even though that’s exactly what it feels like.
Remember, a panic attack in itself is harmless and a little bit of anxiety is completely normal and even healthy. It prepares us for important events and milestones, you can see how if we failed to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not, we’d be in trouble.
So the goal is to learn to live with them (and what we can do about it) rather than try to avoid panic reactions or anxiety.
Managing your panic attacks
First of all (lol), there’s nothing you can do to avoid a panic attack because usually, it will feel like they came out of nowhere. It’s true that they usually coexist with a mental disorder, but they’re not caused by anxiety.
A technique that has proved very very very *contemplates whether I should add another very* effective is progressive relaxation, tensing and relaxing your muscles during the day for up to 30 minutes can significantly decrease the frequency of panic attacks.
When you are having a panic attack, it’s helpful to remember you’re not going to faint, or “go crazy”, or die. It’ll be over soon and whereas trying to breathe mindfully and relax help, remember, panic attacks aren’t dangerous. It doesn’t feel that way, but you’re not going to lose control, you can still leave your class, stop the car, get out of the supermarket,
YOU ARE IN CONTROL.
Things that help are noting:
* When it happened * How the situation was and where you were and who you were with * Evaluating the fear from 0 to 100% * What was happening in your mind and what were you thinking would happen. Exposure to triggers is helpful to build healthy reactions to them, for example, if going to a certain place causes you to panic, you can try going there for shorter periods of time and evaluating your fear each time, not overwhelming yourself and looking for quick progress is key.
Decatastrophizing also: yes, you thought the worse would happen, but did it happen?! What are the actual chances of it happening? Would it be very horrible if it did happen, for example, you stumbled upon your words when interacting with someone else, i.e. ordering a drink? As the name suggests, evaluating if it is a catastrophe. I have so much more helpful information to share on this, but patience, dear child, patience.
Other people having a panic attack
Someone who suffers from panic disorder, said: “I wished people would just hug me and tell me it’s going to okay, not it’s okay or are you okay”. Obviously, some people don’t like to be touched and respecting physical boundaries is very important, but the other part I think we could all agree on. For a lot of people, myself included, being asked whether we’re okay causes even more anxiety.
Like I mentioned, unless they know you very well, other people won’t be able to tell you’re having a panic attack (which I find particularly relieving). Reassurance and support are your weapons, just make sure you know what your loved ones would prefer you do if you notice or they tell you they’re having a panic attack. After all, you’re not lying to make them feel better in the moment.