By Calvin Miller
Web Content Contributor
Have you ever been in a situation where your mind started racing, your heart seems to be pounding at 200 beats per minute, and you begin sweating? Worse yet, you have no idea what brought this on. Well, you may have experienced a panic attack. Which is not to be confused with an anxiety attack, even though both are very similar.
A Harvard Medical School article stated that “Panic [disorders are] a type of anxiety disorder. A person with panic disorder has panic attacks. These are repeated, unexpected episodes of intense fear and anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms that are similar to the body’s normal response to danger.” This sounds about right.
I remember my first panic attack when I was in 4th grade. I was sitting at my desk in school bored out of my mind listening to the teacher when I felt my heart beginning to race and everything around me seemed unreal. I put my hand on my heart and felt it pounding so fast. I could not understand what was happening. Then I interrupted the teacher and asked to go to the restroom, and I ran out of the room to recoup.
Fast forward to my mid-teens, from around the ages of 14 to my early adult years, and the panic attacks grew in severity and intensity. It got to a point that they occurred at least once per day, sometimes more. I could not stand going to class in high school because eventually, I would have to leave when an attack hit. There were days I would not be motivated because I would have a panic attack that would incapacitate me for the rest of the day.
This went on for years. After countless doctor visits, blood tests and even an MRI to check what was happening, which all came back normal. It boiled down to one thing, my mental well-being.
What I began to realize as I got older was that my panic attacks were not a curse or that I was crazy, but that they were an indicator. An indicator that something was wrong. I eventually discovered this around the age of 28. I tried cutting out different foods, exercising more, exercising less, different sleep routines, different everything. That is until I realized that once I began dealing with all the things in life that weighed on my mental psyche, nothing would change.
Then it began. I started dealing with issues from the past and owning up to what I did or expressing how I felt someone wronged me. This set in motion lots of unexpected and usually beneficial talks. I made amends where it was needed. I began squashing grudges with people that went on for years. I distanced myself or completely cut out others who were no longer beneficial to be around.
As the years progressed, I found my panic attacks beginning to ease and lessen. Now, I have not cut out everyone from my life, and no one is perfect. However, some people and relationships are extremely toxic and those either need to be fixed or done away with. The only way to correct a bad relationship is to face it head-on.
I then began changing my habits, my thought pattern, my outlook on life and how I viewed the world around me. I realized that for many years, I allowed other people’s negativity, bad attitudes and fear infect my mind which poisoned my mental well-being in a way I never knew was possible.
As I surrounded myself with better people, made newer and better friends, quit old habits, picked up better habits, learned new things, helped people, tried new things and quit living in fear of everything, life just became so much better. The panic attacks then became less frequent as a result.
Panic attacks to me are an indicator or a warning that my body sends when something is not going right and needs to be corrected. This will be different for everyone. Around 40 million people in the United States annually suffer from panic attacks (~12% of the population) and women are twice as likely to suffer from them as men. This can be for any number of reasons, but for me, I used to hold everything inside and let what was bugging me or hurting me just build inside which is not healthy, at all.
I have never been on medication for anxiety or panic attacks even though doctors have prescribed them for me. I knew for some reason that medicine wouldn’t fix the problem, even back when I was a teenager. I always knew that my panic attacks were for a reason but it took years to nail the reasons down. For me, panic attacks were a symptom of many unresolved issues. Some of which I still have, but nowhere near as many as I did back in my teens and twenties.
If you begin experiencing a panic attack and it feels like you are becoming detached from reality, here is what I do:
• Do not fight the panic attack, it’ll have to occur one way or another, let it run its course.
• I tell myself that everything is okay. That this will pass.
• Call someone when you’re having a panic attack. It can be a loved one or friend and just tell them that you need to talk and why. This helps bring you back to reality.
• Get away from other people or find a comfortable spot to ride out the attack.
• Breathe in and out slowly even though it may be difficult.
• Take a nap or excuse yourself from work if you need to. I’ve had panic attacks during the middle of a workday, and they can wipe a person out. It’s okay to break away but be upfront with your manager or bosses on what is going on.
I hope this helps anyone who may be suffering from anxiety and/or panic attacks on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I know when a panic attack hits it feels like death is imminent or that “you’re going crazy,” but in reality, your body is on overload. To me, panic attacks are a way for your brain to reset itself and relax the mental state. Panic attacks do not just start without a reason.
There’s always a reason for everything and if you suffer from them, it’s time to figure out why and begin rectifying those issues before the attacks hold you hostage for years to come.
Featured Image by Wordshore via CreativeCommons