The Truth about Panic Attacks

Published: 26th May 2006
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Unlike so many people on the Internet, I don't claim to have discovered THE CURE for panic attacks and other anxiety states. I do offer you a beautifully simple insight into panic which will change your reaction to it. Immediately you'll start you on the path to calm. The
insight?
              
"Accept your panic symptoms and ….they'll go. Fight them,
and they'll intensify."


Look at that word 'intensify'. It's about tensing up. Becoming worried and even more panicky about….what? Your feelings of panic. Once you really realise, once the 'ah ha' moment happens for you, you'll see that although they're unwelcome, uninvited and not appropriate to the situation, your feelings of terror and panic are just that: they're only feelings. They can't harm you.


Yes, they're unpleasant.

Yes, I know you don't want them.

But tell me this, my sweet one, "in the past, has tensing up and worrying even more about feeling panicky helped those feelings to dissipate?" Your answer? I know it's NO.

Just so you're very clear: tensing up and fighting your symptoms of panic help will NOT HELP YOU today, or in the future. Before I tell you more, let me acknowledge that this insight is not mine. There is a book on the Internet which is based entirely on that one insight. The person selling his e-book for $47US claims that it's his discovery to send panic away. The truth? The truth has become a very rare commodity on the Internet, the truth is that many, many people have known that insight for decades. For instance, over thirty years ago, an Australian General Practitioner (GP) Claire Weekes gave that insightful advice to many hundreds of thousands of people through her books, recordings and through the self-help groups she established.
She advised people who experienced episodes of panic to do the opposite of what they had been doing, namely fighting and resisting the feelings of panic. Instead, they should float into their panic,and welcome it like an old friend who can do us no harm.

Dr Weekes knew that if you experience those terrifying fear-filled symptoms you know that there's nothing to fear. That's at a rational level. At an emotional level, she knew that you still feel overwhelmed. For many people, the fact that they can't explain why they feel so terrified is often the most upsetting.  I go into a lot more detail about her approach in my self-help kit Calming Words, but applying the approach in this article will make a huge difference to your attitude to, and your ability to manage, your episodes of panic, terror and anxiety.

Fear of fear itself

Once you accept that there is no real danger, you'll see that your real fear is the fear of the actual panicky feelings. If you could just let those inappropriate messages of fear come and do their worst, you'd learn how to send those fears packing.

So to summarise, offer no resistance. Accept. Flow. When your pulse races, your heart pounds, your tummy goes queasy, your mouth dries up….do the opposite of what you normally do. Instead of panicking even more "oh no, I'm in the middle of another of those attacks" do this.

                                                    STOP.


Mimic Mother Nature – flow with the hurricane

Just as the grass and the trees sway with the wind, rather than rigidly resist it, let your fear feelings come. Then, just observe what happens without offering any resistance to those feelings.

You might want to practise this at home alone a few times and you'll see how well it works. I know you can make yourself feel great fear just by remembering the last time you were terrified. Bring those memories back. Feel those symptoms and now…. just accept them.


That's right. I'm asking you to do the very opposite to what you'd normally think of doing. I'm not saying TRY to do anything. I'm not saying try to relax. I'm not saying try to divert yourself from your fear-filled thoughts.

I am saying – do absolutely nothing. Accept your feelings. It's marvellous.

Just to be clear about this, Dr Weekes was not saying, and I am not saying: "here is THE CURE for panic attack symptoms." We can leave silly claims like that to people who call their approach The ___ Method. The simple truth is that the way to escape fear is to float with it.


Use of diversion

A quick note to those of you who use diversionary tactics to …well, to divert you from the intense feelings of fear amounting to terror for some of you. Maybe you count backwards from a hundred to one in Greek, or count the bricks in the wall. Doesn't matter. By all means keep doing that if you think it helps. My unsolicited advice?  It may help in the short term. Longer term it is just that – a diversion. All those tactics act in an insidious way to keep the panic with you. They even become as much an habituated response as the panic itself.  More of that in another article.

When you recognise your role in your own panic episodes, you're 90% closer to the solution, to a life in which being in the grip of panic will be part of your past. Next time you feel the first fluttering of fear and panic think to yourself:

"I know you. You're nothing to panic about. Come on and do your worst. I know you can't harm me. You're just some throw back to the days when I might have needed to run away from the sabre toothed tiger."

It seems almost cruel to tell you but if you've been experiencing anxiety and panic for a while, I have to let you know that you are the main reason that your fears stay with you.

It is your fear of the fear-filled symptoms that keep your fear going.

You're the major part of your problem. But you are also the total solution.


It's all in the mind

As I point out in my e-book Calming Words, at www.calmingwords.com if you feel terrified standing in that queue at the supermarket, or sitting in the middle of the row at the cinema, the feelings you feel are fine.

Those feelings are a perfect reaction to…danger.

But there's no real danger in the Supermarket – apart from the ever-increasing cost of goods. Your mind sent the wrong message "danger, danger" to your body. Your body has then had the right reaction to the danger message.

To end with the good news: those messages can be rewritten, re-learned.
 








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