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A Few Words on Panic Attacks

Dr. Steven C. Hayes wrote one of my favorite books on panic, anxiety and depression. The workbook is called Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. What I love about this text is he addresses the role language has in creating anxiety and panic. Language was designed to help us solve a problem like figuring out which tool to use to create a door for your cabin. But we began using language for all kinds of things to create panic. Like imagine the reaction you might have if you say to yourself, “You are going to run out of money.”

Many people don’t know for sure what thoughts they are having that are creating panic. This is often the first hurdle. But when they slow down and tune in, those thoughts begin to reveal themselves. It might start with a sensation you notice in your face that you decide to really focus on. Then it speaks, “People are judging you” it says.

For many people, the panic attack shows up when they start trying make themselves calm down. The more they try to calm themselves, the worse the anxiety gets until it becomes a full blown panic attack. Anxiety + (frantic) calming tactics = panic attack.

So what do you do instead of try to make yourself relax? Sit back and watch. Heart rate increasing. Face feels hot. Thought of my child being hurt. Thought that I’m not good enough. Heart rate slowing, heart rate increasing. When we name it and say it out loud, it helps. You are the one who’s stepped back watching. You become the wise part of you who is soaring over this battle rather than trying to insist on a certain outcome.

Panic attacks don’t really hurt us but it sure does feel like they will. Knowing what a panic attack is also helps. The first time it happens and you don’t know what it is, you can certainly be freaked out. Some people even see lights or things that aren’t really there and that can make them feel crazy. You aren’t going crazy. Another thing you can do is to try watching some YouTube videos on panic attacks to familiarize yourself like the one below:

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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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