Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Let's talk: Panic attacks

Turns out, I don't own a beanie, so I had to nick my dad's. I can pull it off right?
I remember my first panic attack well, I'm sure we all do? Or at least snippets. The first thing I remember, was thinking that I was dying. And then hearing my mum running up the stairs because she heard me struggling to breath. I honestly did think I was dying.

But I was so lucky my mum knew what was happening. She'd heard about these panic attacks before you see and she knew exactly what to do.

She told me not to panic (duh!) that I was having a panic attack and I can breath. And it was perfectly normal to experience this. She explained to me what was happening, told me to cup my hands over my nose and mouth and concentrate on my breathing until it slows down. All the while, she was blabbering on about some rubbish that happened in the soaps the night before! 

But it was amazing. And it worked. She's my rock with panic attacks since then.

Even a few days ago, when I had a really bad one. She knew exactly what to do. And Barney (my dog) came running. She kept saying, "look at him, he's worried about you. Keep stroking him so he knows you're okay." And bloody hell, did it work. Life saver that woman.

So what is a panic attack and why do we get them? 

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. I'm sure if you suffer with anxiety, you know there are a millions symptoms that come with it - sweating, being fidgety, dry mouth, fear, heart palpitations etc etc. Well panic attacks is just another one of those annoying symptoms. Your heart pounds really fast and you can't breath.Your breathing becomes faster and faster, and often, like I did that very first time, you feel like you are dying.

A list of symptoms of a panic attack:
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness 
  • Shortness of breath (obviously)
  • Choking sensations and nausea 
  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations) 
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness 
  • Fear
  • And sometimes, passing out. (But don't worry! This is just a result of panicking for a long period of time. There are so many techniques, which I'll talk about next week, that can help you before you reach this point.)

Understanding why they happen

Apart from being one of the absolute worst things to experience, panic attacks happen for a reason. It may be a stupid one. Irrational in fact. But there's ALWAYS a reason, even if you don't know it yet. As people like to often call them, they are "triggers". 

You know when you get anxious in room full of people? You feel fear. You get sweaty. Your heart beats faster. Sometimes, that can lead to a panic attack. There are so many examples of triggers that can set off a panic attacks, but it's important to know they're different for everyone. Maybe you don't get anxious in a room full of people? But you do get anxious public speaking?

I often get panic attacks when I see a spider. Crazy huh? What's a little spider going to do to me?

However, sometimes, panic attacks can seem to happen totally out of blue, without any warning. You may even be asleep at the time and it wakes you. And this can turn into a recurrent thing. If you've had a panic attack without warning while walking through the city, it may happen again and again, each time you walk through that city or crowd. This is usually because you feel endangered and like you are unable to escape. If you've had a panic attack in that setting before, it'll enhance this feeling.

But, what was the trigger? What caused this? Sometimes, we don't know. But that's okay. 

Regardless of the cause, panic attacks are treatable with help and techniques.

I have written a blog post about my techniques for dealing with panic attacks which I will post next week, so make sure you sign up to my bloglovin' to keep up-to-date. But first of all, go and identify your triggers. Keep a journal of panic attacks, anxiety and potential triggers. Think about why you had that panic attack or felt really anxious, what happened leading up to it? A few hours before or even a day before? There's always something. 


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