So the first to posts were to make you familiar with a panic attack. This one will be more on what to do if you are having one or are with someone that is having one.
continued from What is a panic attack
ok so almost 4000 words, but some are borrowed.
there is a movie though 🙂
The most important thing to remember, is that a panic attack is not going to harm you. It may feel like your world is ending, or if you are comforting someone that is experiencing one, it will look that way. Next, and equally important. You are not going crazy, again you will feel that you are, your mind however, is fine.
The attack won’t last too long, normally five to twenty minutes. This of course varies. If it lasts longer you should seek medical assistance as there are physical conditions that can bring on a panic attack. If it is your first attack, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Lets review what is happening a bit. There could be chest pains, dizziness, choking, hyperventilation, feelings of doom that are so strong. Crying that is uncontrollable. The name panic fits perfectly.
Lets now split it up into two parts, what to do yourself and what you can do to help.
Starting with what you can do yourself. When alone.
Understanding what is occurring helps, knowing that you are not going crazy, it is a basic body function that is occurring. Remember this is the “fight or flight” response, the body is prepared for rapid response for survival. The brain sends the message and it only takes moments for the body to respond, blood pressure increases, pumping blood to muscle groups to energize them for action. Blood is actually drained away from some areas to pump up the muscles. Hence the stomach pains that will often occur as blood is drained from the abdominal area .
Your overwhelming fear or panic causes the signals to continue. The feeling of doom, helplessness, increased anxiety. All things that are good if you are in real trouble, but you are not. If only you can convince yourself of this. Sometimes you can. When that feeling of doom takes over, or your heart feels like it is going to explode, or you just cant breathe.. or start to choke or the feeling of being sick invades you. These things increase your panic, the attack grows in strength. More chemicals are released.
So, easy to say, but you need to take control back. Some can yell stop in their mind, focus on that word.
If you are actually running, stop. Here is a hard thing to do. If it is a crowd that starts it, don’t run from the crowd, don’t try to escape. Stay and control the attack. Otherwise crowds will become triggers, if they are now, try to stay and take control back. By control I mean control of breathing and thoughts.
Breathing is a problem. This also fuels the attack, those short fast breaths are pumping too much oxygen into your blood stream. You need to regain control of your breathing. Take a breath and hold it. Hold it as long as you can.. no don’t try to set Olympic records, count to ten. Then release it slowly. Do this again, concentrate on just breathing. Take a long slow deep breath and hold it, count in your mind to ten or even 15 and then release slowly, keep doing this. Always let the breath out slowly. Take very deep breaths, fill your lungs.
Breathing is often one of the first signs of an attack, if you take control right away, you can shorten the attack.
Now another hard thing to do. Act normal. As above, when you panic it fuels the attack, so act normal. I know, very hard to do. So lets help that a bit. Do some mundane thinking. recite the alphabet backwards in your head. or count from 100 down.. maybe by twos or threes to make it challenging, so you can concentrate on it more. Keep your mind busy on something that is not going to fuel the attack, don’t think about the party, the job, money… something very simple but that will use brain power to keep it occupied.
This is what the technique is called. It is nice to name them. 🙂
A accept the attack, it is here, don’t fight it, don’t fear it, yes you don’t like it. It will soon pass.
W wait, don’t run, it is going to pass. Relief will be here soon. Thinking during an attack is hard. So wait it out.
A action, taking control back, Breathing, maybe the most important part to take control of breathing back. Deep belly breaths. hold them. Stop hyperventilation. Then focus on something, something now, not something that may or may not happen. Don’t fear the yet to happen now. Use your mind, count blue cars, bricks on a building. If in a store, read labels, return to what you were doing as soon as you are able. You can take control of your body back as well, tense the muscles and then relax them. Chances are you are a statue during the attack. Start with a finger, tense it, wiggle it, then the hand.. the arm.. continue through your body.
R repeat, many say these techniques don’t work for them, the attack comes in waves so they think it is not working. So start over, you may need to do it a few times. But do it, take back control.
E end. yes there is an end, it will pass. remind yourself of that. No you are not going to make it end, but take control while the attack is underway and make yourself comfortable during the attack. Soon it will pass.
When the attack forms or begins, start counting backward, or sing a song even if in your head. Take control of your thinking.
Phone a friend, one that knows what you are going through, a contact person, a panic buddy. Attacks come on fast, so to have one with you is harder, but maybe they can come right away, or if they are there. TELL THEM. Going though it with someone with you is better, on the phone they can help you a lot. Only if they know. So tell them. So many go through this alone, because they are sure no one will understand. Maybe you have told someone and they didn’t understand, you can try again to explain it, maybe show them this or other articles. Make them understand how it rips you up. Try someone else. An aunt or uncle even. So you can hear a voice and work through it together.
Fear is the enemy, controlling it is virtually impossible. Hide under a blanket and concentrate on your breathing. Counting slowly backward, leave the world for a few minutes to control it. Don’t fight the attack, accept it and take back control. You are not going crazy. They are very common.
If you are having a lot of them, seek help please. Some meds can help short term, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is used to teach you to deal with it. Want some hope? 80% or more can eliminate their panic attacks with less than a dozen visits.
Helping the panicker
Now, how to help. To help someone that is experiencing a panic attack. Perhaps you are with them, maybe they called you, perhaps you can get there very soon, or if not, stay on the phone with them. Maybe they know they are going into a situation, a place or event where they suspect they will have one and have asked you along.
This is how you can help.
First, calm. no wait, you, not them. DON’T YOU DARE SAY TO THEM CALM DOWN. But you stay calm. If they could just calm down they would have.
DON’T ASK THEM WHY THEY ARE HAVING IT. This is something that can be discussed later, maybe not even today. Likely they don’t know themselves.
Don’t say there is nothing to worry about, nothing to panic about. They know that.
Don’t tell them they are over reacting, making a big deal of it.
Dont say relax. But help them to relax. Massage their back. Now everyone has different things that work. I will go into that more shortly, if you know what works to help them from prior conversations, then this is what you should be doing. Ask them what you can do to help them right now.
Walking with them may help, some may feel better sitting, ask. ASK.
Never tell. Just be there for them. Perhaps you can help them with their breathing, holding their breath, letting it out slowly. but if that annoys them. STOP. Remind them it will pass, and you are staying.
this video is fantastic. Take a peek
so, having someone to be with you, or support you during an attack is reassuring. Hearing their voice, or even texting. Being there is obviously better. If they are understanding and really help.
Why am I rambling on about that now?
Because many, most, that have panic attacks do so alone. Yes they come on quickly with no notice. But they often don’t share that with someone, often, because it is hard to share something that will not be understood.
When you tell someone you have panic attacks and they think it is like sneezing, to just stop it.. that doesn’t really make you want to share that information.
If you have someone you trust, someone that can support you during attacks, it is good to talk about it, so they know what helps you and what doesn’t. After the attack, when calm and it has really passed, go over what worked, what didn’t, maybe come up with ideas that will improve the response if it happens again.
I want to reblog a post from Lisa, her blog is forcingmyselfhappy.com/
The post is here
I wanted to write something about having relationships when you have anxiety/agoraphobia. (Something the title of this may have given you a clue to! )
When you suffer from Anxiety/agoraphobia as well as a lot of mental illnesses you often feel like you are not good enough or that you are unloveable.. erm just me?
For me then, I felt unlovable for a long time because I didn’t love myself. In fact I didn’t even particularly like myself.
I often had thoughts like “who could really love me?” especially when I was going through really bad periods of agoraphobia or anxiety and leaving my couch let alone my house felt like an impossibility. You know though, during the time I have been agoraphobic (about 10 years) I have had 3 relationships; one for 2 years, one for 3 and my latest one for 5 (TBC lol!) ..Oh! I have also met lots of friends on and offline and have continued to have relationships with friends I have known since before my anxiety.
For anyone who feels unlovable because they suffer from a mental illness I have a secret. You are absolutely loveable and most probably wonderful!!
I wont lie to you, I have met a couple of people (one person sticks in my mind quite clearly as I write this) who might just find it too much like hard work to date someone (Or even be friends with someone) with mental health problems. The way I see it is that it’s better to weed out these people right from the start because, well who would want to be friends (or date) someone so shallow and self involved anyway?
In a way, mental health problems are a good way of weeding out fair-weather friends!! *See.. See how I put a good spin on being mental?! *
Helping people without anxiety/agoraphobia understand your needs
*I am going to talk about anxiety/agoraphobia because that is what I am suffering from at the moment. I have had OCD, severe depression, phobias and many more mental health problems over the years but my anxiety and agoraphobia are what I am dealing with at the moment*
The thing is, people who have never suffered from anxiety or panic attacks just can’t understand how bad they feel. They think “well this doesn’t seem to be physically hurting you so why can’t you just get on with it?” If you are agoraphobic they might think “Ach.. it’s just leaving your house..it’s not like you are doing anything stressful”
I believe that most people are good and want to understand and help others. *I am a bit of an optimist when it comes to humans I must admit!* So, taking into account that people who don’t suffer from anxiety don’t have a clue what you are going through here are a few rules I now follow which make my life much much easier!
1. Tell people how you feel!!
I know this sounds really obvious but if you think about it we spend a lot of the time purposefully NOT telling people how we feel!!
“How are you?”
“Fine. How are you?”
Now.. how often have you had that conversation as you walk past someone on the street or chat to them on the phone and then go on to talk about everything under the sun rather than talk about how you are actually feeling.
I think the reason we do this is because we feel we don’t want to bore people with our problems. We might also feel that telling someone about our mental health makes us vulnerable. Actually it makes us stronger. If we tell people how we feel and they understand (as much as they can) then we have someone on our side that we don’t have to explain ourselves to when we can’t meet up with them or if dinner has to be at our house or if we are having a walk with them and have to flee ……
For years I never told anyone how I felt and secretly when they went home I would cry myself to sleep and I would cut myself just to feel something. I am not suffering from depression any more; I believe a big part of that is the fact I learned to trust people with my feelings and I also don’t self mutilate (It’s just not useful for me any more as a means of coping and I have allowed myself to feel. even though that has been pretty scary… I will talk more about that another time.. erm I think we were talking about relationships.. but as you know I ramble a LOT!)
So I would say rule number one when starting a new relationship with someone, whether it is a friendship or more. Is just tell them how you feel.
Letting people know how you feel can include how you feel about actually suffering from anxiety or letting them know about your symptoms. If you have a social phobia and get anxious when talking to people then I think it’s good to actually let them know. I once met up with a person with an almost crippling social phobia at a party. He was literally shaking as I went to talk to him. I told him that I suffered from anxiety and that sometimes that made it difficult to talk to people and he opened up and told me all about his social phobia. As soon as it was out he became more comfortable right away. If you are pretending everything is ok when it is really not and try to keep things inside your physical symptoms end up worse. By trying to not focus on what you are feeling it’s almost as if the feelings start waving to you shouting “hey ..I’m here.. deal with me!!”… If you do.. a lot of the time you can feel better.
This has been my experience but I know that some schools of thought are that you should try to think about other things as a distraction.. If that works for you then you should do that. I still think though it is good to tell people how you are feeling. You will be surprised at how many people will understand or at least be sympathetic. If they are not then they are probably not worth getting to know as a friend anyway at that point.
2. Let people know about your mental health problems
Usually in the first conversation I have with someone I will tell them that I have agoraphobia that I am working on and suffer from anxiety. I tell them other things about me too because my mental health in no way defines me. It has partially shaped me and can be limiting to an extent but it doesn’t mess too much with my sense of humour, intelligence and all the other things that make me me! (I realise that sounded a bit big headed there.. but actually I stopped myself from going on to list my other wonderful attributes!! )
I suppose this should have been first on my list really and actually I suppose telling people how you feel and telling people about a specific problem that can make you feel a certain way are pretty much connected… I really like lists though, so indulge me!
I suppose putting a name to things gives you a point of reference. If in the future you are with a friend and have an anxiety attack instead of listing all the things you are feeling you can tell them you are anxious or having a panic attack which will let them know and also save you from having to explain how you are feeling as you are trying to breathe properly from under your covers!
3. Tell people about the symptoms you might experience
Hmm.. I know for a fact this is something that makes me feel quite vulnerable when I tell people because the symptoms themselves make me feel really vulnerable when I am feeling them. They are not attractive particularly. *Unless you have a fetish for drooling shaking people* but they can’t be helped so if someone is going to know me, love me, care about me they should know what to expect if I have a panic attack.
-I feel that I can’t breath and my heart rate increases so I start to get red and my breathing gets gulpy.
-I get very fidgety, especially if I can’t escape e.g. If I am in a car
-I can start to drool (which is probably the most attractive thing I do!) because I am unable to swallow. I usually try to have a hanky with me so that I am not salivating all over myself!
-I might get to the point of crying. Actually by this point my anxiety usually gets a bit better because I am letting go.
I have had other symptoms but those are probably the ones people will notice.
4 Tell people what you want them to do when you are anxious
Know what helps you or what you use to help yourself. When you are anxious do you like the reassurance of someone to cuddle you or hold your hand or do you prefer people to leave you alone? Personally I usually prefer to be alone. If I am in the house I will go upstairs and try to calm myself by reading with my small kindle light or just lying in a dark room for a while. If I am still anxious after a while I will take medication. (I hope to be able to manage my anxiety attacks in the future without the use of medication but for now this is also an option for me). I find that icy water helps. If you hold an ice cube on your wrist it can cool you down and make you feel calmer. Each of you will have things that make you feel better so just let the people around you know what it best for you. I promise this is not a hassle for people. If someone loves you they wont want to see you suffering and will try to help you. Just think, if you saw someone you loved suffering you would do what you could to help them and you wouldn’t have to think twice about it. This is how people feel when you are suffering from anxiety.
5 Remember that people are only human and might not always react exactly as you might want them to
I remember being in the car with my partner as I was having an anxiety attack (with all the usual symptoms) She said something like “FFS you are almost home! Why are you panicking now?” I felt this to be particularly cruel.. While I was having the panic attack I thought “wow..it’s like she is kicking me when I’m down by getting angry while I am suffering”. She told me later that she felt very stressed. It stresses her when I am having a panic attack because she feels helpless. Actually, there isn’t much she can do when I am panicking. I did tell her thought that actually shouting or being pissed off will make me feel worse.
I know that when you are actually having a panic attack it’s almost as if your whole world focuses in on you, your symptoms, things that are making you feel worse, anxious thoughts that enter your mind etc.. but really the world is still inexorably trundling along and other people are feeling their own stresses and frustrations. I think it’s important to try to understand that people who care for you can also feel affected by your anxiety or they may be feeling stresses of there own as you are panicking, so even if you feel they should have been more understanding you should give them the benefit of the doubt.
Personally, I have found that because my partner has been honest with me about the way she feels this type of thing doesn’t really happen any more. So as well as telling your loved ones how you feel you should make sure to let them know that it’s ok to tell you how they feel too.
I’m pretty sure as soon as I switch my computer off I will think of loads of other ‘rules’ but that covers what was in my brain when I started writing.
If you have mental health problems how do you relate with others? Are you honest about your problems, anxieties, fears and phobias?
I would love to hear your stories
Love and light xxLisa
Thank you Lisa, that post was great! *hugs* 🙂
See, share. Don’t go through it alone. Let someone help. Tell them what helps.
I suspect I will do more posting on this, but I think this is long enough for now. 😉