Knowing how an attack progresses is a tremendous help in arresting the attacks. It is highly typical of most sufferers to fear the unknown. How does the attack begin? Why does your entire body suddenly fritz out on you?
1. Believe it or not, a panic attack never happens in response to real danger. In Master Your Panic , Dr. Denise Beckfield says, “In a panic attack, the system reacts to an interpretation of danger at a time when there’s no objective danger.” It all starts with a small feeling of anxiety; a flutter in the heart, a pain in the arm, a brief feeling of unreality, etc.
2. Suddenly, your system goes on alert, especially if this is your second or fiftieth panic attack. You begin what iffing and body scanning. As you do this, your anxiety level increases and you discover more pains and imagined terrors.
3. In response to your what iffing and body scanning, your physical symptoms intensify. Breathing becomes more difficult, your heart races, your limbs go numb or whatever your particular symptoms are. IT IS IMPERATIVE that you arrest the process during stage two!
How do you stop the attack before reaching Stage Two?
SRB: Stop, Refocus, and Breathe
Physically hold your hand in the air and issue the command “Stop!” out loud if you have to. Reign in the what-iffing and body scanning. Tell yourself “I am on my way to a full blown attack, I AM NOT dying or going crazy.” Force your mind onto something else (naming the states, rearranging the furniture, whatever) and BREATHE! Your stomach should move if you are breathing correctly - place your hand on your stomach and breathe while your hand moves.
SRB works every time when I use it correctly and when I use it at Stage Two. You conditioned yourself to have panic attacks and you can condition yourself to stop them. It takes tremendous willpower and fortitude at times but it CAN be done!
Until next time, practice your breathing, make up your refocus techniques and never, ever forget that you are not alone!
June 10, 1999
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006