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Panic Attacks

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I've been seeing a lot on this board about panic attacks, and as someone who has had them and learned how to deal with them I thought I'd share a bit of that with people here.

A panic or anxiety attack is the most radical and quick acting physiological reaction the human body can have to fear.  As people who have know true and profound fear we survivors are more prone to them than most.  It's a part of Rape Trauma syndrome.  If you have them, you are not alone.  Most people here have had them.

During a panic attack, the entire body and every major system is affected.  Cardiovascular-Heart beats faster, Respiritory-Start breathing quick and shallow.  Digestive-The entire digestive system shuts down, which is why many people who have a lot of them lose their appetites.  

Some signs of panic attacks that I know of are.

1.) Heart beating quickly or seems to be skipping a beat.

2.) Difficulty breathing or catching your breath.

3.) Constant shaking and/or twitching

4.) Can't think straight: Can't make decisions or too many thoughts bouncing around in your head.

5.) Dry mouth, hard to swallow

6.) Tingling in the hands, feet or other parts of the body (I get it in my back)

7.) Tense muscles, clenched jaws

There are many more, but these are some of the major ones.  Keep in mind, you don't need to have all of these to be having a panic attack.  A friend of mine only has difficulty breathing but she was diagnosed as having panic attacks.  If you have some of these symptoms you should definitely talk to a counselor about them.

I have some techniques that have helped me, but first some thoughts on dealing with them.

1.) It's OK to be having them.  It doesn't make you wierd or abnormal.  You'd be surprised at how many people have them.  In fact, I had dinner with three other girlfriends and told them about my panic attacks, and they all told me that they also have panic attacks.  We decided that only BORING people don't have them.

2.) A lot of people are terrified of having one in public, at work or school etc.  First of all, even though you feel like you are going nuts, there are few outward symptoms. If you are terrified of having one in public give yourself permission to go to the bathroom and spend some time by yourself.  

3.) A lot of people are terrified of having them.  Look at it as practice, to gain control of them and learn techniques to deal with them, what works, what doesn't. Fearing them gives the panic reaction more power over you than it deserves.

4.) Putting pressure on yourself to deal with them RIGHT now is not a great idea.  It makes them worse.  Try and give yourself permission to have them wherever you are.  Permission to step aside, go to the bathroom, go outside...whatever makes you comfortable.

Anyway...some things that have helped me.

Breathing techniques.  This is so important.  

Taking deep breaths from the stomach, not the lungs.  Lie down and watch your tummy move up and down to practice these deep breaths.  Someone gave the tip of lying down with a book on your stomach and watching the book.  I don't remember who, but I can't take credit for this brilliant idea.

I try to stay focused on my breathing, by counting the breaths or just thinking.

I might inhale and thing "Focused" Exhale and think "Centered"

Sometimes I inhale and think "It's going to be..." Exhale..."Okay"

Also...

Some really simple repetitive task can help.  At work, I used to make flashcards.  Dull, but focusing.  One good idea might be to organize all of the change in your pockets.  Put the pennies in year order, then the nickels, then the dimes, then the quarters.  Just a stupid non-thinking but focusing task.  Count how many people are wearing red and how many are wearing blue and compare the numbers...I don't know...something to hold on to.

I've heard meditation can help.  I've never tried it though.  Anyone?

While you try these it's important to think positively.  Thinking "Why isn't this working?  It has to start working!" doesn't help and makes the situation worse.  It may take a few minutes, it may take more.  That doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong.  It just means that it's taking time.

Also, getting to know your physical symptoms helps.  I know that the first sign of an attack is tingling in my back, and my hair standing up on end.  If that happens, I start breathing right away, making tea for myself doing a few of the herbal rememdies.

Any other suggestions out there?  I think panic attacks are a real problem for people here.

Since I am a great believer in herbal medicine, I tried some herbal remedies.  I know a great herbologist who can fix up packages to anyone who needs help.  He'd include lots of different things, including Kava Kava, and an herbal sleep aid.  He's part of my family and he makes these himself.  Let me know if you want any.

If not there are some herbal things available at most grocery stores.

1. Celestial Seasonings Wellness Tea, Tension Tamer Extra with Kava Kava.  This tea is quite helpful.  For trouble sleeping, try the Sleepytime Extra by the same people.  They should be Extra, not the regular stuff.

2.) Lavender Essential Oil.  I wore it as perfume for a month straight.  It's a very calming scent.

3.) I think Tom's of Maine has come out with some herbal tonics that you could try.

4.) At health food stores, you may be able to find something called Rescue Remedy.  It's a liquid stress reliever.  It's small enough to fit in a pocket or purse, and all you have to do is put a few drops under your tongue.

I must add that I still carry a big bottle of Ativan around with me.  Even though I am a great believer in herbal remedies, an appropriate med can do a world of good.

Please if you are having them, talk to a counselor or go call RAINN.  They will be able to direct you further.  These are just a few little things that have helped me.  I'm not at all a professional expert.

Does anyone have any book suggestions?  I know there are good ones out there.  I read Don't Panic by R. Reid Wilson, but there are others out there that are more specific to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that would probably be more helpful.

I hope this helps people.  Panic attacks are controllable.  Good luck and email me if you need anything.  mistralmistral@hotmail.com.  If you want herbal remedies you can email me to discuss them since I have taken them, or TheRosemaryHouse@aol.com to request information.

Mistral

(Edited by mistral at 6:42 pm on June 24, 2001)

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One way I have coped with panic attacks is by reciting my times tables out loud, or reading something out loud. I know it might sound corny, but it has worked for me :cheesy:  Hope this helps some!

With love,

sharon

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Thanks Mistral. After reading this post, I have decided you are right. I am having panic attacks. Will try and use your suggestions to calm them.

Natalie

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Panic Attacks

A panic or anxiety attack is a radical and quick acting physiological reaction the human body can have when we feel fear. As people who have know true and profound fear we survivors are more prone to them than most. If you have them, you are not alone. Most survivors have had them.

# Signs of A Panic Attack Your heart may be beating quickly or seem to be skipping beats.

# You may have difficulty breathing or catching your breath.

# Constant shaking and/or twitching

# You may feel like you can't think straight, like you can't make decisions or have too many thoughts bouncing around in your head.

# Your mouth may become dry and you may find it hard to swallow.

# You may feel ingling in the hands, feet or other parts of the body (I get it in my back)

# Tense muscles, clenched jaws.

There are many more, but these are some of the major ones. Keep in mind, you don't need to have all of these to be having a panic attack. A friend of mine only has difficulty breathing but she was diagnosed as having panic attacks. If you have some of these symptoms I hope you'll talk to a counselor about them.

Thoughts on Confronting Panic Attacks

* It's OK to be having them. It doesn't make you wierd or abnormal. You'd be surprised at how many people have them. In fact, I had dinner with three other girlfriends and told them about my panic attacks, and they all told me that they also have panic attacks. We decided that only boring people don't have them.

* Many of us fear having one in public, at work or school etc. First of all, even though you feel like you are going nuts, there are few outward symptoms. If you are scared of having one in public give yourself permission to go to the bathroom and spend some time by yourself.

* A lot of people are terrified of having them. Look at it as practice, to gain control of them and learn techniques to deal with them, what works, what doesn't. Fearing them gives the panic reaction more power over you than it deserves.

* Putting pressure on yourself to deal with them RIGHT now is not a great idea. It makes them worse. Try and give yourself permission to have them wherever you are. Find a quiet place, go to the bathroom, go outside. Do whatever makes you comfortable.

* If you are going to be in a stressful situation and fear panicking, it may help to visualize yourself going through the experience calmly before it actually occurs.

If You are Panicking

* Take deep breaths from the stomach, not the lungs. Lie down and watch your tummy move up and down to practice these deep breaths. Someone gave the tip of lying down with a book on your stomach and watching the book. I don't remember who, but I can't take credit for this brilliant idea.

* I try to stay focused on my breathing, by counting the breaths or just thinking.

* I might inhale and thing "Focused" Exhale and think "Centered"

* Sometimes I inhale and think "It's going to be..." Exhale..."Okay"

* Simple repetitive tasks can help. At work, I used to make flashcards for my students, which is dull but focusing. One good idea might be to organize all of the change in your pockets. Put the pennies in year order, then the nickels, then the dimes, then the quarters. Just a stupid non-thinking but focusing task. Count how many people are wearing red and how many are wearing blue and compare the numbers.

* Herbal remedies have helped me. Lavendar essential oil is a very calming scent. I used to wear it constantly. In addition, I like Rescue Remedy, which is a natural solution for stressful moments. However, my doctor did prescribe medication for me and I carried it around with me for months, just in case I had an attack.

While you try these it's important to think positively. Thinking "Why isn't this working? It has to start working!" doesn't help and makes the situation worse. It may take a few minutes, it may take more. That doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong. It just means that it's taking time.

-Jes

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Mistral,

Thank you so much for bringing this thread back to the top. I had to chuckle though...I was the one that suggested lying down with a book on your stomach and watching the book rise to make sure you're breathing right :) I think tomorrow I will go buy some lavendar essential oil. I like the idea of wearing it as a perfume. Lately I can use all the calming, stress/tension relieving help I can get.Sleepy Time Extra...I didn't even know that they made that. I have regular sleepy time, but extra sounds right up my alley! Thank you SO much! (((((((safe hugs))))))))) Rain

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Thank you so much ((Mistral))

I read this before but I've just started having panic attacks. Being armed with this information makes me much less afraid.

*safe hugs*

CA

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Hi peole

Just boosting this up for MzLizz.

Mistral, you always put up such healing, wonderful threads.

Thankyou.

Love

Rachel xxx

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Thank you for boosting this up Rachel : )

Mistral!!!  Bless your heart!  I was sure I was just going nuts.  My aunt had panic attacks but here symptoms were totally different than mine so I thought I must have something else wrong.  I am going to try to pay attantion to my triggers and to the warning signs of one coming on.  (though I am sure one of them is my boss and he is totally unavoidable!)  

I have been losing my appetite and I had no clue that was a symptom, and although it is nice that my jeans fit, it's only cause I'm queezy all the time and that is no fun.

I love lavendar and I am going to buy some this weekend!

I think I may also see a doctor cause I clenched my jaw so tight last night it took my almost 30 minutes to be able to talk this morning.  Ouch :(  I might need a mouth guard.

thank you again!

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Something I do to stop thoughts and such:

I visualize a red stop sign while thinking "Stop!", then I visualize an orange one (the shape, the outline, the S-T-O-P, the color), then I move to yellow and on through the rainbow..

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booost

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Does anyone know a correlation between "panic disorder " and abuse?  I have been diagnosed with panic disorder (which is where the brain's fight or flight mechanisms get messed up and a perfectly normal situation (without a trigger) can provoke a panic attack.)  I used to have them several times a day (and be absloutely deblitated) but with therapy, klonopin and accupuncture they are much more under control. I have read some research on how PTSD can actually change our brain patterns. How stress has a physical reaction on our bodies.  Does anyone know of any other research about this?

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Something that has really worked for me has been to focus on taking things one step at a time.  Sometimes, I'll be in public and I'll have one.  I'll repeat over and over "I made it through that minute, I can make it through the next moment"  That thought resonates and I realized that I can make it.  If we try to push it, that doesn't help but its the little reminders that gradually help relieve the fear and anxiety.

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I'm a 21 yr. old female who has panic attacks so badly that i have them when visiting my 10 yr old sister! i currently now go to counseling, but have been to counseling 3 times before this and it never worked before.. i have lost jobs and friends. i can't hold a job. i am now starting to lean towards wanting to drink or do other things to take my mind off of my problems. i noticed this the other day. i want relief but can't find any.. i have been in KidsPeace for depression/suicide. I have been on Paxil and Prozac. I have been diagnosed w/ depression/anxiety disorder/post traumatic stress disorder. what could i do that would help ease the stress of this just a little bit? anything would be better than what i'm dealing with...

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A boost and some more coping techniques, insight, etc.  I am also diagnosed with panic disorder.  I have had panic attacks for years, so far back that I can't remember my first one.  In the beginning they were few and far between, but since June of this year, after the most severe attack I've ever had, they are much more frequent and coupled with a constant state of high anxiety that stops just short of being panic.  

I tried meds - 4 different kinds - all with even worse side effects than the actual attacks.  I am now in cognitive behavioral therapy and it is slowly, but surely, helping.  It is something I highly suggest.  I also recommend finding some good audiotapes and/or books on boosting your self esteem.  I rented an audiotape series from the library (free!) and I listen to it every day when I am in my car.  I find that it helps me feel so much more empowered, which is something that we, as survivors, desperately need.

Some of my own coping techniques are:  Becoming educated about the disorder.  I read everything I can about it, learn about the symptoms (in order to remind myself that what I am feeling is NOT a heart attack or a stroke, etc, other peoples' fears, techniques, etc.  It really helps to know that I am not a "weirdo" and that many, many others suffer from this disorder.

When I feel an attack coming on, something that really helps is playing a game, usually online.  It keeps my mind and body focused on something other than my physical symptoms.  Another thing that helps is motion.  Rocking back and forth, hugging myself, writing, etc.  Helps to expel some of that excess adrenaline.  I have a problem with dissociating, so making sure that I stay grounded is a big thing for me.  I try to touch and feel "real" things around me, talk to someone, touch myself, touch someone else.  And the most helpful coping technique I have is to constantly remind myself that this is only temporary.  It WILL pass.  I have had numerous attacks and I have gotten through each and every one of them - and you will too.

(((HUGS))) to you all.

Bobbi

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Bobbi, that's a good point.  When I get a panic attack, I always feel like I'll never get through it, it will never end.  But it always does.

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A boost for an awesome topic and a few of my techniques for dealing with mine!

Definitely breathing.  I remind myself "All you have to do is breathe in...and breathe out..."  I also try to remind myself to keep my body as relaxed as possible.

I have some objects, particularly an amythyst stone that I can rub with my thumb, and sometimes physically doing something will help me stay present.

I also have a list of things to do if I feel panicked.  Keep it everywhere -- wallet, planner, all over the house.  Here's mine:

1) Breathe

2) Drink a glass of water

3) Call Rebecca 111-1111.  If she's not home, call Kaye 222-2222 or Lu 333-3333

4) RAINN: 800-656-HOPE

5) Take a shower

6) Get your teddy bear and blanket

7) Put on your cloak (a piece of comfort clothing for me)

8) Make hot chocolate

9) Take a shower (no idea why, but sometimes it helps)

10) Make cookies (comfort activity)

Both meditation and exercise have been great as longer-term strategies for helping to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.

Hope this is helpful!

(((((hugs to all)))))

DancingWolfGrrl

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I am angry!  I am angry that I have allowed my anger to destroy my relationship with a man I adore.  I am angry that I didn’t recognize it sooner.  I allowed my frequent outbursts to destroy my future with my past.  He is scared of me, I am scared of me.  The night it became clear, I slapped him three times, I tried to jump from a vehicle he was driving, I became consumed with fear and I wanted to explode, who cares what triggered it!  I wanted to allow the cruelties of life to swallow me up, I wanted to disappear and walk out into the woods into the middle of no where and be completely gone. I told him I wanted to die after slapping him three times in the face and I at one point tried to think he was responsible for the trigger, who cares what the trigger is, it can be triggered is my concern.  I wanted to disappear I wanted to die, he wanted to get as far away from me as he could, I wanted him to fix me.  He actually called the state police because he was afraid I was going to harm myself.  Anger has been slowly building in me, my entire life.  I have been mad at my mother for not protecting me, I have been enraged with the men who have abused me, I am enraged about the abuse of my peers and the abuse of my family.  I am pissed that my mother was so angry in her own life she took it out on us the same way I took it out on my love.  I am now aware of this anger and I know I need to get help.  I am so disgusted with myself for hurting him.  He is my heart and I have torn him apart and made him look like my pain.  I have enraged a person and made him cold.  I want to fix this.  I want him to understand I want to fix it.  I want him to believe in me and us again.  I know this anger is a stage of rape.  I was raped last year and I have no clear recollection of it, I am involved in the case very much and we are about to arrest the suspect after 13 months of waiting to get DNA results.  I know, now I am in that stage, how do I get out of it in tact?  How do I heal my lover?  I am in counseling and I am trying so hard to do all of these things and I know I will be able to heal and I have found out that without my anger surfacing I would not have reached this stage of healing after my rape.  How do I show him I am worthy of his love, how do I give him the confidence in me again?  At what point will he understand?  And is it fair of me to ask a person to forgive me when I have hurt him?  How can I even dare to ask him to try to see past his fear and pain? I have allowed my anger to push me to being an offender!

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I had a panic attack yesterday. I wish I would have had some of these tips. First full exam since the incident. I guess it hit me harder than I thought. Luckily, the nurse was aware of my situation and helped me through it. But thanks for the advice in this thread. I can use it next time I come upon a big obstacle.

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Just a ***boost*** so I can actually find this again when I have time to read it all. :)

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A useful thread, thank you :)

A question though - do you think we could do a thread like this but dealing with triggers and flashbacks?

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One thing taht helps me is taking a shower with my lavender soap (my second cousin has a soap making kit and she made me lavender), smelling my wrist if i have lavender perfume on(i told her this summer at a fam reunion and she heard that helps calm people down so that is what i got for christmas) and chewing gum and concentrating on chewing it is something i just found to calm me down.

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I don't have any suggestions that haven't been mentioned already, but I do have an ironic observation to make.  I read somewhere (here, I'm sure) that Kava Kava helps.  So, I bought a bottle, & started keeping a couple in my pocket or purse at all times.

And guess what?  It really helps!  I haven't had a panic attack since I bought it! lol.  Oh, the irony...**sigh**

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small comment (not very related, but I wanted to mention it):

a lot of countries (US, UK, Germany, some other European countries) are either banning Kava Kava or at least advising against taking it because they think it may cause serious liver damage in isolated cases of healthy people.  just thought you might like to know that.  (found this out when I was looking into it this past summer.  I also thought it might be a good way to calm down.)

Also...  (since I want to at least mention something about the topic) I like to hug or pet stuffed animals when I'm upset.  I've also been finding calming music really helping me with anxiety lately.  If I'm getting anxious, I'll put in a mix cd of calm music.  Since I've been using it for a while, my body has kind of gotten used to "this means you should be calm."  doesn't always work, but it at least makes me calm enough to concentrate on my next move.  if you want suggestions of songs, feel free to e-mail me.  :)

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