Anxiety with unpleasant symptoms and panic attacks are very common. It has been estimated that up to 25% of population will suffer of an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. So, if there are 1000 people living in your home street – 250 of them struggle with anxiety symptoms at some point. Anxiety and panic attacks are also tricky. They are full of paradoxes. One is that the more you try to end your anxiety and unpleasant symptoms, the more you get them.
Have you experienced anxiety or panic attacks with weird and frightening symptoms? Panic attacks come with so many varying symptoms that it would be impossible to elaborate on them here. To write deeply enough about the symptoms of anxiety will take a whole book. This is actually what I have done, so feel free to get your copy – either the free eBook which explains more deeply features of anxiety symptoms, or get the paid full panic attack course – to end your panic attacks.
However I will attempt to summarize some more common symptoms of anxiety and panic attack here. Let’s first focus on one cardinal symptom of anxiety, namely FEAR. There are many many fears going on in one’s mind while having a panic attack. A few examples:
Fear of passing out while having a panic attack:
One of the most common panic attack related fears is that you can pass out having a panic attack. When feeling unsteady, vertigo and dizzy while having a panic attack this particular fear makes sense. But, please, let me reassure you: yes, panic attack is bound to make you feel dizzy even severe dizziness and yes, you will fear that you are going to faint. But with this high anxiety your body is actually in the fight or flight mode and your blood pressure is high…This means that you are even less likely to faint than when you are not having a panic attack. This phenomenon is explained more in the course book, but the point is: low blood pressure may mean fainting. Panic attack means high blood pressure. So, having a panic attack means that you are less likely to faint or collapse or lose consciousness. (There is exception here, namely blood injury and needle phobia related anxiety. I explain this in the book)
Fear of choking due to panic attack:
Another common fear-symptom of anxiety and especially symptom of panic attack is fear of choking. You may feel difficulty breathing while having a panic attack and again, this interpretation is understandable. But you will not choke because of panic attack. I have provoked this feeling with my patients and we have tried to choke…you can’t force yourself not to breathe, automated system kicks in and you start breathing. But when having a panic attack you do the wrong thing: you try to tamper with the system that is automatic. Don’t. Paradoxically again, the more you try to fight the symptoms of anxiety the more you create them.
Fear of going crazy as a consequence of a panic attack:
Can panic attacks mean I’m going crazy? One of the most common fears of panic attacks is fear of losing control or going crazy. You may not think this way when you are calm, but when in the middle of a panic attack many people think and believe very differently and this particular fear is really powerful. I explain this more thoroughly in the course book, but yea again we can say: no, panic attack does not make you go crazy or even lose that control. Quite the contrary: when having panic attack or increased anxiety you are too much in control. You just don’t dare to let your automated system do its job. People with high anxiety don’t lose it. But they fear they will and thus they just focus on their fear – creating more of the same.
There are many other frightening interpretations – that is: fears- related to panic attacks. People ask me for example:
“Will I have a heart attack – or is this panic attack; can panic attack cause a heart attack? How do I know it is a panic attack and not a heart attack? I feel unreal, what is this; this is not a panic attack is it, it is something worse? How can I stop derealisation panic attacks…?”
To list just a few examples of panic attack related fears that people focus on. The answer to all of these concerns is a calming one: no, you are not going to have a heart attack due to panic attack, feeling unreal is a symptom of panic attack, and so on.
People do also worry about some other specific features of panic attacks, like:
Is anxiety and panic attacks a disability?….answer: no, it is not.
How to not have a panic attack at the dentist?…answer: the same way as with panic attack anywhere: paradoxically stop fighting the symptoms.
Why do I get panic attacks at night in bed?…answer: your body keeps working, heart keeps beating and so on while you sleep. Any change there may be noticed even while asleep, triggering the anxiety response.
How to get rid of panic attack when driving?…answer: gradually increasing driving – despite of the anxiety symptoms, and by challenging the fears…
How about you, do you experience sensations or symptoms of anxiety?
Sensations such as:
Feeling dizzy or unsteady, heart palpitations, feeling unreal, choking or having difficulty concentrating
And because of the symptoms of anxiety do you have fears…?
A fear of dying, of having a heart attack, fainting, of going mad or losing control, a fear of being embarrassed?
Or do you just have…
a fear of another panic attack?
If you have experienced any of the above then the problem is not just the anxiety or panic attacks, but the impact they have on your life!
Impact on your life:
Do you avoid places, situations or activities because of your fear of a panic attack? Do you avoid driving because of a possible panic attack? Do you avoid travelling or going to trains or airplanes – because of a possible panic attack?
Do you think your life is restricted somehow because of this?
Do you just focus on your fears, your anxiety symptoms and panic attacks – instead of living your life?
If the above is partly true in your case, you may struggle with excessive anxiety symptoms, panic attacks or even have a panic disorder – or possibly some other anxiety disorder.
The common theme in all the anxiety problems – or disorders if you like- is: FEAR. We may confuse fear with anxiety itself, but in fact fear is one of the symptoms of anxiety, and one major symptom of panic attacks.
Fear triggers the anxiety symptoms in the first place. Fear also maintains the symptoms and makes them feel worse. Fear makes you react in an unhelpful way –which then restricts your life. When people go jogging their heart beats fast – but they feel that’s OK, because there is no fear (unless you struggle with panic attacks, that is). When people ride on a roller-coaster they may experience a bit of feeling dizzy – but that’s OK, because there is no excessive fear – or not too much of it anyway. Even fear is welcome when there is not too much of it. There is a little of fear, but not amounting to a panic attack. People talk about adrenaline rush – and many want it and even pay to get it…but when you get these feelings when you don’t “order” them…you may get frightened – and a panic attack is on it’s way. You experience fear – because of the normal anxiety symptoms. Fear then triggers more anxiety symptoms and you have more fear, and so on.
So, it makes sense that in order to kill panic attacks you need to kill that unnecessary fear first.
The best evidence based form of psychotherapy for panic attacks and other anxiety issues is Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT attacks the fear – and your reactions.
What you have done so far is probably this: you have desperately tried to get rid of the anxiety symptoms: those jelly legs, that feeling dizzy or vertigo, that heart beating…and so on. And by doing so you have created more of those anxiety symptoms. But CBT does it differently. CBT tackles the very root of anxiety: fear.
CBT is all about change. You don’t just talk about anxiety and symptoms of panic attack, or whatever the issue. You change it. You change the way you think – or fear, and the way you react (behave). This way you eventually make the change to the way you feel (panic attack)…but it goes this way, in this order, not other way around…first you make changes to the areas you can; how you think and behave- with a help of a therapist. Then you rather paradoxically end the feared: panic attack. Eventually you will get rid of the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety as well – although treating anxiety symptoms is not going to be the target of treatment.
The issue for many is that it is not always easy or practical to start a face to face therapy. That is why CBT Fast has developed these three options for you: A: Full CBT based self help coursebook; B: self help course for a month – with access to therapist and C: Online one to one CBT therapy for panic attacks or any other anxiety problem or depression…
Please visit “automated panic course” for automated 4 week course – or “one to one CBT therapy” for face to face therapy – online. Or download the self help course book.