With the right techniques, panic attacks can be managed and panic disorder can be cured.
Sunday night I had a psychogenic seizure and convulsions as a result of the worst panic attack I’ve had in many years, and due to complications from switching medications that control them.
It had nothing to do with coronavirus, it’s just PTSD — in case you wondered. The adrenaline-pumping attack came out-of-the-blue as I was watching a YouTube video about motorcycle crashes that probably triggered me on a subconscious level because I survived one last year.
Panic attacks are often confused with heart attacks because the symptoms are very similar. I was diagnosed with panic disorder during a trip to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack, but my EKG was perfect. People experiencing them often feel like they are dying and going crazy both at the same time and they typically last between 10 and 30 minutes.
I’m seeing a team of doctors to manage this better. They say the best ways to control them, aside from medication, is meditation and psychotherapy — both of which I regularly do. Psychology Today recommends 10 other things you can do to help.
Having battled panic attacks most of my adult life, I sadly still find myself looking for ways to win. It is my personal belief that the psychotic break which led to my bipolar, originated from PTSD and panic attacks left untreated for so long. Psychiatrists believe comorbidity with panic disorder exists in 20% of those who suffer bipolar disorder.
I’ve tried everything and still can’t find a cure, but in my psychotherapy session today it was explained that panic attacks happen when you “pop your top” in your frontal cortex, so it is important to stay out of that area of your brain — stop thinking so much(!) — and focus on your five senses.
When I looked in the mirror during my panic attack, I couldn’t even see myself. All I saw were bright lights floating and blinding me as if I just got done staring at the sun. I could not feel anything but choking in my neck, chest and spasming arm muscles made me believe I was surely having a heart attack. My doctor explained that the associated shaking is the body trying to metabolize emotions.
If you’ve never experienced panic attacks then count your blessings because they’re terrifying. Not only do you feel like you’re having a near death experience but you also feel like you’re about to totally disconnect from reality. Panic attacks technically CAN kill you but it is extremely rare. Taking these steps during a panic attack is usually enough to curb them.
Controlled breathing is the most important one, based on research. I use an inverted table and CPAP to pull myself out of the worst ones.
Anyone suffering from panic attacks should immediately let friends, family, and professionals know so that they can learn to survive and cope with them in the healthiest ways possible.
The end is not bleak: Psychology Today posits that panic attacks can be cured by the sufferer learning to break the cycle and live without fear of having them, which is easier said than done and why so few people are ever totally cured of panic disorder.
Surviving them is possible when the right techniques are deployed to manage your disorder and train your brain’s muscle memory to stop reacting with fear — which is supposed to lead to the cure.
I wish everyone the best of luck in this endeavor, and hope someone will read this and be helped by it or be able to contribute to the conversation.
Remember to stay out of your head and think positive thoughts so you don’t blow a fuse and have a panic attack! Good luck!