Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack knows how incredibly frightening that experience is. Often, panic is experienced both in one’s thoughts and feelings, as well as in one’s body. Sometimes it is located primarily in one’s mind or in one’s body.
Thoughts impacted by panic seem to race from bad to worse. Sometimes these thoughts seize upon a theme such as your health, a relationship, or your finances. These fears seem to swallow you up and overwhelm you, leaving you no possibility of escape. It is a hellish experience!
For some, their body seems to have a mind of its own: the heart may start racing, you have shortness of breath, you experience tightness in your chest or throat, you feel clammy, your hands and feet may feel cold, and more. No wonder so many people with panic attacks wind up in the emergency room!
The good news is that panic disorders are very treatable and are not life-threatening. Physicians may prescribe an antidepressant (such as an SSRI – Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor – like Prozac or Lexapro) along with a fast-acting anxiolytic such as Xanax or Ativan. In therapy, we look at the causes behind the panic: what triggered this event? What have we been experiencing but pushing aside or to the background? What earlier events in our lives might be a factor in our present-day symptoms? Often, unresolved issues from our past have a powerful way of resurfacing and demanding attention. It is also helpful to realize that most panic is LESS about the FUTURE and MORE about the PAST. In other words, that which we are most dreading, we have likely already lived through in some fashion. The panic attack may be an after-shock of that through which we have already lived.