Author: Robbie T. James
Going through a panic or anxiety attack can be an extremely uncomfortable experience. You feel these attacks not only in your heart, but also in your head and in every limb of your body. Even more excruciatingly, panic attacks can actually get into your head and affect your thoughts. The body and mind form a complex, interrelated system. The dynamic relationship between how your mind and body affect each other during a panic attack is often referred to as the panic disorder cycle.
Once you fall into a pattern of experiencing regular panic cycles, it is like going down a slippery slope or a downward spiral into physical and emotional chaos. In order to shed some light on what this cycle is, here are 5 factors you need to know about:
1. Your thoughts feed into your physical/emotional state
During a panic attack, your thoughts feed your emotional state. That is right: what you think can actually affect how key parts of your physical body, including your hormones such as adrenaline, operate. For many people, panic attacks are caused by certain situations unique to them - called trigger situations. Examples of trigger situation for many people include being in open spaces, in confined or enclosed spaces, in the midst of large crowds, in stressful situations at work, etc.
For sufferers of panic attacks, being in these situations puts into motion a series of physical symptoms that can include increased heart rate, dizziness, sweating, trembling, nausea, shaking, chest pressure, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, dizziness, lightheadedness, tingling sensations or numbness, chills, and hot flashes.
2. Your physical/emotional state feeds into your thoughts
When caught in the panic cycle, your emotional or physical state can also lead to a series of negative thoughts and feelings. For example, you might be low on blood sugar or be going through a hormonal (e.g., thyroid) imbalance which, in turn, triggers a negative, anxiety-riddled mental state. For example, during the height of the attack you might suddenly be gripped with the fear that you are going to go crazy, going to lose control of your body, die by heart attack, or even be socially embarrassed.
3. You can control your attacks
While you may feel all alone in your regular panic attacks, you are not. In fact, millions of other people around the world have panic disorders. The good news is that you can control your attacks. Controlling them begins with identifying your cycle.
4. Start by identifying your panic disorder cycle
The first step in taking control of your panic attacks is to increase your awareness about what tends to cause your attacks. Remember, both physical/emotional and mental events can set an attack into motion. Start by thinking back to the last two or three attacks you have had. Where were you? What were you doing? Had you had enough to eat and sleep? Were you going through stress at work or in your personal life? Were you in a particular situation, such as being in a public place or in a crowd of strangers?
Once you have identified one or more of your triggers, now think hard about what generally happens after your attack starts. For example, where do your thoughts tend to go? Are you able to control your thoughts during an attack, or do they run wild?
5. De-sensitize yourself to the attacks
The next step in your overcoming the cycle is to de-sensitize yourself to the attacks. Ways to do this include: exposing yourself on purpose to your common triggers, focusing on your fear (so that you can overcome it), building tolerance for the physical sensations that come with an attack, and improving your coping skills during an attack.
By identifying your panic disorder cycle and then de-sensitizing yourself to its triggers and effects, you will be well on the road to managing and/or completely eliminating them from your life for good.
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