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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I overcome my fear of having another panic attack?

    I had my first panic attack right before a plane take-off last year, and since that time I have been very afraid that I will have another attack.

    I've taken a few more flights since that incident and sometimes I feel ok but sometimes I still feel very anxious and fearing I might have another attack.

    Not sure if that incident was the an initiator but these days I feel a bit nervous when I catch public transport such as bus or being in enclosed spaces.
    I get by ok but it takes up a lot of my headspace and wondering if I will ever recover to my post panic attack state.

    I've read a lot of internet material and self help notes but not sure if it helps much
  • Find a professional to answer your question

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    Thanks

    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I have had panic attacks so I know how frightening they can be. I am not meaning to invalidate your experience but they can have a physiological basis - essentially people breathe too shallowly so their blood CO2 levels get messed up. This is where a breathing exercise can help - I use this one:

    (1) Put your hands on your stomach around your navel, fingers just touching.

    (2) Breathe in deeply so your stomach expands and your fingers move apart.

    (3) Count to five.

    (4) Breathe out so your stomach contracts and your fingers touch again..

    (5) Count to five.

    (6) Repeat (2) - (5) for about 10-15 minutes.


  • 1

    Agree

    1

    Thanks

    Gillian Marcoolyn

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Gillian is a clinical psychologist with 25 years experience. She sees individuals and couples and specializes in anxiety, depression, relationship and sexual problems. View Profile

    Interestingly many people have their first panic attack in exactly the same circumstances that you describe. When we go to the airport we are often rushing to complete things, worrying about what we have forgotten and anxious to be on time. Hence we have elevated arousal levels and it doesn't take much in the way of added stress to trigger a panic attack.

    Future panic attacks are still fuelled by elevated levels of arousal but also by the stories in your head about what may happen if it you were to experience that uncomfortable feeling again. Rather than convincing yourself that it is unlikely to happen again, strangely it is important to accept that you may have another attack. Acceptance is the opposite of struggle and struggle fuels anxiety. If the symptoms do occur again it is important to face them and ride the wave of the feeling as it comes and goes. No-one ever dies from a panic attack, stops breathing or indeed faints, despite the degree of discomfort associated with them. Like all uncomfortable feelings they come and go. Focus on them as if you were  a curious scientist - in a detached way as if you were going to write a thesis on the topic. Watch the symptoms as they reach a peak and ease off. Focusing on your breath using a breathing technique like the one described above will help as you wait for them to pass.

    Sleep problems start in a similar way.  When we TRY to get to sleep we tell ourselves we MUST sleep or we will be ‘cactus’ in the morning. By doing this we fuel our tension and are ultimately too tense to sleep.  When we become anxious about what might happen, we tense up and of course fuel our anxiety, hence potentially bring on the panic attack.

    One of the books I often recommend to my clients is “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weekes. It's an oldy but a goody and it has changed so many people's lives… people who have suffered chronically from panic attacks.

    Overall, the trick to ensuring that panic attacks don't become a chronic issue is to face anxiety when it comes and wait for it to pass. It is also about looking after yourself and balancing your life so that you avoid prolonged periods of high levels of tension.  Good luck.

  • 1

    Thanks

    Ralph Graham

    Counsellor

    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    My stock in trade is dealing with past traumatic incidents. These can be the culprits behind panic attacks. The one you had before that flight can be handled as a traumatic incident and may cause the fear to leave. A lot is said in literature about “cures” that teach that the real problem is just fear of the attack which itself actually brings on the attack. These have success over time with a lot of practice. You could say that this approach belongs to the ‘coping and management’ school. For me it would be something to try if the methods I prefer did not work.

    While there may or may not be an earlier cause linked to the attack you had, exploring that incident and past times that had similar feelings and emotions can lead one to the cause after which it shouldn’t take long to get rid of it for good.  This will often happen in one session so it saves a lot of time.

    I hope you find a practitioner with an approach that uses methods that do this kind of final handling rather than learning to manage it.
    Please let us know how you get on.

    To ask a question in private or to have me recommend someone in your area
    click Make an Enquiry
    My very best to you,
    Ralph Graham

  • lesliexue

    HealthShare Member

    Hi Ralph

    Thank you for your comments.

    Do you know a practitioner/Psychologist that perfroms the mehtod you described above ?

  • Ralph Graham

    Counsellor

    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    Hello,
    I do. For more information you can click on my profile and and then click on
    “Make an Enquiry” to ask about it further.
    Kind regards,
    Ralph Graham

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