Coping with Anxiety and Panic

Anxiety is the sense of threat we feel when danger is coming. Whether imminent or in the future, real or imagined, disturbing anxiety may result in anxiety or panic attacks or develop into an anxiety disorder. Anxiety attacks are panic attacks with milder symptoms and a lesser sense of being out of control. Uncertainty about the likelihood of harm and apprehension about the damaging potency of what we fear will intensify anxiety.

Worry is the main way people think about problems, threats, or dangers. Often we can identify the problems at the heart of our worries and circumvent unhealthy anxiety by arriving at solid solutions. But sometimes worry becomes hard to control and tough to shut off. When we worry too much and dwell on our fears; when worry after worry pops up in our heads; or when our worries persist after the problem has been solved, then worry may have gotten a strong grip on us. Sometimes anxiety disorders manifest as disturbing “sticky thinking” when we find that episodes of worry, apprehension, or obsession last too long, become hard to control, and seem to keep recurring. Barrages of blaming or self-criticism fit in this category, as well.

Generalized Anxiety (GAD) = Exaggerated, Hard to Control Worry + Strong Negative Feelings + Nervous Tension.

Anxious moods are often the main problem when we get caught up with unproductive, overly negative thinking.   Anxiety is like a trickster that deceives us into believing that things have gone awry in our lives. Uncertainty about the likelihood and the damaging potency of what we fear may intensify our anxiety. Anxious moods may begin with a stressful event, a worry, or an intensely edgy feeling and last for hours, even days, and they can be fertile ground for panic attacks.

Panic and Anxiety Attacks

A panic attack is a cascade of intense physical stress symptoms that creates an acute sense of threat and loss of control. The physical part of a panic attack may intensify for about ten minutes and may continue for up to 45 minutes, but the resultant waves of anxiety may be dreadful and long-lasting.

Panic attacks are not life-threatening. Panickers may become alarmed during attacks by an irrational fear of running short of air. Our breath is with us for all of our lives. By slowing and evening out your breathing – even just a little for a few moments – you can stop your hyperventilation or shortness of breath.

Other irrational fears that plague people suffering from panic or anxiety attacks are:

•Fear of a heart attack despite the absence of heart problems;

•Fear of going insane, even though panic disorder is not a psychotic or major depressive disorder

•Fear of losing control or humiliation in public situations, such as getting sick in front of others, being unable to get to a bathroom in time,  or becoming too incapacitated to drive – even though it’s never happened.

Panic and Anxiety Disorders are very treatable. Once panickers become aware that their attacks are workable and manageable – actually time-limited, with predictable symptoms that cause no lasting harm, attacks become far less frightening and the anxiety is less disheartening.

Knowledge is a powerful antidote to panic: A key piece of knowledge is that panic is natural – although frightening – and does not damage your body or your mind. You can start to overcome panic disorder by acknowledging each time that you’re feeling panicky. Remember, awareness and acknowledgement of our feelings is the opposite of avoidance. Most people can recover from panic disorder through cognitive behavioral therapy, self-help, medication, or a combination.