This week, I’m going to address the subject of panic attacks, a form of anxiety.
Most of us are familiar with anxiety, right? Our stomach twinges, our heart beats a little faster, our palms get sweaty, and our breath quickens.
Imagine this, but 100 times worse. Your heart beats so fast you’re sure it’ll just burst or stop. It gets so hard to breathe you feel like you’re suffocating. A weight or sensation of doom presses down on your shoulders. You need to come out of your skin, but you don’t know how. Leaving is IMPERATIVE, but you don’t know where to go. And it wouldn’t help anyway because the feelings will follow you.
All of these sensations mean you WILL. DIE.
Truly, many who experience a panic attack for the first time think they are having a heart attack. They are convinced they are dying. Getting to the ER is a necessity from their perspective.
So what happens if panic attacks keep happening?
Well, some people develop what’s called agoraphobia. Classically, this is understood as a fear of open spaces or public places. More specifically, it is the fear that a panic attack will develop and the person will have no means of escape.
Over time, the sufferer may restrict their outings, staying closer and closer to home until they are literally housebound. Some become so fearful of leaving home (because they’re convinced they’ll have a panic attack if they do), that they stay inside their houses for years, sometimes decades.
What’s the treatment?
Anti-depressants are often prescribed because they also treat anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications can also be used, but they tend to treat the symptoms without treating the underlying “biologic” cuase. The most effective treatment over the long-term is exposure therapy or something called desensitization. These are big words referring to confronting the fear (of leaving the house in this instance) in stages. The first stage includes visualizing or imagining leaving the house, giving the person the opportunity to acclimate to the anxiety and learn how to tolerate it. With time, they are able to tolerate ever increasing amounts of exposure and eventually, they can leave their house and not suffer any anxiety. (The time this takes varies per person.)
As always, this is NOT intended as medical advice or treatment. This is solely for writing purposes.
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