Self Help for Panic Attacks: Encouragement Can Make a Difference
One of the intangible success factors for any program of self help for panic attacks encouragement. It’s often wise to take the time to enlist one, two, or thee friends to cheer you on. The problem is that most people just don’t get it. Unless they have experienced a panic attack themselves, it just doesn’t see like a big deal.
One of the drawbacks to self help for panic attacks is that it can be a bit lonely compared with having a coach or a therapist giving pointers and encouragement. You can address this need by recruiting friends or family to root for you.
Problem: People Often Just Don’t Get it
But it can very frustrating to try to explain to someone why a panic attack is such an overwhelming experience. If they think panic attacks are no big deal, then how are they going to see your need for their encouragement while you engage in your program of self help for panic attacks.
How do you explain panic attacks to your husband or to your wife, to your boyfriend, your girlfriend? How do you explain to someone what it’s like to have a panic attack, especially if they’ve never had one themselves?
If you’ve suffered from panic attacks, I am sure that you’ve had the situation where you were describing what happened to someone and they were looking at you rather strangely like they didn’t know what to do with what you were saying, or worse, they were judging you and thinking that you should have just snapped out of it.
You May Have to Take a Crack at Explaining Panic Attacks To Them
Well, I’ve actually thought about some ways that you can explain to people what it’s like. First, what you have to do is help them picture a time in their life when they were terrified. Second, you ask them to tell you about the experience in detail. But it has to be a time when they were really afraid for their life or the life of someone they care about. “My brother almost drowned.” Third, ask them to describe the feeling and what they felt in their body.
They will probably remember, but they may be hesitant to talk in detail about it. They might remember their heart pounding, they might remember not being able to catch their breath, they might remember their skin feeling like it’s crawling, they might describe a numbness–some of the symptoms of panic attacks. Let them know that your program of self help for panic attacks is a little like learning to relax in such an electrified situation.
Then, say, “Well, what a panic attack is, is if you felt all of those same things but you looked around and there didn’t seem to be any cause or any reason to be afraid; you just felt those feelings come over you with no danger in sight.” Point out that such an experience would be even more difficult than the most frightening experience they could imagine.
Why is it more difficult? Explain that, “In addition to all the terror there would be the fear that you are going crazy because there is nothing in your immediate surroundings that is dangerous.” Explain to them that one of the challenges of a program of self help for panic attacks is that it’s like fighting an invisible enemy. So you ask them to imagine this overwhelmingly fearful experience that appears to have no reason for fear.
Most programs of self help for panic attacks involve a person choosing to put herself or himself into a situation that has caused panic for brief, controlled period of time. If you are going to tame the tiger (panic) you have to move closer and closer to the beast in a step by step fashion.
Help Them Imagine One Step at a Time
Now if they can’t recall a time when they’ve been really afraid, what you can do is just have them picture something that most people would understand as life-threatening. For example, you could say, “It’s like if you were to walk out of a store late at night and you were held up at gunpoint, and you felt the barrel of the gun on the back of your head, and you had the feeling that very possibly this person would shoot you.”
It may be good to add, “You can imagine just the way your body would react to that, how the adrenaline would just kick in and activate your whole system for fight or flight. You might freeze, you might feel like throwing up, you might feel like you can’t get your breath. It’s just like a truck hit you.” It’s such a huge physical experience to have that much fear at one time.
So you have to explain it that way and then say, “Well, supposing you walked out of a store and you had that exact same experience except there was no one holding a gun to your head. There was no one there. You just felt all of those same panicky, terrified feelings and you had no clue where they were coming from.” Conquering this kind of mysterious experience is the focus of self help for panic attacks.
Well, sometimes I’ve seen a glimmer of recognition in people’s eyes when I’ve explained it that way. And sometimes they say, “OK, I kind of see that. That would be pretty scary if you felt that without anything going on around you.”
Be Wise in Choosing the Individuals to Whom You Explain Panic
It’s likely that there are people you know who don’t care what your panic attacks feel like. Don’t waste your breath on them. (Save your breath for efforts towards self help for panic attacks). But for the people who do care, it can help them stop judging you.
It can also help them see that getting through a panic attack is not just about pushing through it the way we do with most challenges. If you are successful at enlisting the encouragement of even one friend or family member, then self help for panic attacks upgrades to team help for eliminating panic attacks.