Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Panic Attacks, Dissected

This is from an old post, but it must be put on here!

I’ve had panic attacks for a good deal of my life and had very little help in really coping with them. All psychiatric advice seemed to fail, and much of the internet’s advice wasn’t really applicable to my perceptions so I examined them heavily myself and finally came to some conclusions. In writing this, I was able to help a good many people (strangers on the internet) cope with the same problem. The only reason I believe this to be helpful is their thank you replies. If you have anxiety or have ever experienced panic attacks let me help ya’s out.

The Panic Attack

What is a panic attack? – Most of us have heard about them, have had friends who deal with them or maybe even dealt with them ourselves. I’d like to delve into what a panic attack really is, clear up some misconceptions, and help you either avoid them, or take them on like a champion. They aren’t very difficult to understand, in fact they arise from the most simple (and in evolution - the oldest) part of our brains!
So what is a panic attack – plain and simple? Well, it is the emotion of fear. When we are in a conscious state and not practicing meditation or any spiritual relaxation / peacefulness we usually have “monkey-brain”; that is, a mind that swings from thoughts to thoughts, endlessly throughout the day. We constantly think of the future, the past, the present, and a combination of all these, trying to best suit our selves for gratification or whatever. Since all parts of the brain are active, and the mind seems to jump from one idea to the next, it is possible to have a negative thought – one that seems frightening or sad. In some cases, and especially for mine, the brain will quickly quiet this thought and move to the next. The problem, though, is that the part of the brain that controls fear can (at times) lag behind our speedy jumping consciousness; there is almost a delay among when one should feel fear after the fearful thought has subsided (if one skips over it).
So what does that have to do with panic attacks? What happens in a panic attack, is analogous to a trip wire. One may be walking through one’s thoughts, and trip over a depressing or confronting thought – like death or something silly like that. If one avoids the thought of this – and keeps “walking” within one’s thoughts away from the idea of death, the delayed fear may creep up seconds, or even minutes after the thought occured, and one will start to feel fear, or panic. At first the mind and brain will be attempt to figure out “what is wrong?” or “why do I feel afraid, uneasy, or anxious?” and thus begins the “attack” – the consciousness will not be able to identify what is going on, and it will attempt to fill this fear! At first there will be nothing to stick the fear to, but as the feeling of uneasiness fails to be solved, it will grow. The mind will start to escalate, perhaps the heart may start beating faster – “What is wrong – something is wrong!” This state of mind continues until one cannot prove a worry or fear incorrect – such as delusional thoughts like "I'm dying". It is impossible to prove to yourself that you are not about to die, so it may linger – there is no logical way to deduce that this isn’t true, so the fear will stick on to a thought until it can be disproved.

So what is one to do here? We must get you to the confrontation stage or at the very least bring your focus to neutrality.

When a panic attack begins, one must remember the walking through thoughts analogy. Retrace your steps backwards in time, and try to identify any thought that made you uneasy, such as a missed loved one, a distant friend, a sore relationship, or anything else that may have brought some emotional weight. It should be within the past 5 minutes, but I’ve noticed some of mine have extended to 15 minutes prior to feeling fear! After having retraced the steps, it should eventually pop in your head what you were trying to avoid. At this point the panic fear will turn into (healing) discomfort. This is where one needs to examine the situation and come to peace. Depending on the subject it may take some time, but the identification of the negative feeling is most important – this stops the mind from creating new fears, and locks it onto something manageable – something meaningful. You aren’t about to die, I promise!

Other points to deal with lingering negative feelings are doing exercise like pushups, situps, or something intensive. This will cause the mind to become focused elsewhere. While lifting the mind away from the negativity, wait until you feel neutral or otherwise fine, and start to drift into happiness, remember scenes where you felt at peace, at one with life, and some of your happiest moments with friends and family. If one is trained in meditation, by all means, use this as well – the ability to stop the mind in its tracks is a wonderful tool, it may also help in analyzing and converting a panic into a (healing) confrontation.
If one has a history of panic attacks or anxiety, please remember these above words. They can also be applicable to negative feelings during trips on psychedelics. If a panic attack happens on a psychedelic it can be much more amplified, so please keep this in the mental tool box if you are considering entheogen use.
I will get into a more in depth and meaningful post on the Confrontation stage in a bit, which applies more towards depression and how we rationalize who we are. One of the most over-looked parts of being a human in today's world is why so many people are depressed.


  1. Also, to stop a panic attack, distraction with concentrating on your breathing - doing a 2-3 count in and out.

  2. Ahh yes, very good! Focusing on breathing is one of the most basic forms of meditation. Focus on the air hitting your nose, going into your lungs, and then out through your mouth. You can visualize the air cooling down your body, and calming you which helps too!