“I thought I was going to pass out, maybe I was going crazy, or having a heart attack.”
“My mind was in a whirl and my chest felt tight and cramped, like there was a band round my body getting tighter and tighter”
This is how two of my clients described their anxiety attacks. In both cases, these came on suddenly, with no warning and for no apparent reason. So it is easy to see why they thought that there was something physically wrong with them.
The problem with anxiety attacks is that they often appear to have no trigger, which means that the fear of the next attack can start to have big impacts on a person’s life. If we have an attack in a crowded place, the mind will link crowds to anxiety attacks so we can find that we’re no longer happy to be where lots of people are.
One of my clients told me that he started changing what he was doing to avoid the risk of attacks. He drove less on motorways because he had a panic attack on a motorway. He kept withdrawing from activities to try to avoid panic attacks, but that never solved the problem, and after 2½ years, he realized the attacks were getting worse and he was doing less and less with his life.
When he came to see me, he was unable to go on holiday, uncomfortable going shopping and was terrified of the idea of being in large crowds at music events. Although he used to love doing all those things before the panic attacks started.
“I was always the one who was up for an outing or going on holiday. But I started to feel sick, sweaty and lightheaded in an airport. I was so frightened and thought I was going to have to get myself out of the airport somehow. In fact, I went in to the toilet and tried really hard to calm down a bit. I did go on holiday but the whole time I was terrified that I’d have another attack.”
Anxiety attacks can feel awful, intense, and frightening. Because they can be powerful experiences, it can seem like anxiety attacks are out of our control. There are lots of signs and symptoms that define anxiety attacks such as (but not just) sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, light-headedness and/or a feeling of dread or fear. Whatever symptoms are experienced, an anxiety attack is a really scary thing to deal with. But anxiety attacks and their symptoms can be successfully addressed with the right information, help, and support. No one needs to suffer needlessly. As with any physical symptoms, it is always a good idea to be checked over by your doctor.
It is suggested that people generally can overcome panic attacks faster if they seek help after the first one or two. Although my client I mentioned above had been struggling for a long time, we were able to work together to help him overcome his anxiety attacks.
Different things work for different people, don’t be afraid to try. It may not seem easy or possible but there are lots of people out there who can help. Don’t give up looking, even if you have already tried other ways to help. I’m always happy to have a chat if you would like to know more.
Change is possible today