The Vicious Loop of Panic Attacks

I bet you remember your first panic attack ever. You were doing something completely normal, probably you’ve done it a hundred times before. Suddenly, you feel an electric shock inside your stomach, your heart starts pounding so hard, you feel pain in your chest, you feel like you’re choking, you cannot breath. You start feeling numbness in your hands and feet. You feel like you’re losing control. You feel like you’re dying.

You rush yourself to the hospital, hoping that you’ll make it on time, you don’t want to die now. You get there, they start taking your vitals, you’re waiting anxiously for their response, but the nurse has the best poker face you’ve ever seen. You ask them politely, because you don’t want to seem panicked: “Is everything alright?”. They look at you, and as if life goes into slow motion mode, you’re waiting eagerly for them to open their mouth and just tell you! “JUST TELL ME FOR GOD’S SAKE!” you scream in your inner voice. Then you hear this, “Everything seems normal”.

“What? Really? What do they mean ‘seems’? Is there something they cannot see? But I felt it, there is noway there’s nothing wrong with me. I need to see another doctor. The sooner the better, I might not be able to make it. What if it happened another time, will I be able to make it on time another time? I am frightened.”

You go to the first doctor, do all the tests, and he says “Everything looks normal”. You leave there feeling a bit of relief, but in the back of your mind there’s something eating you. You go for a second opinion, same results. And a third. You then might find a doctor that would tell you something like “I think there’s a problem with your colon”, you say “I KNEW IT!”. You head back home, straight into google, you start typing “COL” and google suggests “Colon Cancer”. You click into that, and start reading, you swear you have the same symptoms. “I have to start the treatment as soon as possible, maybe if they caught it early I will be able to live” you say to yourself. The next day you head to the hospital, knowing that for the next months it will be your home. You take the test, which for you is really unnecessary since you already know the result. The result come, and you’re fine, your colon is fine.

You keep thinking about what happened, you fear that it will happen again. You just cannot stop thinking about it. When you’re in a social event, you fear that it will happen there, “What will the people say about me?” you ask yourself, until it happens again. When you’re driving you fear it will happen to you, “The nearest hospital is about an hour drive”, and it happens again… and again… and again.

You start avoiding the things you were doing when it happened. You feel the electric shock another time while doing another thing, so you stop doing that as well. You start limiting your activities, until you start fearing to stand up from your sofa. “The vicious loop of panic” starts taking your freedom piece by piece. You do not want to lose control, you do not want to be sick, you do not want to die.

You’re not dying, you do not have a sickness, you’re not losing control. You’re only having a panic attack. It’s a survival mechanism for your body to face danger. It’s a rush of adrenaline. The problem is, you’re brain imagines danger, even though there is none. Do not worry though, panic attacks will never cause you any harm, I’ve already had about 1624 one.

“The job of your stress system is to keep you safe and alive not to kill you. The symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable but they are not dangerous. You have my word as a doctor – this adrenaline rush will not kill you.”

Dr. Harry Barry, an Irish medical doctor and expert in the area of mental health

Right now, I do not want to talk about how you’re going to break the vicious loop of fear. I just want to define it. All I want to tell you is that, you are not alone in this. You are safe. Do not rush things, there is nothing to be rushed anyway. You are just fine, and once you break the vicious loop, you’ll be finer.

Really Mamdouh, that’s your big finish? “finer”? Oh well…


3 thoughts on “The Vicious Loop of Panic Attacks

  1. Ali Sarayrah

    The feelings will pass. If we could just notice the thoughts and feelings, and not react to them by believing them to be dangerous in themselves, if we could breathe deeply and focus on our breathing and allow the thoughts and feelings to come, and go, then the adrenaline will calm down within a few minutes.


  2. Pingback: Why Do Physical Symptoms Happen When You Are Anxious? | Anxiety is Fun

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