So, we’ve established that panic attacks are one hell of an chemical and physical tornado, but what impact does that have on your emotions, your social life, and your health, and we’ll also clear up one or two urban myths on panic attacks at some point in here also.
Well, for one thing, there’s a general assumption that, as I mentioned before, no one will understand. This makes talking about it really, really difficult, especially to people you don’t know very well, let’s say… Doctors, perhaps? It might seem risky to mention in hushed tones in your lounge to that one special friend that you’ve been having some ‘unusual feelings’ (And ‘God’ forbid he or she gets the wrong idea on that.), and if all goes well, they may also have these ‘unusual’ things happen. (Let’s stay on track please on what type of ‘feelings’ I’m talking about… I think this is just me that’s thinking along these lines.), or may know someone who does.
Now, I’ve been interested in these things before I had a panic attack, which made the whole experience easier to deal with, but I, most probably, wouldn’t have told a doctor, therapist or anyone else in that type of profession, had I not know.
But, since I did know, my therapist does know, and I should be getting CBT for it eventually. Panic attacks are not a sign of insanity, and no one has ever been diagnosed as insane from a panic attack, or gone insane from them either, so you shouldn’t fear that as a reason not to question on it.
(Right now, I’m rather warily eyeing a spider on the wall every few moments, as I would not like to lose sight of it, as the thought of not knowing where to look for it is quite horrible.)
The whole concept of panic attacks is quite a scary one, especially after knowing what they feel like, your life can be completely changed from one of a carefree and out-going individual to an extremely fearful agoraphobic. Because after you have your first horrifying experience of one, you’re going to feel very opposed to doing anything that may cause another. This process is generally called sensitization, and because of it changes may occur in your life, things like:
- Losing your appetite
- Significant changes in your eating pattern
- Sleeping less
- Exercising less
- Being less sociable
- Decreasing libido
- Losing concentration
- Becoming demoralized
- Losing confidence
- Becoming depressed
In fact, the only thing that is significant increased by this is smoking more (If you are already a smoker.) and drinking more alcohol.
But despite all this, you will most likely manage to cope with life, even if it may seem like a huge worry in itself. You may not have as much fun in life as before, but you will manage to cope. Overall, people who have panic attacks still manage to keep their professional lives and their personal lives quite intact. In fact, it’s quite amazing how most people cope so well, despite the terrific amount of stress their body is under.
As it’s generally (As I’ve said a lot before,) a very frightening experience, you will almost certainly not want it to happen again, and as humans, we try to see patterns as often as we can- which does involve in this circumstance. Now, as mine was over something I was watching, I’ve just avoided watching that particular part of that anime, which leaves out a whole plotline I haven’t been able to understand properly further on in the program. This is a good example of avoidance, which is exactly what we do to avoid it happening again.
Often people associate panic attacks with suicide, now just to clear things up a little, there’s absolutely no proof that the two are linked at all. The suicides are most likely a result of alcoholism which is used as an escape from the panic attacks (misguided as that escape is, obviously due to suicides…). Although, if you are feeling suicidal, the best thing to do would be to visit a doctor or therapist and explain how you’re feeling.
Another worry of panic attacks, is heart attacks. No one has ever come to any harm from a panic attack, and neither will you, which includes heart attacks, fatal or otherwise. The urban legend that panic attacks cause heart attacks, is most likely from research that a high number of people that have panic attacks have a condition called mitral valve prolapse, which is a mainly hereditary condition, where the mitral apparatus becomes affected by myxomatuous degeneration (in which the structural protein collagens form abnormally, and cause thickening, enlargement and redundancy of valve leaflets and chordae.) Then the redundant leaflets prolapse (fall backwards), when the ventricles contract, into the left atrium, sometimes allowing a leakage of blood through the opening of the valve, called mitral regurgitation, which can lead to heart failure.
Now, as much as this may sound horrible and quite fatal, on it’s own, it isn’t at all. It’s more that people with the condition lead unhealthy lifestyles or alcoholism that they die from. Generally, people with panic disorders are of normal health, so that shouldn’t stay on your mind too long. Though, if you do have a general worry about your health (From panic attacks or anything else, despite that panic attacks pose no threat to your health at all) there is nearly always a local GP that will answer any questions you have.
Now, I know I have just said that panic attacks do nothing to your health, and they don’t, but things related to them may. For some reason, people don’t seek help for this problem, and then develop other problems that do need treatment, but because they haven’t acknowledged that they have panic attacks the doctor cannot cure the reason for the problem (E.g. The panic attack, and the problem doesn’t get fixed.
For some reason, instead of doing the aforementioned acknowledging, people try to ‘self-medicate’, and as generally humans tend to screw up when they don’t know the correct way to do things, they do it wrong. There is almost no correct way to ‘self-medicate’ for almost anything, including this. Most people who try to ‘self-medicate’ attempt to do so using alcohol or illegal drugs which have a calming effect, there is research that confirms the link between panic disorder and alcoholism. I will put more about this another time, but for now I’ll leave it with stating that the relief from any of this ‘self-medicating’ is very temporary and will do more harm and leave more problems in the end. Drug and alcohol abuse will not only affect your health, but your personal, professional and even put your life at risk. ‘Self-medicating’ is not the way forward for anything, and will have devastating effects on your life.
Now, a quick lightening of subject, panic attacks can have positive effects in your life. No, really. They are a subconscious message that everything is not okay, and that something must be sorted out. I only recently looked back and realised that every time I’ve had a panic attack, I’ve been stressed over something else also, which means I’ve had to change parts of my life over it. Things that just thinking about, would have made me have huge panic attacks, now are just very unpleasant to think of. They are just your body’s way of telling you that you need to re-evaluate, and correct things in your life. Some people are actually glad to go through them; I haven’t reached that point of closure yet, but I’m sure I will one day. The important thing to realise is that they are not trying to force you into a corner, they’re trying to force you out of the corner, if you respond the right way.
So, let’s just quickly summarise this blog again.
- You are not going crazy if you’re more easily anxious, uneasy or confused, you’re just going through sensitization.
- Despite the worry, constant stress, and anxiety, you will be fine, and you’re doing very well overall.
- Feeling depressed or unconfident is understandable, you’re not alone or abnormal for this. This happens to a lot of people.
- No one has ever died from a heart attack or anything else as a result of a panic attack.
- ‘Self-medicating’ is not the answer, ever.
- Panic attacks can be positive in life, if you choose to learn from them.