Thursday, 24 July 2014

How to Deal With Anxiety & Panic Disorders

Today's Post is a Guest Post by Alyssa of Sincerely, Alaska

Here is something about me that most of my readers do not know: I suffer from anxiety and a panic disorder. This is a pretty common thing to be diagnosed with but it can also be incredibly difficult. I want to share with you some information on the disorder and my own life with it. That way, if you or a friend/family member/significant other are also suffering from anxiety or panic, this can help! 

 Now, everyone gets some anxiety at some point in their life. Sometimes it's before a final exam, a job interview, getting married, or going into a new social setting. Typically, that anxiety fades once you realize that the situation is safe and good. You can even go have fun. You can be yourself.

An anxiety disorder is different. This is where you suffer from anxious feelings (either on a regular basis -- or in special situations like large crowds) but they don't fade. They intensify and can leave you jittery and terrified of whatever your situation is. The fear that comes with an anxiety disorder is usually overwhelming and it feels like your being hit in the gut with a baseball bat. Your mind goes into overdrive. For me, my vision will blur and it will be increasingly difficult to stand. I've collapsed a few times.

So...what happens when all the horrid feelings keep worsening? They become a panic attack.

Panic attacks are attacks of anxiety, fear, and/or terror. They can show up because you were under a large amount of stress, you were in an unfamiliar place, or because it just had nothing better to do. Thankfully, they tend to last up to about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, they can come in series. There have been nights where I will have one, a break, another, a break, and then another before passing out. They come with a good list of physically symptoms: sweating, heart racing, rapid/unsteady breathing, light-headedness, weakness in limbs, etc. Your mind is also a sufferer from the attacks. Thoughts of helplessness and "going insane" are very common. 

If you suffer from panic attacks, they do make prescription "sedatives" that are specific to panic/anxiety disorders. I have a little case of Clonazepam that will help shut down the attack within about 5 minutes of taking them. However, these are typically pretty strong and you are advised to stay away from driving or operating anything at all. Always go to your Doctor for advice on medication for any disorder. 

This is the question I receive most from people who are with me when my anxiety soars or a panic attack sets in. The problem with this though, is that when they ask, I'm already in a state that doesn't allow me to form any coherent sentences or even fully understand what is being asked. This is awful for both parties. I can't tell you how much it's killed me to see how helpless the Boyfriend looked when he first started seeing me during my attacks. BUT, there are things you can do to help someone who is panicking. 

1. Do not tell them to calm down. Anyone who is stuck in a panic attack is already internally searching for a way to calm down. Simply telling them to do it and then watching is far from helpful. 

2. Softly, and consistently, remind them that they are SAFE.

3. Hold their hand and squeeze while you take deep breaths. This helps get them back into the right rhythm of breathing and out of hyperventilation mode. 

4. Don't leave. They need comfort and you are providing that. Stay. 

5. If you and the person having the attack are in a public place (and that place is a possible cause of the attack), go somewhere quiet and mellow. Fresh air can help greatly. Loud noises, harsh lights, and large crowds are fuel for a panic attack. 

6. Be patient. They are trying and sometimes, all they can do is just wait it out. Wait with them. 

I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and a panic disorder last fall. I started actually experiencing the attacks when I was in high school. They were rare and mild. Last March is when they became a very regular thing for me. I had just started dating a guy I worked with and he was my first boyfriend. I was under stress from that and then some really unhealthy things happened in our relationship that put me in a place that I would have attacks at least 2-3 times a week. 

I started college and moved onto campus. Then I started experiencing crying spells and waves of terror. This happened every single day, except one, for 7 weeks. Professors would give me sympathetic looks when they saw me silently crying in class because I felt like I was drowning in stress and terror.  

It got to a point that I would try and scratch my self hard enough to leave marks or I would rip hair out which resulted in having to be held down during the more intense attacks. When my Ex and I broke up, they lightened for a few weeks and then worsened. I started dating my current boyfriend and they got out of control. He would simply touch my shoulder and I would spiral out. 

Eventually, I ended up in the hospital from trying to self-harm in the spring and that's when my mom got me medical help. My medications were changed and others were added. Honestly, even though the experience was absolutely terrifying, I'm glad it happened because it got me the help I wouldn't ask for. 

I still have them and the symptoms are still about the same but I have a much better grasp on what is happening and what to do during them. It's a hard thing to deal with but it isn't impossible. Plus I have a support group of the Boyfriend, friends, and my momma who all know how to handle them. 

Beside the items listed above, I want to share with you some things that I have learned about Panic Attacks and Anxiety in the period of time that I've been living with it. 

1. Remind yourself that you are not dying. You are going to be okay. This is normal. It will pass. 

2. Repeat # 1 as many times as you need. 

3. As stated above, remove yourself from the situation or person that has caused you to panic. If you don't feel physically able to do this, ask a friend to help. 

4. Try to regulate your breathing. In through the nose / count to 5 / out through the mouth. Repeat. Repeat. 

5. Water. Just make sure you get a glass when the attack has finished. 

6. Do not drive. I do not care what you say but if you are in the midst of having an attack, please do not get behind the wheel. It took me a long time to realize this and it took some tough love from the Boyfriend to stop being stubborn and just stay at his house instead of endangering myself and others. 

7. Don't let stress build up in your system. Get a journal. Get a set of paints. Learn to swing dance. Buy some good video games. Take a bubble bath. Make a playlist of calming music. Anything that helps you rid your self of the stress. 

4. Do seek help. I know doctors and psychiatrists can be really intimidating but they know what's happening to you and they can help. Take the plunge and let them know you need them. 

It's going to be a rough ride but it will be worth it in the end. As the beautiful John Green wrote: "We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken." You and I, we will come out of this. We will be OK. Don't ever forget that. Don't ever loose hope. You are radiant. 


  1. What an excellent post! I have been treated for anxiety since high school and sometimes my anxiety is in check for months and then all of a sudden there it is again. Thank you for these suggestions!

    1. Yep! Typically at a time when you need most to not be anxious is when it just hits you again. I feel like a lot of people don't fully understand it either.. they think we're just being melodramatic but anxiety is SO serious!

  2. Yes, I totally understand what you are saying and I appreciate your willingness to speak about it and give our recommended solutions on how to successfully deal with anxiety.

    I too have had very bad bouts with acute anxiety and panic attacks. I know what many of my triggers are and have learned how to control them.

    The main thing I did was to stop over thinking everything and just let my life flow.

    Great job butterfly and thank you!


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