Part 3: The Core Beliefs that Fuel Anxiety and Panic Attack

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Although people having panic attacks often feel as if they are the only ones in the World with the problem, the thoughts that accompany panic attacks are usually very similar. Here are the most common ones we encounter.

Panic Thought 1: I might die from a heart attack

Although it may not feel like it at the time, the heart is designed to react in the way it does during a panic attack. It can feel unnatural because this type of heart activity is usually reserved for vigorous acitivity, when you don’t notice it as much. However, unless you have a heart condition, it is not usually a threat to the heart. If you are worried about this, see your medical practitioner.

Panic Thought 2: I might die from suffocation

It may not feel pleasant, but you are less likely to suffocate during a panic attack than at any other time because you naturally take in more air. The shortness of breath you may feel is due to your body increasing its demand for oxygen, or because of hyperventilation.

Panic Thought 3: I’m having a stroke

When you don’t understand what is happening to you, it’s perfectly natural to try and explain in it terms you understand. However, strokes have nothing to do with panic attacks, so you can relax about that! However, if you are worrried about it, see your medical practitioner.

Panic Thought 4: I’m scared of fainting

Fainting is not an option when being chased by a wild animal, in fact it could be fatal, so it is highly unlikely that panic will cause fainting. And what if you did faint? How bad would it be? The end of the world? Worse than death itself? Probably not. Fear of fainting often comes about due to the sense of dizziness which accompanies hyperventilation, sometimes part of panic. We’ll look at what you can do about that in a minute.

Panic Thought 5: I’m having a nervous breakdown, or going ‘crazy’

If you were really going insane would you be aware or worried about going insane? You already know that the anxiety, panic, or ‘fight or flight’ response is a natural mechanism, so this one doesn’t even figure.

Panic Thought 6: Losing control

When having an anxiety attack, it can feel like you have lost control. In fact, all that has happened is that control has shifted from your conscious to your unconscious mind, so things are still being regulated, just differently.

Panic Thought 7: Feeling so weak that you cannot move or might fall down

The feeling of weakness is caused by the shaking we mentioned earlier. In fact, you are stronger when panicking than at any other time as your large muscles are being supplied with plenty of oxygen.

Panic Thought 8: Believing that you are going to be embarrassed or humiliated

How many times have you actually been humiliated or embarrassed by a panic attack? If you ever have been, was it really that bad? During an attack, it is very common and quite natural to worry that your body can’t take what is happening. The fact is that panic is a short-term response.

The worst part of a panic attack only lasts a few minutes although unpleasant anxiety feelings can persist for longer. It is similar to a fire or emergency drill for the body. If you have panic attacks then at least you know that your anxiety or fight or flight response is in good working order.

Part 4: Panic attack symptoms - Hyperventilation (over-breathing) »