"How I Beat Panic Attacks" - The Story of a Panic Sufferer
This is an email we received from one of the visitors to this site. I have printed it here as, from my experience, it is a ‘classic’ case of how panic attacks start and may help sufferers to read it.
I have just started to receive your course on panic attacks and you seem to be the closest anyone has got to understanding my situation, there are lots of different explanations on the web!
I started getting them about three months ago, just after my nana had died. [It is extremely common for people to experience their first panic attacks at a time of high stress]
I had my first one on the underground when the train was delayed and we remained between stations for ten minutes. It was totally unexpected and out of the blue. It scared me silly!
I knew what it was because I have a friend who suffered from them for a couple of years and I used to help her when she was in the middle of one and forgot how to breathe. Therefore I never had the fear I was about to die. [See the Free Panic Course for more info]
Unfortunately what happened was I became worried about having another attack, rather than the situation. I began having them on overland trains, buses and slightly in cars - pattern of transport! [Again, a common and natural reaction.]
I went to a therapist to chat about this problem and she told me to think of an ice cube to help me relax. [Relaxation techniques are useful, but often need to be combined with Cognitive strategies and deconditioning approaches].
This worked for three weeks then I had a traumatic time on the bus where another passenger began attacking people randomly. It brought it all back and then I went flying to France and had the worse week ever - worrying about the return journey and felt I nearly went crazy flying back.
I am writing this, rather long winded, email to ask your advice, if that is OK? I really want to tackle this as it seems to be taking over a bit too much and it is frustrating, upsetting and annoying that this condition will not go away.
However, I want to get help off the right person/body. I have been to my GP who didn’t appear understanding and gave me diazepam and then said if it did not go away I would have to go on a 6 month course of antidepressants.
[This is a common response from medical practitioners who either do not know the best way to treat panic attacks, or do not have access to good brief therapists.]
In my heart I think this was bad advice from someone who does not know enough about panic attacks. I appreciate drugs help but I think therapy is a better long term, less addictive, answer.
Do you know of anybody who can help? Who I can contact?
I await your response and thank you for providing such helpful information.
Victoria Scott, Muswell Hill, London,
P.S. You can quote me, I know how scary this feels and if it encourages others to ask for help then that can only be good a thing.
[I referred Vicky to a good brief therapist near her. We will post the results here once she has completed treatment.]
[Vicky sent this reply roughly 6 weeks after our initial contact. We sent her an email to see how she was getting on.]
Thank you for maintaining an interest in my panic attack problems, it
helps that there are people out there who understand and do not judge you for having them.
The Free Panic Course really helped me as it gave me information on what was the matter with me. I became less afraid and more positive that I could put an end to the attacks. It helped me get to know my panic and how I could rate it and control it.
I asked who I could go to for help as I was worrying about flying out to Italy. I had a bad experience flying to France a couple of weeks
previously and had started to link my worst panic to flying.
Mark suggested I contact someone who was NLP trained [because they should be adept at using the V/K Dissociation technique] and also gave me the number of a colleague.
I could not get hold of this lady (later found out her phone had been out of order), so I finally contacted another therapist trained in the technique you described.
[The therapist used the V/K technique along with other approaches. Vicky included here a technical description of the V/K Dissociation technique - a version of this is included on the Panic Prevention Audio Program.]
My scepticism was helped by your colleague calling me up the day before I flew and re-talking me through the process and instilling further confidence in me that I would be fine on the plane. Anyway I somehow got to the airport and became aware my anxiety was different this time.
It was more conscious, a self-doubt. On the plane I was nervous but not panicky. My return flight was a breeze! The underlying anxiety I had continuously through the day has gone and I feel more confident in myself.
I hope these panic attacks are over. A book which did help me a lot was given to me by my partner (’Stop Thinking and Start Living’ by Richard Carlson) - I highly recommend it.
Its basic message was whatever you feel has to be preceded by a thought and these can not hurt you and can be controlled. It encouraged you to drop a negative thought and not focus on it and carry it through into something bigger. This helped me control my anxiety immediately.
[Note: This concept is the foundation of ‘Cognitive Therapy’, which is an extremely useful approach for anxiety and depression. However, as Vicky says, it is founded upon the mistaken assumption that thoughts have to precede emotions.
This is true for anger, but not for anxiety. You can be scared of something before you know what it is! Conditioning means that you can respond with anxiety to something without having a thought first. This is why deconditioning techniques such as the V/K Dissociation technique are essential in treating panic attacks and phobias - to take care of the ‘conditioning’ factor.]
With these three things (tutorials, hypnotherapy, book) I feel I have
conquered this and if it ever were to return it could never be as strong or scary as I now know too much, which is a power over it in itself.
Thanks again for the interest.
I hope this helps. Here’s to me not needing help for this again!!
Kind regards Victoria
Our sincerest thanks to Victoria for allowing us to print her emails.