Anxiety disorders and panic disorders can pack a one-two punch in your life. The panic attack is something you feel coming on as your body begins to experience uncomfortable symptoms. You might get dizzy, start sweating heavily, breathe heavily and start shaking. Your mind may begin racing as it tells you that you’re out of control and there’s no hope. It’s an exaggerated response to the primitive fight-or-flight survival mechanism human beings have as a protective response to perceived danger.
But anxiety disorders and panic disorders are often not due to physical real threats anymore. We aren’t primitive hunters and gatherers threatened by predators or savage enemies. But we are confronting stress filled lives in a very modern world. Panic attacks often occur because of this stress. The only way to deal with them is by learning how to cope with the attacks and then how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Anxiety disorders are diagnosed when anxiety interferes with your life. You may develop phobias, and the panic attacks last longer than they do in a person experiencing justified anxiety. Anxiety disorders are related to the fear of certain events, activities or situations. Panic disorders, on the other hand, mean you experience panic attacks out of the blue without relationship to anything in particular.
Anxiety disorders and panic disorders can co-exist in many ways. It’s not uncommon for people with panic disorders to also experience anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a fear of being confined in a tight space or fear of being too far from people you see as your safety net. Agoraphobia and panic disorder often exist together because both usually involve being anxious a lot of the time. It appears that agoraphobia often appears after panic attacks have been happening for a while. Your fear goes from non-specific to specific.
When you have both anxiety disorders and panic disorders, the first step in treatment is learning how to cope with the panic attacks. Panic attacks can be very frightening, especially when they happen while doing something requiring concentration. You may be driving down the freeway and suddenly have a panic attack that leaves you unable to focus on the road and severely shaking. Knowing how to control the panic attack can make the difference between having a high speed accident or safely exiting the interstate highway. This won’t happen over night, but regular practice can greatly reduce the intensity of the panic attack quickly.
Though the effects of anxiety disorders and panic disorders can be disconcerting or even scary, the attack can be worsened by having negative thoughts. You may have a racing heart and then convince yourself it’s a heart attack. Or you may start shaking and decide you no longer have control of your body. These thoughts make your fear even more intense which results in worse physical reactions. So it only makes sense that if negative thoughts can worsen the panic attacks, then positive coping thoughts can lessen them.