Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I've had panic attacks since I was about nine years old. They left me full of guilt and shame, because I had no idea what was happening. I was sure this not supposed to happen, and somehow I must have brought it on myself.
But a panic attack is simply a physical experience. Your body floods with chemicals that induce a “fight or flight” response that we are genetically programmed to have when we feel threatened in some way. The fact that there is no real threat doesn't change the way we feel. People have all kinds of real, physical symptoms during a panic attack, everything from tunnel vision, nausea and shortness of breath, to palpitations, numbness and chills.
No one can predict who will have one or when it might occur. The Mayo Clinic website lists genetics, stress and changes in the way parts of the brain function because of stress as primary causes. Web MD lists these three causes: Family History, Abnormalities of the brain, and Substance Abuse. Wikipedia says they can be caused by: obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperthyroidism, Wilson’s disease, mitral valve prolapse, inner ear disturbances, vitamin B deficiency, significant personal loss (like the death of a partner), life transitions, caffeine, nicotine, and marijuana, and other things.
There are medications that can help,and I've relied on these when I found no other option.
Dealing with childhood wounds - delving into my past and allowing myself to feel all the feelings I was not able to express a a child - is a more permanent solution. My panic attacks continue to become less frequent and less severe.
If you suffer from panic attacks, there is hope. Above all else, don't blame yourself. It isn't any flaw in you, any fault, any lack. It is a physiological thing that happens without your consent, which you could compare to having food poisoning. You are going to react, and you can't control it. It will have to run its course.
But in order to prevent them in the future, you need to get to the source of the poison and make sure it doesn't get into your body again. Removing decades of stored emotions is a wonderful way to get those toxins out of your life.