Q.Six months ago, whilst shopping, I had severe chest pains, sweating, shaking, heart pounding and difficulty breathing. Someone called an ambulance and I was taken to A&E. I thought I was having a heart attack and I was going to die. I was so scared. I was told I’d had a panic attack. I’ve had more attacks since and they’re getting more frequent. I don’t understand what’s happening or where it has come from? I believe something terrible is going to happen. I hate being on my own, even in the house. I avoid going to college, on buses or out with my friends. I won’t go where there are lots of people and only go out with my Mum as I am afraid if something happens no-one will be there to help me. I’ve become so dependant on others. I spend all my time at home, terrified, thinking about the next time that it will happen. I don’t feel I have a life anymore.
PHIL: Exposed Boss
Thinks a positive mental attitude is the key to a healthy life.
Student, promoter, DJ and sensitive soul.
Studied medicine in Sheffield and has a special interest in mental health.
ALICE:One of the scariest things about panic attacks is the not knowing what they are or why you’re having them. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this as panic attacks can happen to anyone at various times in their life. However the good news is there is a very simple way of getting them under control. Next time you feel one coming on imagine a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is absolutely fine and 10 is feeling like you’re going to die. Picture where you feel you are on the scale then begin to take deep slow breaths in and out. As you breathe count backwards down the scale until you reach 1. Yoga can also help you to control your breathing and feel generally more stable, confident and calm. There are yoga classes all over the place these days from gyms to local libraries. Why don’t you give one a try? And if it’s not the right one for you just try another till you find one you like.
PHIL: There are a number of triggers for panic attacks - but the fact that you had your first out on a shopping trip and are now fearful of leaving the house, suggests that you have developed agoraphobia - which is a fear of having panic attacks in wide open spaces. Obviously, it then becomes understandable that you are struggling to come to terms with being alone, especially when it means leaving the house without the comfort of your mum. I would suggest that taking baby steps is the way to start to dealing with this. Perhaps just try going a short distance from home for a short period of time with a friend, but with the knowledge that your mum is at home should you need her. Once that feels acceptable, try going a little further for a longer period of time, so that your brain slowly readjusts to accept that these situations are normal and you can cope. If you stick at it, then you should be able to retrain your brain and feel stable once again.
DR ZAK: Having a Panic Attack is a very scary experience. The physical reactions include breathlessness, pounding heart and sweating. These can lead to people thinking that they’re going to have a heart attack, collapse, or worse that they will die.
It’s not always clear why someone has a panic attack at first, but from then on it’s the panic about having a another panic attack which can make the problem worse. It sounds like you’re now avoiding situations and places that appear to make your panic worse. This may feel better in the short term, but in the long term it can make your life very restrictive. It’s often difficult to work out why we keep having these unpleasant attacks, but help is available. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you overcome your panic and there are also computer-based CBT programmes, which you can access from home. Do talk to your GP, who can help explain your condition, investigate your symptoms if required and offer treatment and referral if necessary to help control your symptoms.