Roger Harty: Panic Attacks

Posted by

rsz_roger_hartyMY sincerest sympathy and empathy goes out to anybody who suffers from panic attacks.

Having experienced them in reality myself I can honestly say that I don’t think there is a worse feeling in the world.

If you are an onlooker it is a scary experience to witness someone having a panic attack but I can guarantee you it is at least twice as scary for the person experiencing it.

You see, the person experiencing the panic attack is just like an onlooker themselves but it is happening within their own body and they feel helpless and powerless to do anything about the panic attack themselves.

What is very helpful here is to examine the origin of the word panic. It is of Greek origin.

Pan was a mythological creature who inhabited the forests of ancient Greece. It was a mischievous deity, half human and half goat, who terrified the people of the forest at the time.

It had the head and body of a human and the horns and legs of a goat. It roamed the forest and put the fear of God into any passer-by who happened to cross its path. Thus the term panic.

Panic suggests out of control and fear – not knowing what to do next. When this happens the heart rate increases and we begin to breathe much faster.

The good ould ‘fight or flight’ system begins to kick in. Because we are breathing faster we are sending direct messages to the body that ‘all is not well’ which in turn causes a sense of more fear and being totally out of control.

This can end up being a vicious never-ending cycle of fear along with all the horrible sensations that go with it for the person experiencing the panic attack.

Anyone who has experienced a panic attack will know exactly what I mean and unfortunately for them at the time there appears to be no way out. Thus more fear!

Fortunately there is a way out of panic attacks and the solution lies in ‘the Breath’. Panic is fed by the sensation of being out of control – not knowing what to do next just like the terrified traveller in ancient Greece when faced with that fearsome creature.

Let’s face this fear head on and come to realise a truth –  all those fearsome creatures are part of mythology are  truly dead and gone so there is no real reason to fear.

The reality is that the fears aren’t real. Let’s put this into real practice. If we realise that there is nothing truly to fear, but if we continue to breathe quickly the body still interprets the situation that the reason for the fear is ‘still’ present.

The trick is to breath slowly and gently and gradually the body will interpret it as ‘absence of fear’ and thus the panic will recede.

I know I used the word trick so instead we can use the word solution but who cares so long as it works. The body doesn’t care if the reason for the fear is real or not, it still reacts in the same way.

The corollary is also true the body doesn’t care if the reason for calm is real or not it still reacts in the same way.

As I said in the world that we live in now the kind of life endangering situations that our ancestors faced don’t exist anymore.

The fears aren’t real. As a result we should practice slow breathing on a much more regular basis thus sending the over-riding signal of calm to the body.

One of the best ways to do this is to practice meditation and mindfulness on a regular basis so that when panic come we have the necessary tools to ‘cope’.

When we have the ‘tools’ to cope that reassures us that all is well and that we are in control thus sending subtle messages to the body that everything is ‘just fine’.

Panic in turn dissolves as the main ingredient i.e. fear is no long present as fear cannot truly be present when we are in control.

The one thing that we are always in control of is our next breath and the secret and solution lies here.

Next week I am going to write about the meaning of Truth.

• Roger Harty is a life coach and can be contacted on 087-6128336, on twitter at @Innerjoyz1 or by email 

Comments are closed.