And how one woman conquered it
Have you ever let fear stop you from driving or going to places you love? This happened to someone I know.
It had snowed that morning, but the roads didn’t seem bad, so the young Mom headed out. *Gina was on her way home from a dance class, with four children in the minivan. She was singing her favorite song on the radio.
The light turned red, and Gina hit the brakes. Her van began to slide on the ice. Gina lost control of the vehicle and it skidded all the way through an intersection.
Her children were stunned into silence. By some saving grace, no other cars were in the intersection and they were fine. Gina quickly pulled over to the gas station next to it and sat there shaking.
After that happened, Gina grew uncomfortable driving. The simplest ride around the corner triggered a panic attack. She’d grip the steering wheel, heart racing, her palms sweating, and her mind would go blank. It was terrifying. She started making up reasons not to get into the car and drive. She’d rather walk everywhere.
“it’s helping me lose weight,” she told her friends, but she wasn’t fooling anyone.
Unexpected panic attacks
What happened to Gina is quite common. She had a classic panic attack. They happen without warning. They can happen anywhere, in a job interview, on a car trip, or in a crowded store.
When a person is experiencing extreme anxiety, they will get sudden instances of fear that lasts for several minutes. It can be described as losing control or fear of a disaster. To some people, they get such a strong physical reaction, it feels like they are having a heart attack.
More women get them than men. They often begin in adolescence and young adulthood. They are sometimes triggered by a stressful event. In Gina’s case, it was the near accident with her children in the minivan.
Fear of another attack
Panic attacks can happen anywhere. Like Gina, people become so fearful of having another one, that they start avoiding going places. Some people become so fearful, they become homebound. They are embarrassed and ashamed that they are having these attacks.
Panic attacks not only affect you, but they affect your family. If you are so fearful you can’t leave the house, your children will suffer. They will grow tired of never having any fun experiences outside the home to spend with their family.
Fortunately, there are treatments. Effective treatments for panic disorder include talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes antidepressants like SSRIs and SSNI’s are prescribed.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy teaches the person how to learn to manage their fear. It shows how to analyze your thoughts and feelings when having an attack, so they can learn how to ward it off.
Gina avoided driving
Gina started to associate being in the car with her attacks – especially highway driving. That’s where most of them occurred.
Yet once she was shopping in a grocery store and started worrying she’d be late to pick up her daughter. Her heart started pounding, and she went into a panic attack right in the middle of the grocery store. She grew lightheaded from hyperventilating and felt like she was going to faint, right in the middle of the crowded store.
Fortunately, some friends she knew were shopping there, and stopped and helped her out. They helped calm her down, and the wife drove her home. The woman’s husband drove Gina’s care home for her.
After this happened Gina knew she needed help. She started bringing a paper bag wherever she went to use if she started hyperventilating. She chewed gum and sipped water when she was in the car. Both things seemed to calm her down.
She realized that when stressed, her body was going into a panic mode. Her heart rate increased, and she had terrible scary symptoms. She soon trained her mind to realize that she could calm herself down before it went too far.
Symptoms of a panic attack
Symptoms can come out at any time.
Some symptoms of a panic attack include a racing heart, chest pain, trouble breathing, feeling lightheaded and detached from reality, shaking and chills, fear of loss of control or death, and tingling hands or feet. Your hands may sweat, and you may have a feeling of impending doom.
If you feel you are getting a panic attack, always get checked out by a doctor to rule out any medical conditions. Therapy can help. There’s no need to suffer alone.
How Gina healed
Gina began to realize that if she didn’t face her fears, she would never do anything with her life. She started driving more again. She took it to step by step.
First, she drove short distances until she could get through the drive without a panic attack. Then she gradually increased the time she was on the road. She started to drive on highways again. She’d drive for ten minutes and then stop if she became too shaky.
As time went on, she increased her distances. Now she drives on highways all the time. She’s even learned to stay calm in traffic. She chews gum and sings to the radio. She stays hydrated. Her panic attacks have gradually disappeared.
Once Gina overcame her fears of driving, she next conquered flying. She learned some things to say to herself to calm her down when she was on a plane. She learned that if she distracted herself with things to read or movies to watch.
She now travels a lot. She still gets afraid, but she knows how to calm herself.
If you are getting symptoms
If you find yourself getting the symptoms of a panic attack, call a doctor and get treated. You don’t have to suffer alone. Realize that panic attacks are common, and happen in a stressful life. You can get them under control and regain your life.
You need not be embarrassed to say you had one. We live in a stressful world, and asking for help is the right thing to do.
,*Not her real name.