Almost four years ago, I struggled with intense anxiety. I would experience panic attacks regularly. I was eventually diagnosed with panic disorder. However, while still experiencing anxiety at times, (which if anyone tells you they never experience any degree of anxiety, they are foolish-don't listen to them), by the grace of God, I don't struggle with panic attacks anymore.
It's hard for someone who has never struggled with panic, or seen anyone struggle with panic, to understand exactly what a panic attack actually is and what it feels like. I hear people that will jokingly state that something or someone gave them a panic attack, however, I can tell real quickly if they actually know what they are talking about or not. It's okay if it's hard for some people to understand what it's like- I definitely don't want to be the "panic police," that shows up any time someone misuses the word panic. I would, however, love to help educate people on anxiety if they would like to learn.
The easiest way I describe panic attacks are 'a sudden rush of fear.' I usually use the analogy given to me by my counselor in Florida, Dr. D:
Let's say a gunman were to walk in in your house during the Super Bowl party that you were hosting for your neighborhood. The gunman yelled at the top of his lungs, with his gun waving in the air, telling everyone to get on the floor. Now, in the moment, a "trigger button" in our brains, put there by God himself, will go off in our heads. This can be described as a "fight or flight" situation. The trigger in our brains during this situation is a good thing. A great thing actually! Almost immediately, our brain tells our bodies to get ready to fight or flight/run. Everyone in that room, because of the way God designed the human body, would experience the same physical and mental sensations. For example, our hearts would start racing. We may become dizzy. Our hands and feet would turn white, due to our blood rushing to our biceps and legs, preparing us to stay and fight or run away. It's pretty cool that our bodies are designed to protect us in that way, huh?
But what is it like to experience a panic attack? Essentially, the brain of someone who struggles with panic sets off the trigger switch in their head at the WRONG time. That person's brain "tells them" there's a gunman in the room, when there's actually no gunman. Make sense?
I hope this helps the person who needs help ministering to their friend or family member struggling with panic. I also hope this helps the person struggling with intense anxiety. There are books upon books written describing your brain to the detail. You're not alone.
Panic attacks are very real. However, they are VERY treatable. The main remedy to panic?
Change the way you think (see bottom).
Borrow my Hope.
(Look back through previous posts with helpful tips for changing the way you think or follow along with future posts on this blog or even ask me directly!)