There is a rule #1 for panic attacks. If you only know one thing about panic attacks, this is it.
Rule #1: Panic attacks are not dangerous. They can not hurt you. A panic attack is the fight or flight response.
When panic attacks come in close succession, it becomes a pretty scary thing. Anyone that’s experience multiple panic attacks over the course of a short period of time (within an hour or two) can attest to how terrible this feels.
There’s an important thing to call out at this point. The difference between anxiety and panic.
The difference is the intensity of feeling. A panic attack is a short, intense rush. The heart quickly pumps blood to the major muscle groups and away from your extremities. Your chest burns from the CO2 buildup resulting from heavy breathing.
But here’s the thing. Our bodies, naturally, can only be in panic mode for a couple minutes at most. The panic trigger was designed to alert you, warn you, ergo help save you from immediate danger. But it wasn’t designed to last. After about 20 or 30 seconds of panic, the liver quickly processes the adrenaline and the brain begins to release calming chemicals from your feel good receptors.
But you still perceive danger. Whether it’s legit or not. You’re scared. And, by the way, you’re still anxious, which is a state our bodies *can* be in for an extended period of time. And because you’re still emotionally afraid, you build up that emotion and anxiety and have another panic attack.
But here’s the thing, each subsequent panic attack in a chain of attacks are always less intense than the previous. This is true because in the previous panic attack, we learned something. We collected data in real time that proved that we can have these intense feelings and all was going to be OK. They were going to eventually go away. So while you’re still perceiving danger and in the throughs of your next panic attack, your brain is kicking in with less punch.
And then each one after gets easier and easier until you habituate to the feeling and situation. You become calm.
So panic attacks have their own algorithm that goes something like this.
Variables to consider:
* Perception of Immediate Danger (true or false)
* Panic Attack Intensity (number 1 - 10 with 10 being highest)
* Panic Attack Number (which panic attack in the series of attacks)
As long as Perception of Immediate Danger is true
Panic Attack Number 1 has a Panic Attack Intensity of 10
Panic Attack Number 2 has a Panic Attack Intensity of 9 or 8
Panic Attack Number 3 has a Panic Attack Intensity of 6 or 5
In the example above, two things are true:
It might be uncomfortable, but you will cope.