Those of you that come this way often will know that this is the page that changes from time to time, and at the moment it’s about panic attacks and then further down the page sadness and depression. This is not meant to be a definitive description of panic attacks nore is it a set of instructions on how to deal with them, it's really me sharing some of the things I have come across while being with people who have experienced panic attacks. So feel free to disagree with anything you read here, and if you do have panic attacks I would be interested in knowing your experiences.
So firstly lets just spend a moment thinking about the name “panic attack”. What a name to give to anything. The very name itself tells the person that they are so hopeless that they panic about the things that the rest of humanity takes calmly in its stride, not only that, but the panic is so bad that it must be called an attack. No wonder people feel badly about these sensations and don’t want to talk about them, often keeping them hidden.
The current research says that between one and two percent of the population has at least four separate attacks in any four-week period. Then a further ten percent has intermittent attacks, serious enough for them to seek help, usually through their Doctor. That means, if you have ever watched a football match the chances are that at least two of the people on the field have, or will suffer a panic attack at some time, and that’s excluding the referee and linesmen. If you were then to look around at the number of people in the stands and think about how many of them have attacks, it becomes clear that if you suffer panic attacks you are far from alone in this.
I am going to put forward the idea that we stop calling them panic attacks and instead used a more accurate name like Moments of Heightened Awareness, because that is really what they are. They are times when your body takes control for a short while and zips up your awareness, so that you can deal with what your body has decided might be a threat.
Unfortunately your body doesn’t always get it right. For instance there are times when you might find yourself a little bit stressed, so your body decides (without asking you) to give you a little shot of adrenalin, your heart rate goes up and breathing increases, all very useful if you need the energy to escape from the sabre-tooth tiger over there behind the trees, but not much use in modern-day situations like sitting in economy class waiting for the aircraft to take off. And that’s the problem, a moment of heightened awareness is there to give you the extra physical power to either fight the danger or runaway from it; usually known as the flight or flight response. But the stress we face today is different. We face noise, bright lights and day-to-day worries that our ancestors could not have imagined, but we still have the same rather primitive internal reactions to that stress and it shows itself as a moment of heightened awareness.
So what can you do about it?
Well there are some things you can do to help keep attacks under control.
- Think about how much coffee and sugar you are taking in.
- Remember there is also quite a lot of caffeine in tea so drinking eight cups of tea a day instead of three cups of coffee won’t really help.
- Food colouring can have an effect too.
- Keeping a food diary could help to identify the ones that might be triggering attacks.
- The way you think about attacks can bring them on, even to the extent that worrying about having an attack can be the cause of one. So understanding your own personal triggers can be a great help.
- Many people say they have benefited from learning relaxation techniques or doing yoga, and it does seem to make sense.
- Although these sensations are really horrible for the person at the time, having the certain knowledge that they will pass, is for many people a great help, however if you are having attacks and they last longer than ten to fifteen minutes I do recommend that you see your Doctor.
This all begs the question will counselling help? And I have to say there are no guarantees, but it is often the case that it can and does help. Knowing the causes and triggers of your attacks might well give you an understanding of what is happening to you, and that might give you some power over the sensations that come with an attack.
Counselling can also give you better self-understanding and self-knowledge, and those are powerful tools when it comes to dealing with panic attacks, or moments of heightened awareness.
Christine Ingham’s book called Panic Attacks ISBN 0-00-710690-4 is very informative and well worth reading.
Sadness and depression.
One of the problems with a self help page is that it leaves me open to the accusation of telling people what they are doing wrong and how they should be leading their lives and that is not what I do as a counsellor. Counselling is more to do with discovering between us the best solutions for you as an individual person, so please don’t take the following as a lesson in how to live, or a way of self-diagnosing depression; it is only a way of seeing or thinking about some of the things that come up for people who suffer from depression, and how people might be affected.
So how might you recognise depression. Well there do seem to be some indicators that might be worth taking notice of. Most people with depression will not experience everything on the list below but they will be acquainted with a significant number of them.
A loss of self-confidence.
Feeling irritable without knowing why.
An ongoing tiredness.
Difficulty in sleeping.
Difficulty in concentrating.
Loss of appetite.
Feeling an unfocussed anxiety.
A sense of meaningless and indecision.
Feeling physically and emotionally drained.
Loss of interest in sex.
Along with these things is often a feeling that we can no longer take pleasure in activities that we used to find interesting and enjoyable.
From time to time many of us have periods of sadness and have to deal with some of the things in this list, but sometimes they can get out of proportion and cause something like a downward spiral. If you think that the things on this list are familiar to you and that they are intruding into your life in a damaging way then it might be prudent to think about talking things over with someone.
For some people the sadness or depression becomes deeper, and can lead to more serious and harmful thoughts, so if you cannot see anything positive ahead of you and you think or feel so badly about things that you might think about ending your life, then please consider visiting your doctor or an experienced therapist, or the Samaritans.
What can you do to help feeling better?
In terms of self-help it has to be admitted that when someone is suffering from depression it becomes so much harder to do something to alleviate that suffering. It is often the case that the last thing a depressed person wants to hear is a list of jolly techniques designed to cheer that person up. That said, there are steps that can be taken towards a more positive outlook on life.
Can personal therapy help with sadness and depression?
Well it has been my experience that it can help. Taking time to find out where the root cause of the depression might be, and then talking it through might not change the facts, but it can give a clearer perspective, and when we see things in a clearer light it can be easier to deal with them.
Try not to keep it all to yourself.
Perhaps there has been a major upset, a bereavement, something bad in life or some sort of loss, these are things that often lead to depression and sadness. If you can talk to someone close to you – tell them how you feel. Talking seems to be part of the minds natural way of healing.
Try to be active.
I know that for someone who is depressed it is difficult to get the energy to go out for a walk or do something physical, but if you can take some exercise it will help you to sleep better and improve your appetite. It will also help to keep you physically fit.
Eating well can be helpful.
Really boring, I know, but if you can take care to eat well, and that really means cutting down on processed foods and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables it might help you to feel better. This is because some processed foods contain chemicals that do not help you to feel well in yourself, especially the preservatives and e-numbers.
As well as eating also think about drinking.
Try not to drown your sorrows with a drink. Alcohol just makes depression worse. It may make you feel better for a short while, but it doesn't last. Drinking can stop you dealing with important problems and from getting the right help. It's also bad for your physical health.
Simply talking about your feelings can be helpful however depressed you are. Sometimes it is hard to express your real feelings even to close friends. Talking things through with a trained counsellor or therapist can be easier. It can be a relief to get things off your chest and it can help you to be clearer about how you feel about yourself your life and the people around you.
1 Albert Cottage