Anxiety and panic

It is normal to feel anxious after you have experienced a shocking, distressing experience. Your knees go weak, your heart pounds, it is as if you can’t breathe anymore, you feel sick, dizzy, you break out into a sweat. In themselves, these are quite normal reactions.

Incomprehensible panic reactions

It is a different matter, though, if you get anxiety reactions when something happens that is only remotely similar to the distressing event that you have endured. Or if there is no comprehensible connection whatsoever. Just like that, all of a sudden you break out into a sweat, you have palpitations, the world is spinning around you, you are weak at your knees, you have a heavy feeling in your stomach.
You are embarrassed when this happens in the company of others. It makes you terribly insecure. You can’t control it. You feel it may strike just like that and it is a terrible feeling. And you can’t explain it to people around you.

Avoidance

You may think, initially, that it is something physical. That there’s something wrong with your body.
Perhaps you have already asked your GP for a check-up and s/he hasn’t been able to find anything wrong with you. Over time, you start to avoid situations that might trigger such reactions. Because you don’t know what triggers such panic reactions, you can’t actually go anywhere anymore. You withdraw more and more into yourself. You are so scared that the panic attack will strike suddenly. Just thinking about it panics you.

Life ruled by fear

Your everyday life is increasingly defined by your fear of having a panic attack. You no longer do things you used to enjoy. You lose touch with the people around you. You’ve lost control of your life and enjoy life less and less.

However, avoiding situations that might trigger the anxiety and panic reactions is not the solution. In the end, you’ll have to face up to the event without experiencing violent, negative feelings and manifestations. Of course, this takes time. There are a number of self-help programmes that can support you as you recover from a distressing experience. Go to ‘Online tools’ for relevant links. If these programmes aren’t of help to you, and the anxiety/panic reactions persist, it is important that you seek professional help. Look under ‘Help and Counselling’ on this website to find out where and how best to find professional help.