I started having panic attacks when I was around 8 years old. At the time, I didn’t understand what they were, I just knew I felt like this was surely the end for me each time I had one. Mine occurred mostly at night, after I had gone to bed, and I was left alone with my thoughts and fears.
In my late teens and 20’s, this “nighttime” anxiety crept into my day as well. It would often start with a racing heart, racing thoughts about dying, and an overall fear that I could not identify. No matter what I tried, these attacks would come on frequently, out of the blue and leave me shaken for hours afterwards.
As they progressed, I began having them in public as well. I even hyperventilated and passed out once in a public setting. This progression led to me withdrawing from friends and activities I once loved, because I was afraid of embarrassing myself. After several years of experiencing this, I finally talked with my doctor, who prescribed anxiety medication. This medication helped some, but it left me with other side effects that I didn’t like.
I decided to meet with a therapist. I figured I had nothing to lose, and I was hopeful about getting my life back. My therapist worked with me to help me peel back the layers of where my fears were coming from, and he helped me to work through these fears with an approach called cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change the destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior and emotions. My journey in therapy lasted around 6 months and it equipped me with tools to overcome my fears and anxiety. I was even able to overcome my fear of flying!
There are so many effective, non-pharmaceutical options for addressing anxiety and panic disorders. Each person has different reasons for why they experience these disorders. Explore your options and get your life back too!