Many people who have the problem wonder if there really is a cure for panic attacks. Well, I can categorically state that there is – I know – I used to suffer from them and now I do not! In my opinion you should not learn how to cope with them, you need to learn how to stop having them!
In my case, it was not a case of getting treatment for my condition. I just made a succession of small changes to my life, and as a consequence I started to feel less anxious. The panic attacks just died away naturally.
These attacks are a manifestation of anxiety. Could you imagine having an attack and yet feeling totally relaxed? It's a logical impossibility.
There are basically two types of panic. The first type is justified and rational and the second type is not.
If someone was to push you out of an aircraft at high altitude without a parachute then you would be perfectly justified in feeling somewhat anxious about it and nobody would say that you were suffering from a disorder if you got yourself into a state of panic!
This type of panic is easy to deal with – just avoid getting yourself into dangerous situations in the first place. No danger, no panic.
By comparison, the cause of the second type of panic is not obvious to the sufferer and that is what makes it so scary. It is easy to think that you are having a heart attack. In fact many people end up in a hospital emergency room for that very reason.
For an example, let's say that they are sitting on a bus and you suddenly start to feel very anxious for no apparent reason. It reminds you of what happened the last time you traveled by bus. Perhaps the bus then was overcrowded and it was a very hot day, or there was a very unpleasant person sitting next to you ranting and raving at you and the other passengers. It does not really matter what the exact cause of the anxiety is, the important thing to note is that you are starting to feel bad just thinking about it. It is very worried to feel like that and not understand why. The thought comes into your head that you are ill. That is even more worrying. You have got yourself into a spiral of anxiety that can quickly escalate into a full-blown anxiety or panic attack.
So, what is the answer? I found understanding this anxiety-panic process to be very helpful. Once I realized that I was creating these feelings out of memories of stressful situations, I developed strategies that helped me relax. Nowadays I can sense feelings of anxiety developing and I stop what I'm doing and clear my mind.