Archive for the ‘labored breathing’ Tag

Panic Attacks: Don’t Panic   2 comments

I was sitting at my desk at work staring at my computer.   Nothing on the screen was registering in my brain.  All around the room I heard busy little fingers manipulating their keyboards at what seemed sonic speeds.  I stole a quick glance to the right and then to the left.  My neck was stiff.  I saw my co-workers intimately involved with their work online.  They could have been on Facebook or emailing their friends, but in my mind they were diligently earning money for the company.

I realized I had perspiration beads on my forehead and more trickling down the back of my neck into my sweater, which was much too warm for the sunny spring day.  My breathing became labored, my chest tightened and I began to get indigestion, hiccuping every twenty seconds or so.  All this was altering my sense of reality and I began to feel disoriented and a little dizzy.  I felt trapped in the office space, frantically trying to figure out the fastest way out of the room.  I kept telling myself, “Don’t pass out at work.  It’s only a panic attack.  Keep cool and it will subside.”

It was getting worse.  Hyperventilation  loomed around the corner.  I grabbed my briefcase and hurriedly slipped out of the office without saying a word.  When I got outside onto the city street I went into an alley, popped  two 1mg Lorezapam tablets, sat down on the sidewalk with my back against a wall and took some deep breaths. A cool breeze washed over me as my breathing eventually slowed down and the sticky sweat began to dry on my body.  The panic attack subsided and I was saved the embarrassment of someone calling the EMT’s, who would only have me breathe into a paper bag infront of my entire work group.  This would earn me the illustrious title of “office head case.”

The problem with panic attacks are you never know when they are going to rear their ugly heads.  You might feel like you have a handle on your life, but something in your subconscious is trying to punch its way through the “good thoughts retaining wall” in your brain.  Or, you have some general anxiety, but you didn’t realize to what extent it is effecting you.  Alas, it might be situational anxiety, where you feel threatened in a particular place and your mind goes into overdrive.

When you are having a panic attack, the most important thing to remember is not to panic.  I know, easier said than done.  But keep in mind  they are not life threatening in most cases and you do not want to be rushed to the hospital for one.  When everyone else has gunshot wounds or are having heart attacks, sitting on your gurney in the emergency room benignly breathing into a paper bag can make you feel like even more of a mental patient.

Next, if you are driving or operating heavy machinery, cease and desist.  You’re going to accidentally run someone over or cut your arm off.  Get away from potential onlookers and find a quiet space where you can just sit down alone and not be bothered.  If you have medication like Valium or Lorezapam, take one.  Then concentrate on slowing your breathing down with some big deep breaths.  Be aware of the fact that you are only having a panic attack and it will go away.  Think of something you’d like to do that day if you don’t end up in the emergency room.  Tell yourself you can can calm yourself down.  Close your eyes and give yourself more than enough time to let it pass.  Be absolutely sure before you get up.

Panic attacks are scary.  They make you feel like you are having a heart attack and about to visit the grim reaper.  But in most cases they are all in your head.  Simply mind over matter.  However the mind is a very powerful thing.  And panic attacks usually strike at very inopportune moments.  By having enough presence of mind to realize it’s a panic attack, removing yourself from the situation and giving your body and mind time to recover, you can usually avoid an embarrassing ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance.