Behaviours make up the final element of the panic cycle.
Behaviours complete the chain link, fixing together with thoughts and feelings and locking in to create the Anxiety cycle.
Behaviours are totally responsible for forcing you to believe that if you don't perform them you will fall victim to your feelings of panic.
Having behaviours in place to protect yourself means that you never realise or believe that it is you that is coping with the Anxiety yourself as it will lead you to believe that by safety behaviours in place is protecting you, which just is not true.
The problem is that when you suffer with anxious thoughts and feelings, your natural instinct is to protect yourself from this "thing " that is happening to you.
You become preoccupied with the fear and dread of feeling it again and so you begin to make changes to your routine and limit your activities, adapting to stop these thoughts and feelings coming anymore.
You begin a trail of avoidance of situations or you use behaviours as a way of keeping this panic at bay. You tend go into yourself and stop focusing on the world around you, focusing more on self monitoring.
Ultimately you are following your own natural instinct to protect yourself and keep yourself safe. But the fact is that you are trying to keep yourself safe from something that is not dangerous.
You are trying to control the Anxiety but the fact is that you are not out of control, you are very much in control and setting your own parameters and safety boundaries. You may have some problem believing this but it is true.
The initial stress when this started may have come as something of a huge shock, but as time moves on habits form and you are very much in control of this.
These behaviours can be very prominent and quite obvious or they can be subtle and harder to spot.
I feel it is important at this point to highlight the kind of behaviours that I am referring to. I have listed below some examples of Behaviours that are commonly linked to Panic and Anxiety Disorders.
- You avoid anything or anywhere that you associate with having a panic attack or may bring a panic attack or feelings of Anxiety on.
- If you do make it to the place or situation that you intended to go, you run from that place as soon as you feel anxious feeling that the action of getting yourself out of the situation will calm down your panic.
- You shallow breathe or Hyperventilate until the attack passes as you feel even more anxious if you cannot take a large breath
- You hold your breath, trying to regain a normal breathing pattern.
- You hold parts of your body as if that will prevent you being "lost in an attack"- for example when I suffered I would hold my neck with my left hand, pushing my fingers into my neck, I am not sure why but it seemed to make me feel better, maybe relieved the pressure feeling I felt within my throat which was the part of my body I tended to feel Anxiety.
- You avoid anything that may cause you to feel Anxiety type feelings such as watching horror movies, reading the paper and seeing a sad story or watching a drama on the television
- You will do anything to distract yourself from engaging in Anxiety type thoughts ( Its feels almost like if you allow yourself to think about the way you feel, you will somehow invite the feelings and may reach the point of no return)
- You tense your Muscles and clench your fists to prevent yourself fainting as you feel sure you will faint.
- You ring friends to distract yourself during or when you feel Anxious feelings or a Panic attack starting, anything to stop you falling into the feelings that you can feel coming on.
- You pick at your skin, pull out hairs or bite your finger nails as a way of relieving the stress that you feel.
- You stay as near as you can to your appointed "safe people" who you believe are stopping you from "becoming victim to your panic" when you are with them, becoming dependant on them rather than on yourself.
- You carry "Safety objects" such as a drink to wet your throat, or gum to chew, or you won't leave the house without your mobile phone. Or maybe you get your husband or wife to carry out oil check on the car before you drive
- When driving any distance, you go over and over maps/auto route, checking exactly how many miles it is to your destination and working out the shortest route or weighing up if it's too far for you to get there. I would spend hours obsessing about the journey or my cars ability to get me to my destination. I would get my partner to check my car.
- You avoid any face to face meeting with Anyone for fear of them "noticing " your secret or the fact that you don't feel right.
- You carry panic calming pills in your pocket such as Diazepam "Just in case"
- You carry out Ritualistic behaviours to cope with life such as comfort eating, counting or double checking
- You drink alcohol or take drugs to numb feelings..
- You carry a plastic bag around in your pocket to combat your fears of hyperventilating or being sick.
This is to name but a few.
All of the above points have one common goal, they all ensure that Anxious or Panicky feelings are avoided at all costs.
Applying such behaviours also ensures that you never learn that it is in fact you that deals with yourself and your panicky feelings and not the behaviours that save you.
If you just sat and waited each time you felt anxious or panicked, the panic would still die down as that is what panic does. All attacks would end regardless of what you did.
I need to break off at this moment to point out some rules when it comes to achieving back your quality of life from these issues.
- Panic and Anxiety Disorders are also known as avoidance disorders and so avoiding anything will keep your problem alive
- You must do the opposite to what your natural instinct is telling you to do when it is trying to protect you
- Feelings must be allowed to process to go away, if you do not allow yourself to feel feelings then they cannot process.
- If you never allow yourself to feel the panic without applying a behaviour or putting something in place to protect yourself, how will you ever work out that it is you that is perfectly capable in dealing with this and not your prop or avoidance that is protecting you.
- Yes the panic may run its course, but as I was to learn the hard way only until you get stressed the next time and then it will come right back to haunt you again as underneath it all you never removed your fear. You never did learn that the feelings won't harm you as you have been performing behaviours all the way along as a way of avoiding the fear.
Do you see where you are going wrong? . To gain back your quality of life over these feelings and to reduce these negative habits you ultimately have to stop trying to keep yourself safe from something that is not dangerous.
These behaviours are not helping you, each time you use them you are just digging yourself further into the cycle. This is keeping you in a state of anxiety not removing it from you.
Please read and re read this page, reflect on your own issue's and see how you could have been keeping yourself stuck.
Have you ever asked yourself the question as to why your anxiety or panic seems to get worse and worse the more time goes on despite your efforts to keep yourself safe?. This is why.
I was never learning that I could cope, I was relying on rituals and behaviours to prevent the feelings when I needed to feel them with no safety net what so ever to realise that if I had let go then nothing would have happened to me.
It really is that simple, you can easily bring all your Anxiety problems to an end quickly once you get the hang of accepting this fear and taking it with you rather than fighting against it.
To get back normal life, you need to live normal life.
Let's look at some helpful suggestions on how to eliminate unhelpful behaviours or patterns of behaviour that are keeping you stuck.
- Sit down with a pad and paper and write down everything you do to keep yourself safe, put some real thought into this as some things you do will be obvious and some more difficult to spot.
- Try and experiment, next time you panic just let it come, see what happens! If your hands shake-let them in fact let it happens.
- Notice what actually happens to you when you panic. Did you really choke to death, stop breathing, have a heart attack or go crazy?. I would guess not.
- We tend to over look the positive when we panic and instead focus on what was negative. For example, if I had an panic attack in a supermarket queue, however bad I felt the reality was that I would probably have stayed there and paid for my shopping and then walked to my car, loaded it and drove home. However I would not notice that I had coped, instead I would focus on the negative that I felt awful. I would not notice the positive.
- Realise that you always have a choice. Panic and Anxiety do not stop you doing anything at all, you choose not to do it.
- Understand that a Panic attack or Anxiety will not kill you, make you lose control or go crazy. It won't because it can't, it's just adrenalin and adrenalin cannot sustain for a long length of time. The real danger of anxiety is not that you will die or go crazy, it's that you will become so phobic you will give up most of the situations or places that you used to enjoy.
- Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? Test it out and see if it does.
- Stop trying to put out your fire with petrol.
- Adapt the attitude that you will " deal with it when it happens" if you suffer with anticipatory Anxiety. Let it build it cannot hurt you, but go anyway and deal with any problems you think you may have when and if they happen while you are there.
- Start with small steps nearer home if that helps and build up your confidence.
- You have nothing to lose, it's got to be better than how you feel now.
- At the moment you have lots of evidence that you cannot deal with these feelings which is keeping you there. You now need to start building the evidence that you can cope by dropping these behaviours, this will convince you that these feelings cannot hurt you and you will have the evidence there that you did it!
- If you have a setback get right back up and keep going. You will get there in the end.
- Most of what you fear will never happen
- Choose quality of life.
There is only one way to overcome this and the only way is understanding and breaking this chain link in a way in which your mind and body understand.