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"I feel like I'm dying!" - Treating Panic Attacks
How a Poor Self-Image Builds Anxiety
I began to realize that even though I bad never thought of myself as a negative person, I always did seem to foresee everything that could possibly go wrong. I also spent a lot of time berating myself whenever! didn’t finish things I started or do things exactly as I had wished. I now saw that my mind was constantly churning over my limitations and adding more stress to my rain barrel. No wonder it had overflowed!
Another insight I discovered in my study is that our minds don’t always know the difference between reality and what we tell ourselves is happening. If we tell ourselves we always get the short end of the stick, we will act as if we do, even if the actual facts of the situation would prove otherwise. We are the ones who unwittingly tell ourselves to fail when we are actually in a, position to win.
Jim also told me I needed to receive lots of positive feedback from my attempts to desensitize myself. He gave me a list of names of other patients who were desensitizing themselves to anxiety. With this list and his words of advice, I planned my first trip.
I was surprised to discover that I really could drive the car four blocks, park in the supermarket lot, and immediately drive home. Of course, I bad to fill myself with tranquilizers to do it. My hands became sweaty at the end of the first block. As I went on, my heart began to race, and by the time I arrived, I felt on the verge of blacking out. But I did not get a full-fledged panic attack. I sat quietly in the parking lot and reminded myself I wasn’t going to die, that I was just experiencing some bodily arousal, and that at worst I would feel a fight or flight response. I drove back home, walked shakily into my house, and collapsed into a chair. As soon as I was calm, I called one of my fellow-sufferers and reported what I had felt.
“You did great!” he told me. “You’re domg just fine.” And that was heady praise!
The next day I repeated my trip. I reminded myself that I had done it yesterday, and I could do it today. I was going to be okay. This time I drove a little farther before my heart began to race.
My progress in desensitizing myself was slow but steady. I was determined that I was going to get over my panic. I was thoroughly committed to the idea, even though I was still very much afraid and I found desensitization hard work.
The Five Basic Principles
Reflection Exercise #11
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