Learning LIST-Learning

Panic attacks and anxiety

A common issue for people who have experienced sexual abuse is intense anxiety and panic attacks. This can take the form of distressing physiological symptoms (difficulty breathing, or shaking, or tightness in the chest), coupled with thoughts that prompt dread or fear (being convinced that something bad will happen).

The combination of physical and psychological aspects can lead to a kind of vicious cycle which can be debilitating. People find themselves worrying that they are going to have more panic attacks, which can prompt more anxiety, and so on. People often say it feels like they are ‘going crazy’.

Some tips for dealing with panic attacks…

  • Learn the signs of your panic attacks.
  • When you notice the signs, say to yourself ‘I know what is happening, it’s just a panic attack’.
  • Remind yourself that you have gotten through this before and you will get through this.
  • Use your sense of touch – deliberately pay attention to the feel and texture of your chair or clothing.
  • Get yourself a glass of water if you can (don’t ask someone else to get it for you).

You can also try some of the tips for dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. Again, when you are in a quiet, safe place, you might like to try and work out the triggers.