Fear, Fantasies and Embarrassment

At this point of fear escalation, men and women often tend to have slightly different fear fantasies.  Typically, men fear they are going to have a heart attack, and women worry they are going to lose control of their minds.  Both men and women worry that they will embarrass themselves by doing something foolish or strange.  For some people, it overlaps; they fear all of it.  Whatever your particular manifestation of fear, you are not only afraid of the original situation that caused you to worry.  Your physical symptoms scare you even more. 

The past or future event that triggered the anxiety has moved into the background.  Now you are afraid of the fear itself; your very survival is in question. 

Your mind turns inward.  It’s out of control, spinning along in a cycle of fear.  It can only think the worst.  “This is it! I’m in deep trouble now. What if I have a heart attack? What if I die?”

You no longer feel that you’re in control, and in fact you’re not.  The fear has taken over.  If you allow it to reach this point, it has built up so much momentum, you might as well give it a name like “Hurricane Hopeless” and just wait for it to blow over.  But wouldn’t you rather catch it before it takes you on its tortuous ride?  You can.

Some people have panic attacks daily, others have one or two a month, and still others have only one or two over the span of their lives.  Panic attacks aren’t always easy to recognize or explain.  In fact, many people don’t even realize they’re having one.  Instead, they think they’re sick, having a heart attack, losing their minds, or even dying.  Most often, however, our biggest concern is not about dying.  Rather, it is about embarrassment.  “Will anyone notice? What will people think? Will I do something foolish to embarrass myself or anybody else?”

 A friend of mine was telling me about his fear of heights; he was afraid he’d jump off a balcony.

 “So you’re afraid you’ll die?” I asked him.

 “Oh no,” he said.  “What would people think?”

 Because we’re so afraid and ashamed of our panic attacks, we often try to tell ourselves that we aren’t having one.  This very denial is what allows the attack to escalate to a point where we can’t do anything about it.  But the sooner we recognize the onset of a panic attack, the sooner we can begin working to minimize it.  Symptoms, although they differ, are perfectly obvious.  If we would only look within, if we were willing to accept what was happening, we would be able to quickly recognize when we were moving toward or beginning a panic attack and subsequently prevent the continuation of the cycle of fear / symptoms / more fear, etc.

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Information related to panic attacks and panic disorder on this website has not been reviewed by a medical professional. Panic Attack Resources is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace professional attention that may be required. If you experience panic attacks, panic disorder or related symptoms, it is important you speak to a doctor or therapist to help you find relief.

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