What are situational panic attacks?
These panic attacks revolve themselves around specific situations that a sufferer finds extremely anxiety producing. Also known as, panic triggers, these situations are more likely to induce a panic attack response when exposed to them.
So what triggers your panic sensations?
Common Panic Triggers
Standing in Line
For many people, standing in line poses a real problem. The idea of standing for long periods of time, or the feeling of being trapped between people is anxiety producing. In situations, such as grocery shopping, there can be overwhelming panic, especially when unloading groceries onto the belt. For many, this activity causes them to feel trapped into a situation they cannot get out of. This leaves the sufferer feeling out of control and vulnerable to panic. It helps to distract yourself by giving yourself an activity while you are waiting, such as grabbing a magazine from the shelf, looking through your wallet or purse or making conversation with another person in line. Although distraction methods do help, they don't completely solve the problem. Be sure to use positive replacement thinking when challenging racing throughts.
Driving in Traffic
Many feel trapped when driving in traffic. The inability to control the situation causes them exteme anxiety, body tension, and racing thoughts that eventually contribute to a panic experience. When panic is experienced during a driving experience, it is not uncommon for them to visualize every possible thing that could go wrong under that condition. This of course, only feeds the anxiety and provokes more panic. There is very little that can be done about traffic. However, there are things you can do to help yourself get through this stressful situation. One thing that helps alot is isometric exercises, although it doesn't completely solve the problem, it enables you to take control over your muscles.
Waiting for an Appointment
Whether you are waiting for a doctor's appointment or an appointment with a lawyer, it really doesn't matter. Nobody likes to wait, but for someone who is suffering anxiety, this waiting is a chance to dwell on the negative! Believe it or not, this is a great time for isometric exercises as well as positive thinking. If you are having a particularly hard time staying focused, it's a good idea to bring along something to read, perhaps a good self-help book or you can even use this time to journal what you are feeling. Do not worry about those around you, they have their own problems to deal with. Chances are, they might even be worse than yours.
This is a very common trigger for panic sensations. Not everyone loves the dentist. In fact, many of us have bad memories from past experiences. Even the smell of a dentist's office is enough to provoke a panic experience. It's important to note that there are thousands, if not millions, of people who experience dental anxiety. It helps to let your dentist know how you feel. This releases the pressure off of you to be the "perfect" patient. Believe it or not, they understand more than you realize and very often are able to help you cope through the experience better. Remember, you take control of your situation by taking the pressure off yourself to be perfect. For detailed information on dental anxiety, please visit Dental Fear Central.
Riding in an Elevator
Riding in elevators is particularly difficult for someone with a panic disorder. Feeling trapped and out of control in the situation is almost always the trigger for a panic experience. Many people feel claustrophobic, others have social anxiety and fear conversation with strangers, and others simply fear something bad happening and being trapped with no way out. No matter how you look at it, a panic experience in an elevator is less than desireable. In fact, it's outright terrifying. Many people would rather take the stairs than ride in an elevator. Learning to overcome your fear of panic is a big process of elimination. You can learn to overcome this fear by using cognitive-behavoral methods and gradual exposure. It helps to have a friend with you the first few times, then it's important to try it alone, even if it's only one floor at a time. It's important to understand the facts about panic and how to stop panic attacks prior to overcoming this fear.
Remember, Fear is Only Fear
No matter what causes your situational panic attacks, it's important to know that all fear is the same. Although the intensity can range from mild to extreme, fear is fear and nothing more.
Learning to overcome your fear of panic is the key to overcoming a panic attack in any situation. When you fully understand panic, how it works, it's routine physical expression, and how it's caused, you will be more than halfway to recovery.
Avoiding situations that provoke panic are never recommended! In fact, avoiding the panic trigger will only give strength to the fears you feel, making it harder and harder to return to these situations in the future. Agoraphobia can develop as a result of avoidance. So I encourage you to face your fears and challenge your panic sensations.
Remember, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Why? Because fear keeps us from moving forward and keeps us paralyzed from changing and growing.