Anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks and also a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The reality of the experience can however, bring one to question if they are on the verge of insanity, having a heart attack or dying. At the very onset anxiety attacks can last for as little as five minutes but even that space of time can feel like eternity.
For Constance, the feeling is daunting. “Despite being smack in the middle of a mental space that on a superficial level could easily be thought of as a sense of stupor, I had the presence of mind to think safety first while hedging my car closer to the sidewalk in anticipation of some soon upcoming opening; a mall, a gas station, anything, anywhere that would allow me to park, heed the call of the anxiety and go to battle with it. I had already removed my seat belt as it had suddenly become restricting. I also unhooked my bra and opened the buttons of my blouse because that too had become so tight that it was affecting my breathing. I had already started my exercise of deep breathing. My mind had that regimen on automatic, but the car had suddenly become too small as well, so small a space, that there wasn’t enough air circulating,” is how she explained it.
This was not the first time. The occurrences feel like an invasion of one’s body and mind by something foreign, a spirit maybe. It had happened on the plane, at the drive thru and in other small spaces. “It” speaks to you. It says you are going mad, it tells you to get out of your car or get off the bus and run because that’s the only freedom and it seemingly prefers to have you naked.
Those whose culture predisposes them to a belief in the supernatural, ghost or the like, would tend to automatically revisit those thinking patterns without having a fair knowledge of the manifestation of anxiety attacks. It could appear to mimic supernatural possession as seen in movies. It is a fear bound voice in the head that tries to instruct or direct one to unreasonable action.
Michelle says, “These sudden thoughts and feelings of acute anxiety can be debilitating. They stem from overwhelming mental stress and fatigue. The feelings manifest fear which can cause palpitations, the feeling of being unable to breathe, being on the verge of having a heart attack, feeling like you are going crazy or dying. The feeling of claustrophobia which comes with a deep desire to exit small spaces be it bus, car, truck or plane, or agoraphobia, the fear of large crowded places, all of which becomes exacerbated as the anxiety feeds off of the false fears they trigger.”
To borrow from NPEROV.COM, “simply put, a panic attack is nothing more than a manifestation of fear without its source. Imagine that someone inadvertently increased the fire alarm system sensitivity in a room, and now it turned on itself in any random time. Something similar happens to us during the attacks: our body starts to sound the alarm without apparent reason. Of course, the panic attack of some people is triggered by some events in the outside world, for example, it starts in the subway or on the plane. But the principle is the same: the body reacts to some things too strongly and sensitively and “turns on” the panic mode.”
The recommended course of action is coaching based on a treatment plan to determine the best method to use in each situation. The most successful to date is cognitive behavioral therapy which is talking someone through the issue that is provoking the anxiety. For example, a common issue with veterans is a sound ringing in their ears. The individual must be encouraged to talk about the internal and external experience with constant reference to the current space and a constant reminder of how different it is and how far removed they are from the environment which triggered the uncomfortable experience. Coaching entails allowing individuals to express feelings and emotions about the incident as many times as needed, until the ringing stops. This is a process which could take many months to become effective.
With anxiety attacks, familiarity becomes one’s best defense as each episode comes with the same experience which usually demands a similar response. In order to overcome the fear, one must face it in order to walk through it. One must be defiant. For example, if the thought is to get out of the car, the mental response should be a constant reaffirmation that there is nothing wrong with the car, there is nothing wrong with me and I am staying because I have good reason to. Facing it fiercely should cause the feeling to wane over time. Half the battle is won in recognizing that anxiety is fed by fear.
Publisher KOTCH CARIBBEAN MAGAZINE