A common problem of panic disorder is being afraid of a panic attack happening. In its basic form, it’s a fear of fear itself. The fear is usually in the form of “what if” statements, such as what if I go to the mall and start to panic? The thoughts of “what happens if” bring up a lot of possible doomsday scenarios, such as what if I faint when I am at the mall, what if I lose control and start screaming for help, what if I can’t handle that panic attack? All of these questions run a similar theme of a FEAR of the FUTURE. Even if you are afraid of having a panic attack “right now,” the message still concerns what will happen next or after the panic.
An example scenario: “I am all alone right now, and I feel a panic coming on. If I can’t handle this panic right now, what if this is actually a heart attack and no one can help!?” In this situation, even though the panic is immediate, it is still about the future. When the panic is in the present, you simply deal with it until it passes, but its message is always about protection from the future. The future we fear could be years away or seconds away, but it cannot be in this exact second. The same thing applies to a fear of something that may have happened in the past. You can’t be scared of the past; the fear of the past is a “fear of fearing” it can occur again in a future.
With a fear like this, it is helpful to remind yourself that a panic is a worst-case scenario. When you first started having panic attacks, they were probably very scary and incomprehensible. Many people’s first panic attack often results in a visit to the emergency room because they thought they were having a heart attack.
One thing that is certain is regardless of whether you’ve had five panic attacks or five hundred, they all ended the same way – the panic subsided, and you eventually calmed down. I’ll bet that whatever terrifying thing you imagined would happen, didn’t end up happening. This is what makes a panic attack a worst-case scenario.
All panic runs its course, even if you are afraid that you will be locked in an everlasting panic attack (impossible) or that you’ll panic extremely frequently; they still all end the same. If you have a fear of the latter in which you’ll constantly be going in and out of panic attacks, that is also nearly impossible (I say “nearly” because it depends on what you define as frequently) and temporary. If you aren’t sure that’s true, get your favorite dessert and eat it “extremely frequently” and see how long it takes until you no longer can eat it. Frequent panic attacks are the same in which your body and mind will no longer be able to sustain having them once they are “too frequent.”
Feeling like you almost lost control or almost died IS NOT the same as actually losing control or dying, so when fearful feelings about panicking come up, try to remember that you have never lost control, “gone crazy” or died from a panic attack before and that it is only fear that makes you believe you will the next time.