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Don’t ignore this important symptom.

The universe speaks when you stop and listen

When you think about living with panic attacks, it’s the dramatic symptoms that come to mind. Having a panic attack can be terrifying with sudden sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and even chest pain. You might think you’re having a heart attack—or that you’re dying.

It makes sense that you’d do anything to avoid those feelings and the loss of control they bring. And sometimes, it works. But at what cost? It may not always be as visible as other symptoms, but for people who have regular panic attacks, or panic disorder, avoidance is a central part of the condition. And that avoidance can have major impacts on your quality of life, even if it’s easier to hide.

Avoidance and panic attacks

When you’ve experienced a full-blown panic attack, you never want to go through one again. And you definitely don’t want to have one in a public place, where you can’t control your surroundings.

At its core, avoidance is a coping strategy for dealing with anxiety or excessive fear. You tell yourself that if you can just steer clear of this one thing, you’ll be safe from feelings that might trigger an attack.

Sometimes, this might work. But over time it can make your anxiety symptoms worse. That’s in part because every time you escape or avoid the thing you’ve told yourself is a trigger, you reinforce the fear and anxiety around it.

And even if you manage to avoid triggering another panic attack, avoidance can come at a cost. You might miss out on job opportunities, relationships, or experiences. In short, it causes you to miss out on living your life to the fullest.

How to stop avoidance behaviors

With panic disorder, the list of things to avoid another attack tends to grow over time. It might start with feeling anxious when you get on the highway, causing you to avoid highways. Gradually, you might shrink the distance you’re able to drive until you stop driving altogether.

And when something happens gradually over time, you are more likely to adapt or normalize it. That’s why an important first step can be simply to take stock of what things you’ve changed in your life because of panic attacks.

When you do see the impact avoidance has on your life, it isn’t as easy as just deciding to start driving again. It can help to look for baby steps you can take. For example, if you’ve been avoiding friends, you might start with a text. If you’ve been avoiding crowded stores, start by just driving to the grocery store and sitting in the parking lot.

Get help when you need it

Panic attacks don’t mean you’re weak, or crazy. They are mental health symptoms that can be treated, so you can focus on living your life, not fearing your next attack.

You have options when it comes to treatment, too. Freespira is one treatment that teaches people with panic disorder how to adjust their breathing patterns to prevent panic attacks. It’s a skill that you can learn in just 28 days at home, and then take with you for long-term relief.

Have questions? Schedule a 15-minute call with a member from our care team. 

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