With a little change in attitude, fears loose all their magnitude.
Symptoms of panic can be subdued and eliminated with knowledge about how your body responds to an adrenaline surge and with practice refocusing on something pleasant or floating past anxiety during episodes. However, recovery will not be complete until you have changed your attitude toward panic by revaluing it. In the following example, insecurity became an intoxicating experience:
One young man began imagining a beautiful peaceful place when he first started to feel his heart pound. He was surprised that this actually made him feel euphoric. Of course, as soon as he began looking forward to symptoms of anxiety so he could get “high,” he no longer had panic attacks. His recovery continued as long as he remembered that he could turn a frightening adrenaline rush into a pleasant experience.
With practice, anyone can minimize panic reactions and adopt a whole new viewpoint about them. The first step to changing your attitude is to identify the self-defeating thoughts you currently have about panic. Then, you can compute opposite, positive beliefs that will help you recover by revaluing your symptoms. Notice that the difference between destructive and helpful beliefs can be very subtle:
Change Thoughts That Hurt into . . . Beliefs That Reduce Pani
The first statement in each pair stresses “success” and suggests that you have to try to prevent or avoid panic. The second statement shows that you have revalued anxious symptoms as opportunities to practice making peace with panic. When you have truly changed your outlook, you will not have a problem if panic returns after a period of being symptom-free. Therefore, it is very important to practice affirming Beliefs That Reduce Panic (above) until they are true for you.
Although many people stop adding the second fear of panic after understanding what is happening to them, others have more difficulty retraining their reactions or find their symptoms return after a period of doing well. This can happen for several reasons:
The return of panic is almost a necessary part of full recovery. You need to show yourself that you can deal with symptoms if they do return to lose the fear of problems recurring. Because you may reexperience panic from time to time, it is essential to adopt a final attitude that revalues any “setbacks” in your life.
See Jeffrey M. Schwartz’s “4-R’s of recovery” for OCD found in Brain Lock (HarperCollins, 1996).