If you hate flying, I bet one of the things you fear MOST is having a panic attack. Or worrying that one might be just around the corner.
I know how you feel. After all, it was a series of mid-air panic attacks that forced me to quit flying. And which kept me grounded for nearly three years.
So what does a panic attack feel like?
In a nutshell, you’re overwhelmed by terror. And a conviction that catastrophe is imminent.
In a matter of seconds, you’re engulfed by symptoms that may include:
- A sense of unreality.
- A feeling that you’re about to go crazy.
- A feeling that you’re about to lose control.
- A pounding heart.
- Chest pains (which are often wrongly interpreted as a heart attack – panic attacks don’t cause heart attacks).
- Shortness of breath.
To make things worse, an attack often seems to come out of nowhere – an experience that’s frightening in itself.
Even worse, when an attack starts, it usually gives rise to a vicious cycle of fear. Why?
Because your panicked mind reads the attack’s terrifying symptoms as proof that something dreadful is at hand. And then responds by panicking more.
Fear of fear
It goes without saying that if you’ve had a panic attack in the past, it’s likely you live in fear of having another. In other words, that you’ve developed a fear of fear.
As I’m sure you know, thinking that way boosts your chance of having another attack.
Annoyingly, the problems don’t stop there. If you’ve had a panic attack before, you may also worry that panicking will make you behave strangely. And that other people will notice.
In other words, that you’ll be publically humiliated.
For example, you may worry that in a panic you’ll beg to be let off the plane after the doors have closed.
Or that you might run around the cabin screaming. Or that you might lose control of your bodily functions.
The good news
On the positive side, panic attacks don’t cause any physical harm.
And they don’t last indefinitely. In fact, they normally go on for about 5-20 minutes. Often less.
What’s your experience of panic attacks? Have they affected your ability to fly? Leave something in the comments.
This is the first instalment in a series of posts about panic attacks.