One of the features of betrayal trauma is experiencing overwhelming feelings of panic. This is very normal; you aren’t going crazy.
However, it can be particularly scary when this is new to you, and especially when the feelings hit you unexpectedly. So what can you do to help you cope with the symptoms? The following suggestions have been shown to make a difference:
1. Remind yourself that what you are experiencing right now are actually exaggerated normal stress reactions. You body is sending out a warning sign. That is all.
2. Although they are unpleasant, these bodily sensations aren’t dangerous or harmful. Nothing worse is going to happen.
3. Take control of your thoughts. Don’t let them run away. Don’t allow “what if scenarios” to intensify the feelings of panic. Those thoughts are usually groundless. They’re extreme, and they’re unlikely.
4. Stay focused on the present and what is happening now. It can help if you describe the different symptoms, and your feelings, as if you’re an observer who is simply taking notes.
5. Be patient and allow the intense feelings to subside.
6. Note that when you take control of your exaggerated thinking, the feelings of panic start to slowly ease as well.
7. Allow yourself to simply experience the terror instead of trying to avoid it, or to run away from it. The intensity will fade if you are brave, and just go through it.
8. Look around you. Pay attention to what is happening in this moment, and engage your five sense in the here-and-now. Describe what you can see, hear, smell, touch and feel.
9. Think about the progress you have made already. You’ve coped, and overcome so many massive obstacles. You are slowly moving forwards (even if it’s baby steps).
10. When you can breathe normally, and you feel more like yourself, slowly start to return to whatever you were doing. The attack is in the past. It is over. You survived.