Coping with Feelings of Panic

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.

11 thoughts on “Coping with Feelings of Panic

  1. Numbers 3 and 8 have been especially helpful to me in dealing with run away emotions.

    (3) I’ve heard “what if” thinking referred to as the “second arrow.” The first arrow is the injury that actually happened, but the second arrow is our obsessive “awful-izing” over it. We had little control over the first injury, but have more choice regarding the second.

    One of my favorite books about avoiding the second arrow is Victor Frankel’s, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

    (8) Distraction is a great tool for de-escalating panic. Exercise, do yard work or engage in some other fairly rigorous physical activity. It’s hard to go into a tailspin when you’re actively engaging your other senses! Like you stated before, panic is largely a fear of fear; so call it’s bluff! Force yourself to engage in some kind of normal activity–no matter how small. You will not likely die.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Man’s search for meaning” is such a helpful book. It’s the kind of book you can keep reading over and over, and it impacts and changes you each time.
      Yes, I agree that distraction can be a great tool for de-escalating panic. It forces your mind to focus on something else entirely. Also, if there’s a physical component to it, then it seems to be even more effective in relieving feelings of fear, anxiety and (at least mild) panic.
      Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom, David. Always appreciated!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, bigskybuckeye.
      Working to control our thoughts, remaining patient, and staying focused take a lot of effort … but definitely pay off!! Wishing you God’s richest blessing in 2021.


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