The Truth about Panic Attacks

Let me offer you a beautifully simple insight to panic which will change your reaction to it and immediately start you on the path from panic to calm.

I’m happy to tell you that it isn’t something unique to me.

Unlike so many people on the Internet, I don’t claim to have discovered THE CURE for panic and other anxiety states.

The insight?

Accept your panic symptoms and they’ll go.

Over thirty years ago, an Australian General Practitioner (GP) Claire Weekes gave that insightful advice to many hundreds of thousands of people through her books, recordings and through the self-help groups she established.

She advised people who experienced episodes of panic to do the opposite of what they had been doing, namely fighting and resisting the feelings of panic. Instead, they should float into their panic, and welcome it like an old friend who can do us no harm.

Dr Weekes knew that people who experience those terrifying fear-filled symptoms know that there’s nothing to fear. That’s at a rational level. At an emotional level, they still feel overwhelmed. For many people, the fact that they can’t explain why they feel so terrified is often the most upsetting.

Once you accept that there is no real danger, you’ll see that your real fear is the fear of those feelings. If you could just let those inappropriate messages of fear come and do their worst, you’d learn how to send those fears packing.

So to summarise, offer no resistance. Accept. Flow. When your pulse races, your heart pounds, your tummy goes queasy, your mouth dries up….do the opposite of what you normally do. Instead of panicking even more “oh no, I’m in the middle of another of those attacks”,


Mimic Mother Nature – flow with the hurricane
Just as the grass and the trees sway with the wind, rather than rigidly resist it, let your fear feelings come. Then, just observe what happens without offering any resistance to those feelings.

You might want to practise this at home alone a few times and you’ll see how well it works. I know you can make yourself feel great fear just by remembering the last time you were terrified. Bring those memories back. Feel those symptoms and now…. just accept them.

That right. I’m asking you to do the very opposite to what you’d normally think of doing. I’m not saying try to do anything. I’m not saying try to relax. I’m not saying try to divert yourself from your fear-filled thoughts.

I am saying – do absolutely nothing. Accept your feelings. It’s marvellous. Try it at home. Almost as if you’re outside your own body, observe your fear-filled eyes, watch the pulse in your throat. Do nothing about it. Just let the pulse racing come and it will go.

Just to be clear about this, Dr Weekes was not saying and I am not saying: “here is THE CURE for panic attack symptoms.” We can leave silly claims like that to people who call their approach a “method”. The simple truth is that the way to escape fear is to float with it.

What Dr Weekes gave the world was a way to react to inappropriate levels of anxiety whenever it comes into our lives. And it will come, unbidden, for all sorts of reasons.

Beware the new breed of snake oil salespeople who seem to have taken over the Internet. You’ll recognise them by their outlandish claims of a cure. Yes, it’s seductive to think that there is only one way (their way) to guarantee that you’ll never again have to experience the feelings of intense fear again.

I can tell you that once you recognise your role in your own panic episodes, you’re 90% closer to the solution, to a life in which being in the grip of panic will be part of your past. We shouldn’t really be looking for a way to rid our lives of anxiety and intense fears. They serve a life-saving purpose and without anxiety, we’d never move out of the path of real and present danger.

I offer my counselling clients ways to recognise their role in their fear and to manage their symptoms so that when the symptoms come, people can accept them for what they are. Unwanted and inappropriate surges of adrenaline – an automatic response when your body thinks you’re in danger.

With the simple insight that acceptance is better than resistance I’m suggesting that you can extinguish the power of panic. Next time you feel the first fluttering of fear and panic think to yourself:

“I know you. You’re nothing to panic about. Come on and do your worst. I know you can’t harm me. You’re just some throw back to the days when I might have needed to run away from the sabre toothed tiger.”

It seems almost cruel to tell you but if you’ve been experiencing anxiety and panic for a while, I have to let you know that you are the main reason that your fears stay with you.

Your fear of those fear-filled symptoms keeps that fear going.

The good news is that your anxiety, panic and phobias are only habits you’ve formed.

Your panic habit, goes like this:
1. You go to a situation, let’s call it X. Out of the blue you’ve felt panicky feelings. They really knocked you.
2. You’re invited to go to X again and you start anticipating, thinking that you’ll feel panicky again.
3. Leading up to the day you have to go to X, every time you remember “Oh, I’m going to X again”, you’ll feel? That’s right, you feel those same panic feelings.
4. You decide to brave it and go to X anyway. Or you have no choice and you go to X. And…
5. You feel panicky again.

Do that a few times and you have a habit.

As with all habits, you can break that cycle, that habit, by simply letting the feelings come. Let them do their worst and just watch them…evaporate.

Remember: you’re the major part of your problem. But you are also the total solution.

If you feel terrified standing in that queue at the supermarket, or sitting in the middle of the row at the cinema, the feelings you feel are fine.

Those feelings are a perfect reaction to…danger.

But there’s no real danger in the Supermarket – apart from the ever-increasing cost of goods. Your mind sent the wrong message “danger, danger” to your body. Your body has then had the right reaction.

The good news is: those messages can be rewritten, re-learned.

Using diversionary tactics keeps you in fear’s grip. You might count to 100 in Greek, or concentrate on a painting on the wall, or do any number of things.
However, with all those diversions, you’re still fighting the symptoms with diverting thoughts. Instead, to eliminate the habit of panicking, you need to do something very simple. You must: