Lately I have been struggling with panic attacks. I have severe anxiety, which could be related to me being Autistic, but it also could just be something that I have. I have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but I am thinking that maybe I will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder(s) in the future. So, what are my panic attacks like?
I think panic attacks are different for every person. I myself do not have all of the symptoms for a panic attack, but I do have a lot of them, and they vary in each panic attack. The symptoms that I have experienced are (1) Increased heart rate, irregular heart rate, (2) abdominal distress/stomach ache, (3) Tight/heavy chest, (4) difficulty breathing, (5) tight muscles, (6) tingling in hands, feet, or legs, and (7) dizziness.
Panic attacks exhaust me, it saps the energy out of me. Sometimes all I can do is lay in my bed and wait for the panic attack to subside. I can also hide my panic attack very well, people could look and me and probably tell that I’m not going crazy, but on the inside my body is in panic mode. Sometimes my panic attacks are triggered by me thinking about something that makes me feel anxious, and sometimes they just pop up on their own.
One of the only things that helps me feel calm is dogs. Breathing exercises do not help me feel calmer. This is why I want my own service dog, because a service dog could help me in the following ways,
(1) Recognizing changes in my heart rate and breathing
(2) Providing DPT (deep pressure therapy) to help calm me
(3) Doing tactile stimulation (licking the face, hands, or arms)
(4) Alerting to panic attacks
(5) Reminding me to take my Zoloft
(6) Guiding me through a crowd
(7) Guiding me to an exit
(8) Getting help
Service dogs can also help with loneliness. Dogs have many health benefits including lowered blood pressure, increased serotonin levels, reducing depression, etc.
I hope to get a service dog. I would really like a Cairn terrier puppy to train to be my own service dog, but if my family cannot afford a Cairn terrier, than I want to look into adopting a small to medium size dog (even though I wish I could take all adoptable dogs home).
The best thing to do for someone having panic attacks is listen, and just be there for them. They may feel like they are dying, and they need someone to reassure them that it will be ok. If the panic attack is severe, he or she may need medical help. It is also worth a try to recommend trying breathing exercises, therapy, meditation, or seeing a doctor. It’s not just in our “heads”, panic attacks feel very real to those of us who have panic attacks.