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I have panic attacks, should I meditate?

by Andy Puddicombe

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I have bi-polar. I am stable and have been for some time partially through medication and partially through efforts on my part to understand a complex and difficult childhood. My feeling being that if I can help my underlying mental health as much as possible the chemical imbalance has more work to do to make me really sick. I am functioning and can work part time (medication make me too tired for full time) and I have a loving partner.

I have had anxiety attacks since my early 20s, sometimes infrequently (maybe only one a month) and sometimes as many as three times a day. I heard that mediation and mindfulness could help with these, and every five years or so I’ve tried it. What I found, however, was that as soon as I sat down to mediate, I would have an attack (similarly with hypnosis or self hypnosis).

I am now almost 40 and this time was different – for the first three weeks I had no attacks. I was thrilled and so excited. However since then I have been getting them increasingly more frequently, especially on waking, but now about three times a day.

I read your book and it talked about it not being the fault of the mediation but that it enables feelings you have been suppressing to come to the surface. I thought maybe if I stuck it out, whatever was causing the panic would come to the surface and be released which sounded like just what I wanted.

So I have stuck with it. However the attacks are becoming more frequent and I am anxious most of the time. Is your advise to stick it out or would you suggest I give it a break and come back to it?

Andy’s answer:

Hi, thanks for getting in touch and it’s great to hear you’ve had a good run with your meditation recently, even if it’s proving increasingly challenging right now.

It’s very common for people with a high sensitivity to panic attacks to find meditation tricky at times, especially techniques which utilize the breath.

So, I would first suggest that you consult with your doctor, just to make sure you feel confident that nothing bad can happen to you while meditating. Next, I would return to Take10 and work through it once again. There is a simplicity to that program which helps steer the mind away from anxiety. And as you’ve done them before, you can feel confident about doing them again.

Needless to say, you really can’t do those exercises too many times and you will learn something different every single time you come back to them. Let us know how you get on I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes,


Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.