Panic Attacks

August 28, 2014

Panic Attacks

Each week here on the Headspace blog we feature some of Andy's responses to questions he has been sent by members of the Headspace community about their practice (see the Andy's Answers section of our community forum for more).

In this post, Andy answers a question from a Headspacer who has been experiencing an increasing number of panic attacks since restarting their meditation practice.
 

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Question:

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 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 5 years or so I tried again. What I found however was that as soon as I sat down to mediate I would get an attack, (similarly with hypnosis or self hypnosis.)

I am now almost 40 and this time was different and for the first three weeks - 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 3 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 and I am on day 4 on the discovery series. 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?

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. And when you add in noting techniques, such as that used in the Discovery Series, it can potentially make things even more difficult (depending on the disposition and approach of each individual).

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 whilst meditating. Next, I would return to Take10/15/20 and work through them once again. There is a simplicity to those programmes which help steer the mind away form 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

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Do you have a question you'd like to ask Andy about any aspect of your meditation practice? Simply visit the Andy's Answers section of our community forum where you'll find instructions on sending your question in, as well as all the questions he has answered to date.

We also recommend you check out our FAQ section, which is full of helpful tips and insights to ease you along your Headspace Journey.

More information…

The Headspace Meditation App is completely free and allows you to try our Take 10 series. It’s perfect for those looking for some time out from their hectic schedule to regain focus. Try for yourself today.

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