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Picture this, your walking through the mall and all of a sudden you feel short of breath, you notice your heart is racing and your sweating. You begin to feel scared and wonder what is happening to you. Are you having a heart attack? Are you going to die? These are questions millions of Americans ask themselves at one time or another. The biggest question is "what's wrong with me"?

Many people visit countless numbers of doctors each year trying to figure out what their problem is. They are searching for reasons why they are experiencing nervousness, sweaty palms, a queasy stomach, or lightheadedness.

The first time you experience a panic attack, you may go to the doctor, only to be told there's nothing physically wrong. So you try to reason with yourself: "if nothing is wrong with me, then i'll just try to stay calm and the panic attacks will go away." But it seems the harder you try, the more frequently they return.

You may develop phobias, unreasonable fears of flying or riding in elevators or crossing bridges. You might even develop the most serious panic disorder, a fear of fear itself otherwise known as agoraphobia. This is the most severe a phobia that keeps you imprisoned in your home, afraid that if you go outside you will have another panic attack.

Here are some symptoms of anxiety:

1. Often feeling tired even though You have had a good night's sleep.
2. Your heart seems to race out of control even though the doctor says you dont have a heart problem.
3. Insomnia
4. Bouts of backache that hit for no apparent reason.
5. Indegestion, diarrhea, or headache frequently keeping you from functioning at your best.
6. Hyperventilating
7. Feeling like you're falling to pieces
8. Noticing that certain situations make you feel extremely nervous.
9. Feeling like you are going crazy

Are you going crazy? No. You may have a chemical imbalance that predisposes you to feeling anxious. You may not be coping with stress in a constructive way so as to prevent your anxiety from becoming panic. You are not mentally ill, but if the fear that you have is irrational and keeps you from doing normal everyday things that most people take for granted, you may have a phobia which can go hand in hand with anxiety and panic attacks.

The good news is that anxiety and panic attacks are considered to be the most treatable of all psychiatric conditions. You can be taught mental tools to help you overcome your physical symptoms.

When you worry, think negatively, or have improper attitudes toward stress, you produce vivid mental pictures of the situation you fear. Your body becomes aroused just as if the situation you imagine is actually happening. Then it releases adrenaline, which brings on the physical anxiety symptoms. Therefore, if you can eliminate worry, negative thinking, and improper attitudes toward stress with your mind, you can overcome much of the anxiety that brings on a panic attack.

If you have a lot of stress and do not know how to cope with it, your body becomes aroused because it is being bombarded with anxiety producing stimuli. Nature's purpose in allowing the body to become aroused is protection. When faced with sudden danger, you become physically ready to react by either fighting the stressor or fleeing from it. When the brain puts into action what is called the "fight or flight" response, it releases hormones known as corticosteroids. These powerful hormones constrict the blood vessels in the peripheral parts of the body in order to drive blood into the brain and deep down into the large muscles for added strength. The heart pounds, digestion shuts down, breathing increases, and muscles tighten.

In the beginning of the 1980's, doctors began to frequently prescribe tranquilizers and antianxiety medications such as xanax, klonopin, and valium. These medications can help people to calm down, but seldom do they cure the problem.

first, go to your regular doctor to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing these problems. If nothing can be found, a good doctor should realize that you may be suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, and will refer you to a psychologist for some talk therapy. Your doctor might even want to start you on medication to help you.

Here are some things a psychologist may have you try after he or she evaluates you and decides that you are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks:

1. Visualizations:

Picture yourself with a relaxed look on your face at work and at home.

Visualize yourself refusing requests that will cause you to overwork.

See yourself being able to participate in hobbies that you have avoided because you have not felt like doing them.

2. Affirmations:

Tell yourself that you feel perfectly normal and that you can do any activity that you want.

Tell yourself that you are worthy of the love of others even when you don't think that you are.

When you wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations to yourself. Anything that you can think of that is positive and not negative. You can find many books in the bookstore or library on positive affirmations. Make them part of your everyday routine.

3. Cognitive Restructuring:

Stop thinking in the black and white mode by stopping the thoughts that you will have a headache or you will have a panic attack if you go certain places or attend certain functions.

4. Relaxation Exercises:

These can be very helpful. Teach yourself how to breathe correctly. Most of us breathe from our upper chest area instead of our abdominal area. Practice deep breathing. Studies have found that it is impossible to have a panic attack when you are breathing deeply and properly.

Learn how to meditate, take yoga, get a massage, and most of all exercise.

Exercising can be the best prescription. You will have fewer anxiety producing illnesses if you achieve physical fitness. You can have a new and exciting lifestyle if you are functioning at optimal levels of health. Set a goal and become more physically fit and then commit yourself to achieving it. Your unconscious mind will make it easier to exercise and eat right if you program it with visualizations and affirmations.

Although these are just a few suggestions, there are many many more things that can be done to help alleviate the terrifying feelings that come along with anxiety and panic attacks. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor and to see a psychologist to help you on your road to recovery. Also, the bookstore can be a great help. Because this is such a common problem and has been for years, there are a lot of self help books available. Not only can they help you to deal with the difficulties that accompany anxiety, they can help you to feel better instantaneously just by validating your feelings. You may pick up a book and feel like someone wrote it just for you.

The bottom line is that anxiety and panic attacks are 100% treatable. Don't suffer anymore than you have to. Take charge and get yourself on the track to a better quality of life. It may take some work, but I can assure you that it will be worth it.