Friday, 18 March 2016

Triggers and Panic Attacks

Yes, I know it's Friday, and yes, I know you're all expecting some "Chuckles and Giggles". You'll get it this evening. Right now I'm operating on 6.5 out of 10 on the anxiety scale after a psych appointment and I'm going to type it out. Hopefully this blog provides anyone else going through high anxiety and panic attacks with a bit of a framework that they can use to formulate a plan for themselves.

For me, the pattern seems to be:

1. Get to a high stress/high anxiety state
2. Get triggered by something seemingly small and insignificant
3. Panic attack

One would think after the past few weeks I'd be used to operating on high anxiety, but it doesn't work like that. I rate anxiety using a 1-10 "Panic scale":

1 - Me so chillllllllllll. I'm so chill I'm either writing or asleep.

2 - Walking. Off in my own little world and pretty much content. Also dancing. Of course, I can shoot from a 7 to a 2 and back again pretty fast.

3-4 - Where I usually sit on a good day. I'm alert, but I'm not going to have a panic attack any time soon.

5 - Mildly irritated/grumpy.

6 - Bad days. I can usually cope if triggered, but I will probably need to have a long rest soon.

7 - Will have attack if triggered

8 - Panic/Anxiety attack.

9 - Usually where mutism will kick in.

10 - Autistic Meltdown. I haven't had one of these for years and I hope I never do again.

Unfortunately if I'm high on anxiety I'm more susceptable to my triggers, which are:

-Sensory Overload - touch and sound are my weaknesses, anyone who knows me knows that I'm highly affectionate and crave hugs and closeness - from people I'm close to. Unfortunately anyone else will make me slightly uncomfortable, which I can deal with in small doses provided I'm not already high on anxiety. Sound on the other hand is a bit more clear-cut: if it's very high-pitched (especially a sustained high-pitched noise without a bassline to counter it) then I'm not going to have a good time. Give me deep bass-lines which I can feel in my chest and I'm happy.

-Fear - Stairs, lifts, driving, people looking at me, unfamiliar social situations, heights...again, if I'm not high on anxiety then I can deal with these problems with only a hint of annoyance (except for lifts, I think each of my coworkers has seen me completely freeze up each time I need to go in one of these things). If I'm already in a bad way however, these things will result in a panic attack. Best of all, these things can put me in a high-anxiety situation if either combined or through long enough exposure.

The biggest symptoms of an impending panic attack (that I've noticed anyway) are my breathing getting out of whack (precursor to hyperventalating), shaking and aching limbs. Unfortunately that's all I can think of, usually when I'm already at a high anxiety state I'm not really paying attention to my symptoms, I'm too busy worrying.

The best way I know to prevent this is walking. Also, writing and dancing have been known to bring me down from an anxiety high, alas if my stress levels get too high I either get writers block (GAH!!!) or I become very adverse to being touched/my limbs feel like lead (which rules out dancing).

So far, it seems the best plan is to NOT get into a high stress state in the first place, however given how prone I am to stress this is also the most difficult.

When I have a panic attack, the major thing is that I can't be touched, especially skin-on-skin contact - IT HURTS. Also, talking is good. Even if I can't be touched, I hate being alone when I'm having an attack, and having someone close by is comforting.

Everyone will have their own "panic scale" and triggers. Everyone will also have their own ways of coping and how others can help. The important thing is figuring out your triggers and at what stage you can handle things - as always, I really encourage people who are having problems to seek professional help. It makes figuring out this stuff so much easier.


  1. Thanks for the information Kerryn. I also now know that look on your face when to give you a wide berth and not ask you how you are feeling, etc.

  2. Wow, thanks for openning yourself up like this.

  3. No problem, I hope it helps ☺