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How to treat stuck (but not disturbing) thoughts that cause panic attacks

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    How to treat stuck (but not disturbing) thoughts that cause panic attacks

    Hi there, I'm new on here and hoping that someone is able to shed some light on a topic that I have struggled with for years. As the title suggests, I'm wondering how to deal with seemingly normal, routine thoughts (i.e. not disturbing) that trigger feelings of panic. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression 15 years ago as a child, and more recently my current psychiatrist believes I may also struggle with elements of panic disorder and OCD. For reasons I can't understand, one of my biggest triggers seems to be thoughts about myself or things in my environment, but they aren't disturbing or negative thoughts the way many resources portray them.

    For example, I can be in the midst of a workout, doing a series of push-ups, and a thought will pop into my head about my elbow joint. When that happens, I feel like I can picture the bones and cartilage within my arm, and visualize the bones moving around the joint. I then begin to fixate on the mass of my arm, and then start feeling like there is a mass in my throat. My breathing feels constricted, my chest tightens, and I feel like I'm about to choke or gag. Eventually, if the thoughts and sensations persist long enough, it will lead to a full-blown panic attack, where I begin to shake, cough and dry-heave violently, almost as if I'm trying to clear a mass out of my throat that isn't there. Other examples include things in my environment, like a coffee cup or a passing vehicle on the road. I'll begin to fixate on the size of the object, and it too will trigger feelings of a lump in my throat. Even small objects, like a breadcrumb held between my fingers, can trigger the same feelings, though in that case I tend to fixate on the size of my fingertips in proportion to the crumb. I understand that OCD can manifest itself in different ways, and sometimes thoughts just get "stuck", but I don't know how to proceed with any form of exposure or talk therapy. The thoughts aren't dark, violent, disturbing or gross, yet they cause a very unpleasant physical reaction. Some days it starts to feel like any movement or any object I look at/think of will cause these thoughts and feelings. I apologize for the lengthy post, but hopefully someone will be able to interpret my situation in a way I have not.

    Hello TC-1991, and welcome.

    The symptoms you describe do sound unsettling, and I can see why you'd like a better understanding of them. I'm not familiar with that type of thing so, unfortunately, am not much help.

    I do wonder, though, when you say "I don't know how to proceed with any form of exposure or talk therapy", might your psychiatrist be able to refer you to a psychologist/counsellor who deals in talk and/or exposure therapies, or other relevant therapy? Just a thought.
    Last edited by uni; August 13, 2020, 01:59 AM.

    ~ it's always worth it ~


      Hello TC1991 and welcome. I don't have a large understanding of the illness either. However the Mayo clinic has a decent primer on it. Just click on the link. Take Care. paul m
      "Alone we can do so little;
      Together we can do so much"
      Helen Keller