I just stepped out of Session 1 with “Bill” (not his real name). Like many of my patients, Bill had been advised to avoid caffeine because he suffers from anxiety attack symptoms. He told me that recently he had a powerful surge of anxiety symptoms right after drinking a cup of coffee.
Here is Bill’s description of his symptoms:
Right after I finished drinking a cup of coffee from my favorite coffee shop, I felt heat waves surging through my body. My heart began to race and the palpitation got so strong, I thought my heart would stop and I would drop dead on the spot. My legs seemed like they were turning to jelly and would not hold me up. Then I felt numbness in my face and my body started to tingle all over. I was convinced I was having a severe caffeine reaction. I thought I will never come out of this and have to go to the Hospital to get help.
Since that time, Bill hasn’t had a sip of coffee. But, the panic attack symptoms continued day after day. He wondered whether the caffeine reaction might have permanently damaged his brain. The cup of coffee that Bill enjoyed as a morning wake-up call had, now, turned into a death sentence.
Bill stopped drinking coffee to avoid anxiety attack symptoms. Then, Bill felt his heart race during exercise and he thought “I better not over do it” and stopped exercise. Then, Bill noticed his heart racing when he got upset. Bill tried to avoid getting upset.
What Bill did not realize is that you can’t avoid the anxiety attack symptoms.
Don’t drink the coffee. Don’t exercise. Don’t get angry. Don’t move. Don’t get out of bed.
When you run from symptoms, you have nowhere to hide.
Here’s what I told Bill, “If you enjoyed coffee before panic struck. You can enjoy a cup of coffee again. You can do anything you used to do in the pre-panic era.”
Bill learned that his “Caffeine Reaction” was a false catastrophic reaction to the energizing feeling of caffeine that turned natural effects of the coffee he used to enjoy into a trip to the emergency room.
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