It is estimated that 80% to 90% of the people who suffer panic attacks or panic disorder can be treated effectively with the proper counsel and guidance. For some, that relief will be experienced as early as six weeks into the treatment. In fact, panic disorder is the most treatable mental health illness according to the National Mental Health Institute.
The sad statistic is that only one in four people seek treatment for this disorder.
Freedom is out there. I really do believe that. For years, I experienced these terrors. I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to drive my car anywhere. For years, I covered the fear with alcohol. I was afraid to live, and I was afraid die. But, I have found hope. I have started on this road to recovery, and have experienced some peace in my life for the first time in decades.
I’ve talked with thousands of people over the years regarding anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t share my insight as a medical professional, but as someone who has experienced this crippling condition first hand. As I counsel someone through what I have experienced, I explain the importance of treating our entire self: body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
First, the body. Anxiety and panic attacks are not just a mental condition. They affect every part of our physical being. Breathing changes. Heart rate accelerates. Adrenaline is pumped into our bloodstream. Blood pressure rises. Our hands get cold and begin to tingle. Pain sometime shoots throughout our body. Yes, this is a physical condition.
Many times, the anxiety and episodes of terror we experience are brought on by the physical things we do and don’t do. Let me give you an example. One Saturday I was feverishly working to finish all of my household chores. Bills. Taxes. Household budgets. Yard work. Saturday was my day to catch up on all the things I missed during the week at work.
The day started fine, but soon I could sense the adrenaline levels rising. My body’s alarms were screaming loudly, warning me to slow down and rest. “No way, I’ve got things to do and no time to do it.” As I closed out my day, all my tasks finished, I sat down to finally relax, but it was too late. My adrenaline was still in overdrive and my mind was still racing with the things of the day. Wham! A full-blown panic attack.
Do you push yourself beyond your limits? Do you take on more than you know you should? Do you ignore the body’s warning signals and plow on full-speed ahead? Your body was not designed for such roller coaster adrenaline cycles. Rest and time to recover is critical, especially for those of us sensitive to overdrive.
What about your diet? Do you pump your body full of sugar and caffeine for that extra boost causing your insulin levels to skyrocket and plummet triggering those dreaded episodes of panic and anxiety? Do you neglect healthy exercise because you just don’t have time? Do you stay up late watching movies and working on things that can be finished tomorrow, neglecting the precious sleep your body needs to rejuvenate itself?
Your body is a temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19) and should be treated as such. Anyone sensitive to anxiety and stress needs to consider these things carefully. Treating the body is crucial in treating this condition. It should be a priority in everyone’s life to set aside time to rest and recover. Eating habits should be studied. Some form of exercise needs to be started. And, we need to learn to listen to our body’s alarm systems.
Prayer: Father, help us to listen to our body’s alarm system, and give us the wisdom to slow down. Help us find the time we need to rest, giving our body the precious down time it needs. Show us healthy eating habits and give us the discipline we need for healthy exercise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What is the soul? It is that part of us that thinks, remembers and makes decisions. Our soul experiences emotions, memories and fear. The definition of “soul” often taught in churches is the “mind, will and emotions.”
So, how do you treat the soul? If there is one area that counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists have excelled in treating panic attacks, it is the area of the soul. Treatments like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy have done wonders for people battling anxiety and panic.
To treat the soul, we must start by changing the way we think. Somewhere in our past, a bad experience, tragic event or trauma to the soul has corrupted our thinking process. Dealing with everyday thoughts has become a challenge. We feed the fear with more fearful thoughts, triggering the body to respond. The cycle is vicious.
First, the mind. The Bible says in Romans 12:2 that we should “not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” This is a powerful truth. The patterns of this world speak an ungodly message–the deceit, despair and infidelity of a soap opera; the murders, shootings and corruption revealed in the evening news; the lust, lies and unrealistic ideals of a beer commercial. What is going in your mind? Does it build you up or tear you down? Does it encourage you or create fear in you?
Don’t conform to the patterns of this world. Rather, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Through prayer, worship, Bible study and time alone with God, you can renew your mind. And, it’s not a one-time thing. It’s a daily experience. We need to daily experience God in refreshing ways. We need to make that heavenly connection.
Next, the will. Choosing how to respond to the onslaught of fearful thoughts directly involves our will.
I think about Jesus in the garden of Gethsamane when he was faced with fearful thoughts. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through his mind. He knew the kind of tortuous death that awaited him. He even prayed three times for God to show him another way–another way to restore man’s relationship with God. Yet, he ended his prayer with this: “Lord, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22;42). He chose not to respond to the fear, but rather to God.
Finally, the emotions. I’ve heard people say, “Well, God never wants us to be emotional about things.” I don’t believe that. God has emotions like anger, joy, frustration, happiness, sadness, excitement. God is an emotional God, and we are created in his image (Genesis 1:26). I think the problem is when our emotions get the best of us. We should control our emotions, not let them control us.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23), and when emotions rise up within us taking control of our soul, we need to cry out to God for strength to manage our emotions. Yes, we can experience emotions. They are the spice of life. But when they control us, that spice quickly becomes bitter.
Treating the soul is very important in treating anxiety and panic attacks. I encourage you find ways to address each of the areas described in this message. Ask God for wisdom on how to renew your mind, respond to his will and regulate your emotions. In doing so, you will bring Godly balance into your life.
In the last message, when talking about the soul, I accredited counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists for developing effective techniques in treating the soul of a person (the mind, will and emotions). But, for most secular treatments, the spirit of a person is completely neglected. Only two thirds of our “self” is being treated.
But just as some people only treat the body and the soul, there are others who think that only treating the spirit will solve all of our problems with panic and anxiety. I don’t agree. Treating the spirit is critical to healing, but so is treating the body and soul. Treating the spirit may get you into heaven, but neglecting the body and soul will make your life miserable. All three areas must be considered.
What is our spirit? I’ve heard it best described like this: we are a spirit who has a soul and lives in a body. God is spirit (John 4:24), and we were created in his image (Genesis 1:27). Simply put, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience–we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
When you were born into this world, you were born spiritually dead. The eyes of your heart were not open to the reality of the spiritual world around you. As we learn and grow in this world, our spiritual eyes begin to open. Then, when the reality of Christ’s work on the cross pierces our heart and we turn our lives over to him, we are spiritually born.
Nicodemus could not understand this principle. Jesus told him, “Unless you are born again, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:3).
“What? Born again? I am already born. How can I be born again?” The questions raced through his mind. His spiritual eyes were not open.
Jesus goes on to explain, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
If you’ve never committed your life to Christ, I encourage you to take that first step towards healing–body, soul and spirit. Pray the following prayer.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, I know my spiritual eyes are blind to the reality of your existence. I am spiritually dead. I know I am a sinner living in a sinful world. Please forgive me for my mistakes, my failures and my rebellion towards you. Please forgive me of my sin. I confess these sins to you right now. I ask that you would forgive me. Lord Jesus, come into my life and change me. Fill my heart with your thoughts and your desires. Teach me how to surrender my body, soul and spirit to you. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!
If you’ve prayed that prayer for the first time, please let us know. I want to rejoice with you, and welcome you to the Family of God.