Travel tips for a panic free vacation

by Stephen R. Blumberg, PhD

If you are like many Americans, you are planning or getting ready to take a summer vacation. Sounds very exciting. Aruba. A cross-country jaunt. Or a short trip overnight to the coast!

What is exciting for the panic-free community can be agony for a panic sufferer. Why?

The core fear is being trapped far from safety

Whether it is traveling on a cruise ship, airplane, highway driving, train or bus, the core fear of panic disorder is being trapped far from a place of safety. If you are like many panic attack victims, you may have relied on avoidance or escape to a place of perceived safety as your method of panic relief.

Now, whenever your escape hatch is blocked, the fear of panic rears its ugly head. Thinking in advance of the possibility of panic and the thought of snapping and losing your mind or needing immediate medical attention when you are far away from home, help or a familiar hospital, can be terrifying.

Here are 4 key panic travel triggers you may fear on your next vacation

  1. Waiting at the dock to board the cruise
  2. Waiting on board your flight for your turn for take off
  3. Brake lights on the highway with no exit in sight while driving in the passing lane
  4. A sign on the highway … “Next Hospital 50 miles”

Imagining experiencing a life threatening medical emergency on a Mediterranean cruise, while far away from the safety of home, your familiar hospital, doctor, friends or family can be agonizing, to say the least.  Many of my patients have frightened themselves so much in advance of a trip that they have fabricated a range of excuses to cancel or shorten the excursion.  Naturally, sudden change in travel plans can create major conflict in marital and family relationships.

5 travel tips to create a panic free vacation

  1. Rather than dreading the return of panic symptoms like dizziness, heart pounding, shortness of breath while on vacation, prepare in advance for a positive symptom encounter.
  2. Convince yourself that your symptoms are an intensification of natural normal feeling of adrenaline, no different than the feelings you might experience on a roller coaster ride.
  3. Challenge your false terrifying thinking patterns. For example, “Cruise ships don’t cause heart disease.”
  4. Don’t resist or try to get rid of your symptoms or hope they will pass.
  5. Ride the wave of panic sensations without fear, no matter how strong the symptoms feel.

Stephen R. Blumberg is a panic disorder specialist and founder of panicLINK.

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