Panic Attacks and Road Rage

Posted on July 28, 2010


Panic attacks are very scary things. They happen when you least expect them to even if you tried to prepare yourself for them. Panic attacks can be so strong that they take your breath away and give you the feeling that death is just seconds away.

As I have said before, I attended classes to learn how to deal with the various attributes of PTSD for 6 1/2 years. I also visited a Psychologist for over 10 years. Am I cured of PTSD? NO. Will I ever be cured of PTSD? NO, however I have learned how to gain some control to the intensity of my Panic Attacks. I have learned how to use “Self Talk” techniques. These techniques are used when you know a situation that you are putting yourself into may cause you to have a panic attack. You tell yourself that you will be okay. You tell yourself to make sure and sit near a doorway. You tell yourself that the person with you won’t leave your side. You tell yourself that you will only be there for a minute. You tell yourself whatever you have to to calm yourself down. You tell yourself these things for at least a half hour before you face the situation and then the whole time that you are there. Does this work all the time? No.

I’ll give you a few examples. One day my wife and I decided to stop to eat. We looked at several restaurants before we decided on one. We chose this particular one because there was only one car parked there. We went in, sat down and ordered. Within two minutes of getting our food a tour bus pulled in with many people on it who all came in at one time. I went into a full panic attack. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like everyone was going to attack me. I jumped up and ran out of the restaurant with my wife chasing me and the manager chasing both of us.  My wife quickly explained what happened and went back inside to pay for the food.

The local Wal-Mart here in Winchester, Kentucky use to have their isles full of displays and racks. If I could convince myself that I needed to go in I’d try to use “self-talk” telling myself that I knew what I needed and that I could be in and out of there in less than five minutes. Once inside with my wife in tow, with the isles packed, everything  would start spinning and it would feel like everything was going to fall on top of me. I’d run out of the store.

Many a night I would wake up not being able to breathe at all. My throat would feel like it closed up. I’d be in a full-blown panic attack from something that was in my subconscious. I have blanked out when this happened. My wife soon learned to tell my to calm down and breathe through my nose. That would work. I just couldn’t tell myself that and of course my panic attacks would only become more severe.

Being in any enclosed space can trigger a panic attack very quickly if there are people around that you don’t know. Panic attacks can also happen while you are outside if there are a lot of people around and for any reason you feel like you are losing control of your surroundings. For someone with PTSD, being in charge is everything. You can only trust yourself to make sure things go right. As much as we love our spouses and children they are not capable. I have learned to trust my wife and son but just not always.

Road Rage. I have talked about my road rage before. It was a lot worse than it is now. I had a young lady 18-25 cut me off. I mean she was in the outside lane and cut in front of me missing my front end by less than a foot to make her turn off. I chased her. She had a small car and I only drive Ford F-150s. By the time we got to the top of the ramp she was sitting six inches taller and I really do believe it was from what was in her panties. I finally cooled myself off and let her go. I have chased cars for miles before. Now, I just let my wife yell at them. Sure occasionally I’ll still yell but I don’t chase anymore.

If you are a Veteran and you see any of these things in yourself, don’t be foolish. Go get help. If you know someone who has these tendencies, encourage them to get help. You can’t tell them to get help. You must make them see that it was their idea from the start. Use the techniques that I have mentioned above. Road Rage is a deadly thing. Use the support of all of those around you to assist you in overcoming this problem. Take it one day at a time but take the first step. Life is worth living. Remember  the person who you have road rage against may have more road rage than you.

Hello I am a vet and have some of the symptoms you described.I have severe PTSD and am occasionally violent.I do see a therapist.My PTSD surfaced after the murder of a close friend that I knew from the Army.I have had panic attacks following nightmares on several occasions,the most recent happened this morning.I like what you are doing here and just sort of happened on the site.Carry on sir.

Thank you for your response sir.I have often felt that the men who served in Vietnam were given short shrift and your site remedies that perhaps in part.I see the therapist and smoke pot to help with the rage,I’m supposed to take Valium but don’t like the way it makes me feel.Plus one friend was hooked for 15 years.The nightmares are quite rough,I used to drink to block my rem sleep but try to stay sober,pot notwithstanding.I miss the action terribly and hope to ship out this winter to Africa for pmc work.

Tyler, I would like to make a few suggestions. The first one would be to come off the pot. Ask you therapist about medication like Trazadone. I take one tablet a night before I go to bed and I can only remember one or two nightmares in the past 11 years. I still have because my wife  tells me about me thrashing and kicking at might. It has also helped me with me anger. I know because I decided that I would try coming off of it. I cut the pill in half. I slept okay that night but after being up for a few hours I realized how angry I was getting so I went back to the full pill.  Secondly, if you don’t belong to an association of the men you served with look it up and join. Get involved with the men and the organization. I know most of us are very leery about getting back with those we served in Combat with but let me tell you it is some of the best medicine you can get. Thirdly, and I and not saying this as a Holy Roller type but if you don’t have God in your life or if he is off to one side remember he can be the best therapist you have.  Lastly, you have not talked to your family about your experiences do so. Leave out any blood and guts stuff but talk. If you need to do what I did. I wrote three stories and them gave them to my wife and told her after she read them if she thought our son ( who was 17 or so at the time) could handle them then give them to him to read. They haven’t asked any questions yet (this was 15 years ago) but we are all much closer. When I started going to classes my wife would go with me. After the class and on the way home her and I would go over what I learned that day. She would then incorporate that into our lives. It certainly did help. Our loved ones are stronger than we give them credit for. You can’t do it all at once and you can’t do it alone.