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ynwang

panic attacks after accident?

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Hello,

 

I had an accident about 2 years ago where I ended up falling and sliding quite a ways down an icy snow slope. Despite trying to self arrest several times, I was not able to. I ended up stopping as the slope leveled out. I luckily only broke a few ribs. Although I have always been nervous on steep slopes, after the accident I get what I think are panic attacks when descending steep snow. I have met another person with a very similar experience (panic attacks after accident). They fell on an icy slope and was stopped by some rocks, but luckily only gashed their leg. We would both like to get over this and would be interested in hearing about other people's experience.

 

We were wondering if there was already a conversation about people having panic attacks/being more nervous after accidents. If not, we would like to hear if anyone else has experienced this and how they have gotten over it, if they have at all.

 

We would appreciate if you would share your experience and ideas with us.

 

Thank you

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I've never heard a discussion on the topic outside of a conversation about PTSD, which you obviously have. You're probably going to need to get some help with that. 2 years is too long to suffer like that.

 

Your brain's gotten a little crosswired, due to your experience with the fall. It's certainly not irreparable, but you're going to have a hard time with reconditioning your brain to leave the FOF stuff for true physical emergencies without some guidance from a good cognitive-behaviorist who specializes in panic disorder. Drugs can also be used as a tool during therapy, but don't let anyone give you a prescription alone- that just plain doesn't fix the problem.

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I have and it totally sucks. What worked for me was getting lots of milage on cruiser terrain on quality rock. Certain anti-depression medication also helps with anxiety. Lexapro is a good example.

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we would like to hear if anyone else has experienced this and how they have gotten over it, if they have at all.

 

We would appreciate if you would share your experience and ideas with us.

 

Thank you

 

I think it's entirely reasonable to wonder if climbing is worth the risks.

 

Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity, especially in the alpine environment. Is it something you are prepared to die doing?

 

I think if your desire to climb is greater than your fear, then naturally your fear will be overcome, but maybe listen to your fear and see if it's giving you good advice on this subject.

 

There are plenty of happy, smart, well-adjusted humans who don't climb, and think it to be a rather silly hobby.

 

 

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If my hobby gave me panic attacks I would find a new hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be fun and relaxing.

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If my hobby gave me panic attacks I would find a new hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be fun and relaxing.
I dunno, getting the shit scared out me is half the fun. Albeit, I don't tend to seek that kind of fun out like I used to. Just kind of lost interest, I suppose. I still enjoy getting a good adrenaline rush, just not inclined to climb nearly as much as I used to. When I do rarely get out, my head is shit on lead. I'm sure the bug will bite me again when I have more free time to do so.

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I feel like I am going to have a panic attack every time I climb and I have never had an accident! I guess you are better off than me.

 

Seriously though, go talk to a psychologist. I have had panic attacks in my life and for me, climbing helps. One of the places I feel the furthest away from a panic attack is when I am climbing. The professionals can help you more than any random advice on the internet ever could.

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Fact of the matter is, being absolutely terrified while descending steep snow on a mountain is actually a "normal" response to that situation. If you'd previously been a confident, experienced climber and just trotted on down 40-50 degree snow, but now can barely breath just walking down the south side of Hood.... that's a more complex issue, but it isn't PTSD. The principles of classical conditioning would indicate you've simply learned a fear response to a real danger.... conditioned stimulus, conditioned response.

 

The best therapy for this is to un-condition the response. Basically..... re-learn that you can safely walk down, or down climb, steep snow. And the best way to do that is to walk down or down-climb steep snow, unfortunately for you. A running belay with a couple bomber pickets between you and a sturdy partner would probably go miles in regaining that confidence.

 

How many times have you been up since the crash?

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see a good therapist. probably can hunt around and find someone who has dealt with people who have had traumatic experiences of a physical nature (not necessarily abuse at the hands of another--etc--but came across a body in the woods, car crash, almost drowned surfing, fell out of a tree, etc).

 

side notes: having fear, being nervous, very healthy. If it leaves you fried though, not relaxed--consider new hobby.

 

My father was in the crawl space under his home a number of years ago--he had crawled (truly tight space, wiggle-crawl through labyrinth of twists and turn) about 40ft back to a corner to deal with some maintenance thing. His wife was upstairs and had the stereo on loud. Headlamp went out no spare light. total darkness could not see light from entrance. Was yelling and yelling but stuck for 20 minutes or something until his wife heard him and shined very bright light near the entrance to help guide him back.

 

two years later we're driving down a rutted forest service road in the evening in november and come around a bend to see a landslide has blocked the road entirely (happened a few hours earlier). I say "oh, I'll back up and turn arou--" my pops jumps out of the back seat mid sentence saying "I'll find us one!". I park it and my wife and I get out and say "what the heck??" -- he'd had a total reverted panic attack to feeling trapped in that crawl space. was very interesting.

 

 

and side side note, part of why I climb is the austere and dispassionate beauty. To look into the maw of the mountain, the mountain, like a smell, is nothing but a canvas. Shit does not objectively stink any more than flowers are a pleasant fragrance, they both merely stimulate olfactory receptors—the the breadth of a landscape, of the mountain, the power witnessed, is seeing a deepest part of ourselves painted upon it. When cognizant that a misstep is the difference between life or death, for me, mortality can be more accessibly contemplated--the usual response is a deep-seated striving for survival and life. Indifference would indicate something is amiss, or that you have achieved an enlightened state.

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I had a bad fall on steep snow in 1998 and dealt with the fear for many many years afterwards. Never took drugs and my single visit with a therapist consisted of him saying "You fell 2000' down steep snow and have fear when descending steep snow? And you think this is abnormal?" (I didn't go back.)

 

I have never fully gotten over my fears and am always slow on steep descents and the first person to turn around and downclimb (rather than plunge step). I'm also routinely request a rope and pickets on steep snow whereas many of my partners would prefer to solo it.

 

The best method is acceptance that you have fear and accepting the validity of your fear. Downclimbing steep snow is dangerous and my acceptance that I will always be slow on downclimbs and that I will always turn and face in on anything more than 40 degrees has allowed me to continue to climb.

 

That said... learning to ski has really helped. Steep skiing combined with many years of downclimbing slowly and carefully has gone a long ways to helping with controlling my fear. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach anytime I have to downclimb something exposed and steep but I've learned that if I'm slow and methodical I can do it safely.

 

Good luck. It's a long slow road. Attempting to speed it up with drugs and therapy won't really help you - it is something that you need to relearn slowly if you choose to keep climbing.

 

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The best thing is mental conditioning. Behavioural therapy works better than drugs, although it takes more effort, it is also more effective over time and produces lasting improvements with minimal side effects.

 

For something like this, desensitization (like Mike mentions) is better than flooding as a thereapeutic approach.

 

Example: say you had a fear of cold water because you nearly drowned in a cold lake.

You can condition yourself against your fear by going into warm water (that you have no fear of) and then progressively colder water until you can stand cold water.

 

Or you can condition yourself against it by immediate exposure to very cold water under safely monitored conditions where you don't actually run any risk of drowning.

 

First approach is slower but works better. Second approach is faster but more traumatic.

 

For this I'd go with the first approach.

 

So, if you want to go on steep snow again, first off go on flat snow, then gentle slopes. Do lots of practice falling and self-arresting and so on on these soft, gentle slopes. Then gradually increase steepness and iciness of slope until able to deal confidently with steep icy slopes again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you all for sharing your stories and the suggestions.

 

I like the suggestions of metal conditioning and just taking it slowly to build back confidence.

 

 

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