How To Deal With Panic Attacks
Having a panic attack means feeling the anxiety that comes on suddenly and intensely. It’s a frightening experience, but it doesn’t last long and you’re not having a heart attack or stroke.
It is possible to be in control of your panic attacks by understanding what they are and knowing what to do when one strikes. Here’s how:
Recognize the symptoms. Sometimes it is hard to predict when an attack begins. But the symptoms are usually the same and include:
- Racing heart, palpitations
- Trembling or shaking, especially in your arms and hands
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort; feeling like you’re choking
- Nausea and dizziness, often with a fear of fainting
- Sweating; hot flashes
- Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, lips, face or extremities (hands and feet may feel cold)
Remember that having a panic attack is not dangerous. The key to overcoming them lies in the knowledge that you are not in any real danger.
In fact, experts agree that panic attacks are not dangerous at all. Neither are they something to be ashamed of nor be embarrassed about.
But panic attacks can sometimes make you feel like you want to die like you’ve gone crazy like you lose control and there is no way out – which makes them an experience people want very much to avoid.
Although panic attacks aren’t dangerous, they can be very frightening.
Feelings like you are going to have a heart attack, collapse, or even death can be caused by them. In most cases, panic attacks last for five to thirty minutes.
How To Handle A Panic Attack
According to professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, Paul Salkovskis, you should not let panic attacks control you.
“Panic attacks are not harmful, and the symptoms don’t last long,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are brought on by anxiety.”
In other words, you shouldn’t seek distractions but rather ride out the attack. Try to keep calm and keep doing things. In general, it is important to try and stay in the situation until the anxiety has subsided.
It’s best to face your fear, not to run away from it, because you may discover nothing terrible will happen to you.
There are a few things that can make the symptoms worse. These include:
- Avoiding your phobia, for example by not riding on buses or trains, because that way it will remain an anxiety trigger forever;
- Running away from situations you associate with the situation; for instance, if you had a panic attack while driving, then stay at home;
- Using alcohol and drugs such as Valium or sleeping pills, because they can make a panic attack worse in the long run.
Begin to focus on your surroundings and carry on as you usually would as soon as the anxiety passes.
If you begin to worry about how long the attack will last, remind yourself that it probably won’t last more than an hour.
It’s important to avoid any distractions during a panic attack. As soon as you feel one coming on, keep still and try not to run away from whatever is causing your fear because once the symptoms have started, they’ll get worse.
Professor Salkovskis says that if you have a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful if someone is with you to reassure you that the attack will pass and the symptoms are nothing to be concerned about.
Breathing Exercise For Panic Attacks
A breathing exercise can help you feel better. Focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly, through your nose. Count the seconds with each breath. Your goal is to complete six or seven breaths a minute. That may seem slow at first but with practice, it gets easier and easier. When you get distracted or short of breath, bring yourself
A breathing exercise can help you ease the other symptoms of a panic attack if you start hyperventilating. Try this:
- Inhale slowly, deeply, and gently through your nose
- Exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth
- Counting steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each exhalation can be helpful for some people
- Focus on your breathing while you close your eyes
It should take a few minutes for you to feel better. You may feel tired afterward.
Ways To Prevent Panic Attacks
“You need to determine what kind of stress you might be experiencing that might be aggravating your symptoms,” says Salkovskis. Your everyday activities and movements shouldn’t be restricted.”
- When a panic attack occurs, you should practice breathing exercises daily to prevent it from happening again.
- Exercising regularly, especially aerobic exercise, will help you manage stress, release tension, improve your mood, and boost your confidence.
- Eat regularly to maintain a healthy blood sugar level
- Drinking caffeine, smoking, and drinking alcohol will make panic attacks worse.
- Support groups for panic attacks can provide helpful tips on how to cope with panic attacks. Being aware that other people are experiencing the same things can be reassuring. You can get in touch with local groups through your GP.
A cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help identify and change the negative thought patterns that cause panic attacks.
Am I Suffering From A Panic Disorder?
You might have the panic disorder if you constantly worry about having your next panic attack.
You will start to avoid situations where you suffer from panic attacks.
Investigations and tests for panic attacks
In a doctor’s office, the diagnosis is made after asking questions about your symptoms and doing a physical exam. If this leads to an anxiety disorder or another medical condition that causes similar symptoms, then it can be diagnosed as one of these disorders.
Unfortunately, many people with panic disorder are not properly diagnosed and they suffer needlessly for years because their fears seem so irrational to others.
The diagnosis involves taking a medical history and carrying out a physical examination that includes checking your pulse, blood pressure, heart rate, mental state (such as asking questions), and doing routine blood tests.
Visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist to undergo psychological testing is also an option, but this takes longer and involves more personal details about your life is shared with the doctor.
The physical assessment usually includes:
- A visual inspection of the body looking for signs of disease an examination of your vital signs, such as pulse and blood pressure.
- A mental status examination to assess your level of consciousness and thought processes. This aspect alone can be very stressful for some people during a panic attack – although your doctor or nurse will do everything, they can to make you feel at ease.
Treatment For Panic Attacks
The right treatment works well for some people but not others. Find out what works for you.
The treatment plan will depend on: the doctor’s diagnosis the type and severity of your condition what other conditions you may have how well you can cope with your symptoms whether drugs could be used to treat them
People living with panic disorder may avoid situations that could trigger panic attacks. Also, they may fear and avoid public spaces (agoraphobia).
Professor Salkovskis advises seeking medical help if your attacks are happening time after time.
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