What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may have:
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
- An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
Try Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Another symptom of panic attacks is muscle tension. Practicing muscle relaxation techniques may help limit an attack. This is because if the mind senses that the body is relaxing, other symptoms such as rapid breathing may also diminish.
A technique called progressive muscle relaxation is a popular method for coping with anxiety and panic attacks.
This involves tensing up and then relaxing various muscles in turn. To do this:
Tips For Coping During A Panic Attack
Everyone will experience panic attacks in unique ways, so strategies that work for one person may not work for you. Some strategies may work at one point, but not at others.
The key is to try a variety of techniques until you find the ones that fit best for you.
1. Recognize that this is a panic attack
The first thing you can do once your symptoms start is to acknowledge them for what they are a panic attack. Its not life threatening, wont harm you, and will be gone soon.
It can be tempting to run from feelings of panic, but accepting your emotional state can be helpful for getting through an attack.
Tell yourself: This is temporary. It will pass soon.
2. Stay grounded
Many people who have panic attacks find it helpful to ground themselves in their surroundings. Staying in the present can lessen your feelings of unreality and fear.
There are a lot of techniques to keep yourself grounded.
One of these is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. It involves focusing on your five senses to anchor you to your surroundings.
Need some other grounding techniques to try?
- Press your feet firmly into the ground.
- Eat or drink one of your favorite foods .
- Write down how youre feeling in a journal.
- Find and focus on your pulse.
3. Relax your muscles
Muscle relaxation techniques can offer plenty of health benefits, including:
- lowering blood pressure
- reducing anxiety
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Approach To The Patient
Until research better determines which subset of patients will spontaneously remit, physicians should treat all patients who meet the DSM-IV criteria for panic disorder, particularly those whose quality of life is affected by social avoidance or agoraphobia. Antidepressants alone are highly effective in reducing attacks and improving function, with SSRIs and TCAs showing equal efficacy. Each class of antidepressant has side effects, and patients adherence to therapy varies based on their tolerance of those effects. Antidepressant therapy should continue for at least six months after the patient is symptom-free. When the antidepressant is discontinued, the patient should be followed closely to detect recurrence of anxiety symptoms before they become debilitating.27
Treatment For Panic Disorder
Research shows that the most successful treatment for panic disorder is a combination of antidepressant medication and cognitive behavioral therapy . Many clinicians recommend CBT as the first-line treatment, with medication added if necessary to make the patient comfortable enough to participate in CBT.
In treating someone who has panic disorder with CBT, the clinician starts by working with the patient to think more flexibly about his anxiety. Rather than viewing the physical symptoms as dangerous, he practices tolerating them, knowing that they arent harmful.
To help the person disconnect the negative feelings associated with attacks, the therapist induces those physical sensations the patient does jumping jacks or stair climbing to get the heart racing, spinning to get dizzy, breathing through a coffee straw to get shortness of breath. Were exposing you to the actual, physical feelings of a panic attack, one symptom at a time, Dr. Bubrick explains.
Then, instead of simply tolerating the anxiety and waiting for it to subside, the person is taught how to do deep breathing techniques, to calm the physical symptoms down. Some clinicians dont do the deep breathing, on the grounds that the symptoms will pass on their own. But Dr. Bubrick likes to give kids tools to give them a sense of empowerment, to have them feel that they can control the symptoms.
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Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
Can It Lower Your Blood Pressure
Xanax slows down essential functions such as your heart rate and breathing. It can also temporarily lower your blood pressure. In other words, if you take Xanax before getting your blood pressure tested, your reading might be lower than usual.
A 2011 randomized controlled study followed 53 participants who arrived at a hospital emergency department with elevated blood pressure. They were given either alprazolam or captopril, a high blood pressure drug, as treatment.
The researchers found that alprazolam was as effective as captopril at lowering blood pressure.
Xanax may have similar effects over the long term. A 2017 study reported that among people over the age of 60, long-term use of benzodiazepines was associated with lower blood pressure.
Similarly, a involving participants with a median age of 63.6 reported that alprazolam use was associated with a slightly reduced risk of major adverse cardiovascular events among people who had high blood pressure. These events include heart attacks and strokes.
However, taking Xanax over the long term is generally not recommended, as it can be habit-forming.
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Treatment Options For Your Clients
Treatment options are suitable for clients who are experiencing panic attacks because of a clinically significant mental health condition such as panic disorder.
The first port of call for such clients should be Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy . CBT is a diverse therapy that can involve any combination of a suite of therapeutic interventions, unified by the goal of helping your client reevaluate their beliefs and reprogram the habitual links between their beliefs and behaviors.
As the name suggests, the mental health interventions involved in CBT can be categorized as either cognitive or behavioral.
Cognitive therapies involve identifying and disrupting beliefs that cause the negative mood or anxiety that trigger panic attacks and educating patients to understand their panic attacks and put psychological distance between themselves and their experiences.
Behavioral therapies can involve relaxation techniques, practicing how to navigate potentially triggering situations, and exposure therapy, in which a client is safely guided through a direct or visualized experience of a potentially triggering situation.
Whatever combination of interventions works best for your client, CBT has been shown to be a successful therapy in most cases and is well suited to managing panic attacks, where controlling those triggering links between beliefs and behaviors is crucial.
How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
- Stay with the person
If you can, stay with the person during their panic attack. Just by you being there, you can help them to calm down and remind them that help is available. It is okay if you are finding it overwhelming. You can find another friend, family member or teacher they trust to support your friend and you.
- Talk to them and encourage them
You can chat to the person about how they are feeling or anything that they like, such as favourite Netflix shows or their hobbies. This can distract them from their anxious thoughts, helping them to feel calm and to slow down their breathing. They might find it difficult to talk and might want to focus on their breath – thats okay and its important to respect their boundaries and how they are feeling.
- Check in with your friend
Even though your friend may no longer be panicking, they can still feel anxious or on edge afterwards. You can check in with them to see how they are feeling. This will remind them that they are not alone and you are there for them.
Talk about how you can support themIf your friend feels comfortable to, you can suggest talking about how you can support them in the future. This can be things like helping them find a safe space or finding breathing exercises that can help in the moment. This will help them feel better about coping with panic attacks.
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Concentrate On Your Breathing
Focus on breathing in slowly, then breathing out slowly. It can be helpful to count when youre breathing to focus your mind. You can start small at first, like counting to three as you breathe in and counting to three as you breathe out. When you begin to calm down, you can increase how long you hold each breath to five seconds or seven seconds.
Close Your Eyes And Breathe
Whenever you find yourself having a panic attack, take a moment to lie down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in. Then out. In. Then Out. In. Out. Breathing deep naturally helps slow your heart rate to help you calm your anxiety. Taking the time to focus on your breath helps move your mind into the present inside of the past or future. Find time each day to get that quiet moment to yourself just to breathe. The more you practice mindful breathing, the fewer panic attacks youll have.
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Where Benzodiazepines Fit In
Benzodiazepines are used as a sleep aid and anti-anxiety medicine. They help treat symptoms such as decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, unusual talkativeness, increased activity, agitation, or distractibility, which may be part of a manic or hypomanic episode in people with bipolar disorder. There is a risk of addiction, so these medications are usually limited to short-term use for temporary relief of these symptoms.
Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia was traditionally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces. However, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks and panic disorder. Although it can develop at any point, agoraphobia usually appears within a year of your first recurrent panic attacks.
If youre agoraphobic, youre afraid of having a panic attack in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. You may also be afraid of having a panic attack where you wouldnt be able to get help. Because of these fears, you start avoiding more and more situations.
For example, you may begin to avoid:
- Crowded places such as shopping malls or sports arenas.
- Cars, airplanes, subways, and other forms of travel.
- Social gatherings, restaurants, or other situations where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack.
- Physical exercise in case it triggers panic.
- Certain food or drinks that could provoke panic, such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or specific medications.
- Going anywhere without the company of someone who makes you feel safe. In more severe cases, you might only feel safe at home.
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Talk To Someone Friendly
Another very effective technique is to talk to someone you like and trust, especially on the phone. Don’t be shy about your anxiety – tell them you feel anxious and explain what you’re feeling.
Talking to nice, empathetic people keeps your mind off of your symptoms, and the supportive nature of friends and family gives you an added boost of confidence. If you’re suffering from a panic attack, it also helps you feel more confident that if something were wrong, you’d have someone that can watch over you.
Take Charge With The Venue
A guy once asked me to go bowling on a first date. Yeah, no thanks! I was nervous enough as it was without having to worry about being terrible at bowling. If a particular setting puts you on edge, you can always laugh the request off and say something like, Maybe on the second date! Then, suggest somewhere youd feel more comfortable going.
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Grounding Techniques For Panic Disorder
If you want to learn how to stop panic attacks naturally then grounding techniques can go a long way in helping. Grounding techniques simply mean methods to keep you in the here and now rather than spiralling into panic and worry. The basic techniques are:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
When you feel the panic starting to increase start putting into place your grounding technique for panic attacks. Start looking around you and note five things that you can see in front of you. Now find 4 things you can touch with different textures. This could be a chair, then the carpet, the fabric of your clothes and the feel of a ceramic mug as an example.
Then try and find 3 things you can hear around you and note what they are. Two things you can smell and one you can taste. Mystic Moments Anxiety Essential Oil Blend is perfect to use as something you can smell as it is designed to reduce issues caused by anxiety.
Tips On What To Do When A Panic Attack Hits And How To Manage Chronic Anxiety
You feel the restrictive sensation of your chest walls caving in as if someone is standing on your ribcage. Youre becoming alarmingly aware of the rhythm of your breathing and wonder if your next breath will be your last. Its like youre drowning without being underwater. You think, “I can’t breathe. Im going to die. Just breathe. Just breathe.”
Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate are just some of the scary reactions that occur during a panic attack. These symptoms can intensify and increase, leading to uncontrollable trembling, sweating, tightness around the head, and the feeling of suffocation.
As anyone suffering from chronic anxiety understands, you cant control when a panic attack hits and, in fact, trying to control it can sometimes make it worse. The greatest fear for someone dealing with anxiety is losing control in public, feeling trapped in an uncomfortable situation and experiencing humiliation. When anxiety hits, it can make you feel like youre going crazylike you have absolutely no control over your own mind.
“Anxiety can be defined as the response of an organism to a threat, real or imagined. It is a process that, in some form, is present in all living things.” Kerr, Bowen
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Grounding Techniques For Anxiety
As someone with anxiety, you know what it feels like when the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack kick in. Your heart races. Your mouth gets dry. Your body starts to tremble. You break out in a cold sweat. Panic takes over your mind, defying all logic and reality. What if we told you there are ways to stop anxiety attacks in their tracks to prevent them from consuming you? Well, there are. Theyre called grounding techniques.
People with anxiety and PTSD are often carried away by thoughts of their traumatic past or uncertain future, which triggers fight-or-flight instincts. The brain feels like the body is under attack, so it gears up for a nonexistent threat.
Grounding techniques are physical or mental actions that distract you from oncoming anxiety in moments like these. These calming methods help you focus on the present and whats actually going on around you. Here are 25 strategies to help you come out of those moments.
After You’ve Had A Panic Attack
Once you feel your breath returning to normal, you start to feel more in control of your body and your thoughts start to calm down, you might feel drained and tired from the panic attack. It can be a good idea to take some time out to look after yourself and rest if you are able to. If you are not sure what to do to relax, here are some things that might help:
- Breathing exercises a simple breathing exercise can have a calming effect and help you to relax
- Use a self-soothe box. A self-soothe box contains things that make you feel relaxed. You can put some of your favourite things in there to focus your mind.
- Listen to some of your favourite music or watch your favourite TV show. This can help you switch off from your anxious thoughts and help you to calm down.
- Drinking some water can help if you were breathing quickly, felt out of breath or were crying a lot during your panic attack, as your throat might feel dry or you may feel dehydrated.
Everyone has a different way of looking after themselves, so find something that works for you. For more tips and advice on how to look after yourself, visit our taking time out page.
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