Sensory Grounding With Ice Or Cold Water
If you have a washcloth and a water bottle, you have a good start to a panic attack survival kit. Sometimes panic attacks make people feel uncomfortably hot. A damp washcloth around the neck or face can ease this feeling and give you a sensation to think about.
3 ways water can calm a panic attack:
- Hold an ice cube in your hand and focus on the sensation
- Place a cold, wet washcloth on the back of your neck
- Dunk your head into a bowl of ice water
Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
Schedule An Appointment With My Psychiatrist
Panic and anxiety can be overwhelming for the person experiencing these emotions. The fear feels very real in the moment, and you may even feel like you lack control. At My Psychiatrist, we can help treat anxiety disorders and reduce your fears. Our board-certified psychiatrists can diagnose your anxiety disorder and offer treatment to improve your quality of life.
If youre ready to take back control of your life, browse through our list of providers and book an appointment today!
Get Help. Anywhere, Anytime.
Talk to a therapist or psychiatrist when youre feeling anxious, stressed, down, or not like yourself
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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:
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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How Do I Calm My Anxious Child
Anxiety and panic share some common symptoms. When your child is experiencing a panic attack or is feeling particularly anxious, follow these steps.
- Be calm yourself. Its not about you.
- Acknowledge that their feelings are real instead of punishing/shaming them for how they feel.
- Practice chest breathing together to encourage their parasympathetic nervous system to do its thing.
- Tell them that you are there for them by saying, I am here for you.
- Give them a long hug .
Keep Your Mind In The Present
Notice five things you can see around you. Then, four things you can touch. Three things you can hear. Two things you smell. One thing you taste. When you stay grounded in whatâs going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on fear or bounce from one worry to the next.
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Dont Fight The Anxiety Go Easy On Yourself
When you’re feeling really anxious you don’t want to avoid how you’re feeling. This can just make you more anxious and cause you to feel on edge around other people.
There’s a reason you’re feeling anxious, whether that’s something in your environment or a chemical imbalance in your brain.
It’s OK to feel anxious! And to go easy on those days where you have high anxiety.
Once you learn to stop fighting how you’re feeling you will start to understand your anxiety more. You’ll learn what your triggers are. Understanding where your anxiety stems from will stop a panic attack in its tracks. Fighting your anxiety will only cause more panic attacks to occur.
Listen to what your anxiety is trying to tell you. If you don’t think anything is wrong in your life and you’re still feeling anxious, talk to your doctor about it.
Sometimes our bodies don’t produce enough serotonin to keep us naturally calm, and this could be what’s triggering your panic attacks .
Walk Or Do Some Light Exercise
Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing.
Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.
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Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
For some people, panic attacks seem to come out of the blue or are triggered by uncomfortable sensations in the body, Duval says.
Signs of a panic attack include:
Feeling like things are unreal or unfamiliar
Fear of dying or fear of losing control
A panic attack would include at least four of these symptoms, Duval says.
She notes that panic attacks can come on quickly and peak, or be at their worst, within 10 minutes. Most attacks resolve relatively quickly, within 30 minutes for most people.
Nor are they dangerous: Panic attacks do not last forever panic will subside on its own, even if you dont do anything, Duval says.
What Is An Anxiety Attack
An anxiety attack is a high degree stress response activated by either overly apprehensive behavior or by the involuntary action of a chronically stressed body.
In other words, anxiety attacks have two main causes:Voluntary anxiety attacks: When we worry something terrible might happen and the body responds with a high degree stress response.
Involuntary anxiety attacks: When the body activates a high degree stress response all by itself due to the adverse effects of chronic stress.
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What Triggers A Panic Attack
Regardless of who they happen to or how they manifest, panic attacks do not happen in a vacuum. Although panic attacks are often unpredictable and seem spontaneous, there are nevertheless risk factors that act as potential panic attack triggers.
Negative mood is a situational factor that contributes to the increased likelihood of experiencing a panic attack. In contrast, an individualâs general level of anxiety is a less specific factor that can work in the background and increase the likelihood of panic attacks regardless of situational factors.
In other words, it can be useful to think of anything that causes negative mood as a trigger , while general levels of anxiety can be thought as a magnifying lens that turn seemingly innocuous events into potential triggers.
These general triggers are useful for understanding the psychological origin of a panic attack. However, they may miss some of the spontaneity and confusion of how panic attacks manifest in day-to-day life, where triggers may be harder to identify and the timeline of a panic attack does not necessarily follow a neat beginning, middle, and end.
An individual interviewed by Woodgate, Tennent, Barriage, and Legras described the onset of their panic attack:
âI was just walking down the street and then these guys walked past me and theyâre like âWhatâs up?â and I started panicking.â
Strategy #: Slowly Inch Into Panic Situations
One client of mine had a panic attack in a spin class and not only didnt go back, but also stopped exercising entirely. She wouldnt even take the stairs. She was worried that getting her heart rate up would induce another panic attack, something she never, ever wanted to experience again.
So, to fight her panic, in addition to challenging the thought that her heart couldnt handle exertion, she also started slowly inching back into exercise and getting her heart rate up a little at a time. First, she jogged a few steps, then a block, then around the block, and slowly, she got herself back to the gym.
If its a place you fear, like being worried youll have a panic attack in the middle of the grocery store, start by going in to buy one item close to the checkout lane. Next time, grab a basket and browse, deliberately taking a little longer. When thats boring, grab a cart and do a weeks worth of shopping. Dont try to rush through it and get out. Take your time. Dont move on to the next level until the current one is easy. Remember: Your brain has to get bored.
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Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
The key to managing a panic attack is being sure that what you’re experiencing is a panic attack. Some people confuse panic attacks with anxiety.
Anxiety and panic attacks are both very common. They are both often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as medical conditions.
Anxiety is characterized by ongoing worry or fear about the future. With generalized anxiety disorder , for example, anxiety symptoms are present for normal everyday experiences and can create mild-to-severe interruptions in a person’s life. With anxiety, symptoms may be present on some level all the time or during specific periods of known stressors, such as during a public presentation.
Panic attacks tend to come on suddenly and can happen from either a calm state or a state of feeling anxious. They often occur without warning or a known trigger and bring a sense of doom, intense fear, and a feeling of dying.
Similarly, both anxiety and panic attacks have physical and psychological symptoms. With panic attacks, however, the symptoms tend to come on quickly and are often only present for up to 10 minutes. With anxiety, symptoms can be present for a much longer period of time.
Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
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Using Meditation For Panic Attack Management
A more advanced exercise your clients can practice is meditation.
Like the other exercises described in this article, meditation comes in different varieties. Each variety has its own particular procedure and way of describing the process, which may be more or less accessible to your client depending on the goals for their therapy and their personal or spiritual beliefs.
These differences should be considered carefully, but all forms of meditation share the same basic function as a system of relaxation through âembodied thought.â
âEmbodied thoughtâ is a concept we havenât yet mentioned explicitly, but itâs really a combination of the exercises already described above. It takes the ideas behind controlled breathing and the different types of grounding and applies them in a single exercise.
In meditation, your client adopts a comfortable seated position and then typically begins by closing their eyes and engaging controlled breathing. This brings on a state of relaxation, but importantly, it also brings on a state of focus through sensory grounding, as your client deliberately pays attention to the rhythm and sensation of their breathing.
Relax Your Body To Ease An Anxiety Attack
It’s easy to say, “Just relax,” right? But once you start to observe your body during an anxiety attack, you might find that certain parts of your body clench up during an attack. Make a deliberate effort to tighten and then relax those parts of your body.
Or, if those parts feel like they wont obey during an anxiety attack, pick a body part that will respond, such as your toes or your shoulders. The more you can breathe deeply and relax, the easier it will be to cope.
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Learn 9 Ways To Lessen Or Stop The Symptoms
A panic attack can be stopped or controlled with mind-body techniques such as relaxation, distraction, and mindfulness.
Many people will experience at least one panic attack in their lifetime. Learning to recognize panic attacks is an important first step toward managing them, which can often be done without the need for medication.
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Talk To A Therapist With Experience In Anxiety Attacks
People often fear the worst when they’re having an anxiety attack. Most of the time, theres no underlying physical problem, such as a real heart attack. But you should get the medical all clear if you have repeat anxiety attacks, just to be sure you dont need additional treatment. Then find a cognitive behavioral therapist with experience treating anxiety to help you through.
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What To Do When Someone Else Is Having A Panic Attack
This section will provide some tips on how to help a person having a panic attack.
First, try talking them through a few of the methods above. For instance, help them find a peaceful spot, encourage them to take slow, deep breaths, and ask them to focus on a nearby object.
If you do not know the person, introduce yourself and ask them if they need help. Ask them if they have had a panic attack before, and if so, what helps them regain control.
People can also try the following tips when someone else is having a panic attack:
- Try to remain calm. This will help them relax a little more.
- Suggest moving to a quiet spot nearby and help them find one. Sitting down in a comfortable place can be very effective, as it allows them to focus on their breathing.
- Remind the person that panic attacks always end.
- Stay positive and nonjudgmental. Avoid validating any negative statements.
- Try having a gentle, friendly conversation to distract them and help them feel safe.
- Avoid telling them to calm down or telling them that there is nothing to worry about, as this devalues their emotions.
- Stay with them. If they feel that they need to be alone, make sure they remain visible.
Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Muscle tension is a symptom of anxiety, and muscle relaxation techniques can help reduce tension and promote relaxation during an attack. Progressive muscle relaxation aims to release tension in one group of muscles at a time to relax the whole body.
Much like deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack in its tracks by controlling your bodys response as much as possible.
If you attend muscle relaxation therapy, your therapist might take you through the following
- First, you may learn how to tense the muscles before releasing the tension.
- Then, you will learn how to relax the muscles without tensing them first.
- You may also learn how to relax specific sets of muscles, for example, in the shoulders, for practical use in everyday situations.
- Finally, you may learn how to practice rapid relaxation, when you can identify any areas of tension and release it as needed.
To start relaxing your muscles at home, consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body.
Muscle relaxation techniques will be most effective when youve practiced them beforehand.
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Medication For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Medication can be used to temporarily control or reduce some of the symptoms of panic disorder. However, it doesnt treat or resolve the problem. Medication can be useful in severe cases, but it should not be the only treatment pursued. Medication is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as therapy and lifestyle changes, that address the underlying causes of panic disorder.
Medications used may include:
Antidepressants. It takes several weeks before antidepressants begin to work, so you have to take them continuously, not just during a panic attack.
Benzodiazepines. These are anti-anxiety drugs that act very quickly . Taking them during a panic attack provides rapid relief of symptoms. However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, so they should be used with caution.