Dont Compare Normal Stress And Fear To Panic
Maybe youve felt stressed or terrified in a dangerous situation. You might even have anxiety yourself.
These experiences arent quite the same as a panic attack, though. Avoid trying to draw comparisons between your different experiences. Unless you also get panic attacks, you probably dont entirely understand how they feel.
If you have experienced extreme fear, let that memory inform you on what your friend is going through. Remind yourself they arent just afraid or stressed.
They may also feel:
- unable to manage whats happening
- physical pain or discomfort
When To Use Medication
Sometimes, panic attacks cannot be managed entirely alone. If panic attacks become an ongoing concern or they cause significant anxiety or fear about future panic attacks, it might be necessary to see a therapist or doctor.
Types of therapeutic interventions that have been shown to have the best outcomes include cognitive behavioral therapy and humanistic therapy. CBT involves understanding the relationship between thoughts and behaviors and working toward changing negative or distorted thoughts to more positive, helpful ones.
One study found CBT to be between 85% and 90% successful in treating panic disorders.
Humanistic therapy is a type of intervention that helps people make rational decisions and accept responsibility for themselves. Common humanistic therapy approaches include client-centered therapy, gestalt therapy, and existential therapy.
If therapy alone is not effective in treating panic attacks, as may be the case in severe cases of panic disorders, medications may be recommended and prescribed by a psychiatrist. Commonly prescribed medications that have been shown to be effective in helping with panic disorders include antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
Know What To Do For Calming A Panic Attack
Now you have some effective ways of calming a panic attack.
We understand its a highly unpleasant and scary thing to go through, which is why we hope the above tips have helped. But one of the most important things in handling an anxiety attack is to have the aid of a professional therapist.
With their help, you can learn even more effective ways of dealing with these panic attacks so they arent as detrimental to your life. In addition, they can help you pinpoint your sources of anxiety and give you effective ways to deal with them so your chances of anxiety attacks are decreased for the future.
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Breathing Exercise For Panic Attacks
If youre breathing quickly during a panic attack, doing a breathing exercise can ease your other symptoms. Try this:
- breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose
- breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth
- some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath
- close your eyes and focus on your breathing
You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards.
Visit the No Panic website for another breathing exercise to calm panic.
Breathwork In Any Environment
The above tips can be difficult to do in a crowded spot or if you don’t have the kit with you. Luckily, breathwork techniques can be done anywhere, anytime.
“Depending on your environment, you can try progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or square breathing,” says Bruha.
Square breathing uses four actions, each lasting for about four seconds.
Square breathing instructions:
- Breathe in through your nose while counting to four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
- Exhale slowly to a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
Repeat these four actions, for as long as you want to.
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How do you recognise the onset of an attack?
The first time, a panic attack can be extremely difficult to recognise as it feels palpably physical, Sharma says. Often, people go to the emergency room believing they are having a heart attack. If physical causes such as cardiac, neurological or respiratory issues are ruled out by a medical professional, it is most likely that the experience is a psychosomatic one. This is how most people realise that what they experienced is a panic attack, he says.
But the attacks can be predictable. Usually the triggers are same or similar, for the same person. For example, for someone who has been harassed on public transport, theres more likelihood of it occurring in the same setting, says Vidha.
Symptoms of a panic attack
A panic attack is a group of symptoms occurring together. The symptoms usually reach their peak intensity and subside within ten minutes, says Vidha. Officially, at least four of the following symptoms need to occur for it to qualify as a panic attack, she says.
How To Help Via Text Message
If youre out and about when you get a text from someone that says, I think Im having a panic attack, what do you do?
One of the best things you can do is offer supportive phrases that reinforce their ability to cope. Try a few of these supportive phrases:
- This is time-limited. It will pass.
- Youre doing a great job.
- Im confident that you can handle this.
- Youre going to get through this!
Whether in person or over text, try to avoid making a big deal of their symptoms. Your role can be to help them extinguish the idea that a panic attack is dangerous or intolerable, and remind them that they can handle this experience. You can then offer to help reconnect if they need more support later on.
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How Breathing Affects Panic Attacks
Your breathing plays a significant role in panic attacks more so than most people realize. In some ways it causes the majority of panic attack symptoms.
Some examples of the symptoms caused by poor breathing include:
- Chest pains
- Trouble getting a deep breath
- Weak limbs
- Trouble thinking
The main breathing issue is known as hyperventilation. Despite what many people believe from childhood, hyperventilation is caused by too little carbon dioxide rather than too little oxygen. Even though hyperventilation makes you feel like you’re not getting a deep breath, it is actually caused by breathing out too much Co2 before you’re able to produce more.
When you hyperventilate your blood vessels constrict. This causes your body to reduce blood flow to the brain, it causes chest pains, it causes rapid heartbeat and more.
Hyperventilation can be caused by many different scenarios all of which relate to anxiety:
- Breathing too quickly* Breathing more than you need
- Thinking about breathing
The latter is a forgotten reason that hyperventilation occurs, but it’s common with those with anxiety. It causes hyperventilation because when you think about breathing your breathing becomes manual, and most people breathe poorly when they breathe manually.
Coughing and any type of issue with breathing out Co2 too quickly can also lead to hyperventilation.
What Do I Do If Im Having A Panic Attack
With or without panic disorder, panic attacks are common. And theres a big misconception around dealing with them, Gruner explains.
The most common advice people hear when theyre experiencing a panic attack is to take deep breaths, think positively, and try to calm down, he says.
However, trying to control anxiety in these ways can backfire. Struggling to prevent a panic attack can have a paradoxical effect and actually cause a panic attack.
During a panic attack, a person should do the counterintuitive thing: let go of control and allow the panic attack to run its course.
It can also be useful to remind yourself that you cant die from a panic attack, and that its your bodys normal, natural reaction, which is not dangerous.
Gabe Gruner, LICSW, is a psychotherapist at the Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at Brigham and Womens Hospital .
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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 individuals 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:
I was just walking down the street and then these guys walked past me and theyre like Whats up? and I started panicking.
Here Are 7 Tips For Calming A Panic Attack:
1. Focus on Your Breathing
Many anxiety attack symptoms have to do with your heart rate and breathing rate. In fact, you might have issues with breathing, such as hyperventilating. As a result, this can further exacerbate your anxiety attack.
One of the best things you can do for calming your anxiety attack is to focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath in, but dont exhale just yet. Hold it for about 5 seconds, and then slowly let it out.
Repeat this process until you can noticeably feel yourself calming down. This is the first thing you should try when it comes to how to deal with anxiety attacks.
2. Ground Yourself
In the moment, it can feel very scary to have a panic attack. You might even wonder if its anxiety or a heart attack.
But a vital thing you can do is ground yourself. Instead of focusing on how scary the attack is, focus on the things that are tangible to you.
For example, focus on your clothes feel against your skin, how the air smells, or how the texture of the wall looks. It might help to just pick one thing and focus all your attention on it.
This type of mindfulness is a great anxiety attack remedy.
3. Relax Your Muscles
While youre having a panic attack, youre probably tensing up a lot of muscles without even realizing it. Thats actually one of the common signs of an anxiety attack.
4. Be Conscious of the Fact That the Attack Will Pass
5. Do Some Light Exercise
6. Speak to Your Therapist
7. Speak to Your Loved Ones
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When To Get Help
See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.
They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.
They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
SSRIs are a type of antidepressant also used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. They increase serotonin levels in the brain. They do this by blocking the natural reabsoprtion cycle of serotonin into nerve cells, allowing more serotonin to flow through the brain.
Serotonin is a chemical messenger associated with mood regulation. Stabilizing serotonin levels helps to reduce anxiety and panic.
SSRIs have been widely studied. They carry a low risk of serious side effects and are effective long term. As a result, theyre one of the most commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder.
Some SSRIs commonly prescribed to treat panic disorder include:
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What Can Clients Do During An Attack
The exercises described above are essential tools for reducing the likelihood of a panic attack occurring, recovering from the aftermath, and fostering better psychological wellbeing. However, they can also be used during a panic attack to reduce its severity and duration.
As soon as your client feels the onset of a panic attack, they should begin by grounding themselves, affirming that they are experiencing a panic attack, immediately creating some psychological distance, and identifying a panic attack as something that is happening to them. Once they have done this, their focus should be on managing the intense physical pain and anxiety they will be experiencing.
This is a Herculean task, and your client should realize that success is not making the panic attack disappear, but just making it a little more controlled.
They should use their controlled breathing exercises to soothe the brain, soften the alarm signals being sent by the body, and reduce the spiraling sensation of a panic attack. They should affirm that they are safe and that the panic attack will pass, labeling their emotions as calmly as possible to increase the psychological distance they created initially.
Tips To Help You Get Through A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be physically and mentally exhausting, and they are often difficult to manage. We reached out to members of our community for suggestions on how to cope with panic attacks and anxiety. Here are some helpful ideas that you came up with.
1. Know your triggers
Increasing self-awareness and knowledge about your own mental health is always a plus. The more you KNOW your triggers and how your anxiety presents itself, the easier it will be to talk yourself through an attack. Mindy H.
2. Leave the situation
I remove myself from the situation immediately, go home, and pet my dogs its the best I can do right now. I have to take care of myself, and when my body is sending me distress signals, I have learned to respond before I have a meltdown. Cathy M.
I hide in bathrooms I feel safe in the cubicles. Jon I.
I go for a walk. Even if Im at work, a quick 10 or 15 minute walk works wonders. Melissa S.
3. Grounding techniques
I look around to find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. Its called grounding. Sam A.
Grounding techniques. Focus on whats around you, what it looks like, the smell, the texture. Gia S.
Look around you for
- 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
This is called grounding. It can help when you feel like you have lost control of your surroundings and/or your head. Tracy K.
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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.
Helping Over The Long Term
If someone you know is getting treatment for panic disorder, you can offer ongoing help as the person takes steps to recover from it. Here are some things you can do.
- Allow the person to proceed in therapy at their own pace.
- Be patient.
Praise all efforts toward recovery, even if the person isn’t meeting all of the goals.
- Stay calm.
Don’t panic when the person panics.
- Accept the current situation.
But know that it won’t last forever.
- Take care of yourself.
Remember that it’s okay to be concerned and anxious yourself.
When a person has panic attacks, the entire family is affected. If someone in your family has panic attacks, you may feel frustrated, overworked, or socially isolated. These feelings are common. Family therapy, a type of counseling that involves the entire family, may help.
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD – Internal Medicine& Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine& Christine R. Maldonado PhD – Behavioral Health
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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Try To Find Evidence For Your Fear
When trying to stop a panic attack, you need to get to the root cause of it: your fear. Many times are fears are exaggerated in our mind. Our imagination can play some terrifying tricks on us. A simple way to stop panic attacks is to first label what the situation or trigger is. For example, an upcoming wedding. Then, list your feelings such as anxious, paranoid, scared, etc. Next, name the unhelpful thoughts that youre having. For example, feeling like youre in danger, feeling like youre about to die. Then, list the facts that support your unhelpful thought.
Keep in mind they need to be facts not beliefs. You might have some weird coincidences that you can list but that wont be considered actual evidence. Then, list facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought. For example, maybe youre still young and healthy so you likely arent about to die. Next, provide an alternative and more realistic. Next, focus on reevaluate you how currently feel. This is the Thought Record you can fill out to help you.