How Long Does Treatment Last
How long treatment continues depends on you. Stopping panic attacks completely is a reasonable goal. Your doctor will design a treatment plan just for you. A treatment period lasting at least 6 to 9 months is usually recommended. Some people taking medicine for panic disorder are able to stop treatment after only a short time. Other people need to continue treatments over a long period of time, or even for their lifetime.
Find A Focus Point For Your Mind
To counter the overwhelming sense of helplessness that often accompanies a panic attack, some people find it helpful to train their minds on a simple focal point, like a small object in the room or actively listening to a song. You can alsto count backward from 100 by intervals of three.
Focus all your attention on that one thing and be as actively involved with your focus point as possible. The goal here is to be so focused that your anxious feelings melt away in the backgrounds until they disappear. This is a distraction technique.
Pick a focus point in advance so that you can quickly go there during a panic attack.
Strategy #1: Practice The Symptoms Youre Afraid Of
I know, I know—inducing the physical sensations you experience during a panic attack on purpose is the last thing folks with panic want to try, but hear me out.
Interpreting the symptoms as dangerous throws fuel on the fire. Symptoms snowball and over a matter of moments, you find yourself in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.
Therefore, by intentionally bringing on the very symptoms you’re afraid of, you can practice having them outside the context of an attack. Eventually, you’ll stop seeing them as threatening. You’ll learn your body can handle a racing heart or a tight throat. When you practice having your own symptoms, you’re always in the driver’s seat and you’ll get the chance to habituate, or as I like to say, your brain will get bored.
So if you’re worried about a pounding heart, set a timer for one minute and knock out some high knees or burpees. Terrified of feeling dizzy? Set that timer, sit in an office chair, and spin around and around until the time is up. Shortness of breath feels awful? Breathe through a coffee stirrer for one minute. Lightheadedness? Lie on the floor for a minute and then stand up quickly to induce a head rush. Do you get a sense of unreality when you panic, like the world is a dream or nothing is truly real? Get really close to your hand or a wall and stare at it for a minute. It gets a little freaky, which is exactly the point.
A Response To The Challenge Of Emerging Adulthood
The third reason why people develop panic attacks is that they often experienced a period of high stress and stressful changes in the year or so prior to the onset of the panic attacks. These might have been bad events, such as feeling trapped in a bad job or relationship, or experiencing the loss of family and/or friends. Or they may have had a lot of changes which weren’t bad in themselves – finishing school, changing jobs, getting married, moving, buying/selling a home, having babies, etc. – but which had a cumulative stressful effect on the person to the point that he/she found it hard to cope with them all.
It’s interesting to note that, for most people who develop panic attacks, it usually begins in their twenties or thirties – the years of establishing an independent life for yourselves when you are most likely to experience these kinds of changes.
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.
Panic Attacks Can Be Frightening And May Make You Feel Like You Have No Control Over Your Circumstances
Panic attacks can be frightening and may make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances. Technically speaking, panic attacks are the sudden and intense onset of crippling fear that triggers physical and emotional reactions without the apparent presence of any direct cause or stimuli.
Panic attacks, unlike heart attacks, are not life-threatening, but they can be challenging to deal with when they occur frequently and may have a debilitating effect on your life. Frequent panic attacks are unlikely to happen unless it’s a chronic problem, better known as panic disorder. If you have panic disorder, you might need more interventions and must consult a psychiatrist for help.
Symptoms of a panic attack
The symptoms of a panic attack usually show up without any warning and tend to peak within a few minutes. The following are some symptoms you may experience during a panic attack:
- Rapid heart rate or pounding heartbeats
- Sweating without the presence of excessive heat
- Trembling or shaking of hands and arms
- Chills or hot flashes
- Feeling everything is surreal or unreal
Causes of a panic attack
Issues caused by frequent panic attacks
If you have frequent panic attacks or panic disorder and leave the issue untreated, the following complications may show up in your life:
How to deal with panic attacks
Focus On What’s Going Out Outside Your Body
It can feel impossible to consider anything other than the overwhelming feelings in the moment, but psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson tells Bustle that as much as you can, try to focus outside of yourself and on your environment.
“Focus on what is going on outside of your body,” Scott-Hudson says. “Count all of the green objects in the room. Practice grounding, feel your feet on the floor. Feel the chair supporting your body.”
Anything that can lift your thoughts and perspective from feeling the current state of panic.
Being Alone With Your Thoughts
“A lot of times, people tell me that they don’t notice any specific situational trigger that caused their anxiousness,” Forshee says. “Often times, people don’t realize that a trigger could simply be not having any psychological distraction, meaning, that they are alone with their own thoughts”
So an anxiety attack can happen when you’re laying in your own bed at night trying to get some sleep. It can even happen when you’re home alone and it’s extremely quiet.
If you find yourself alone with just your thoughts and feelings, Forshee says it’s important to pay close attention to the “raw content of what your automatic thoughts are.” In other words, what are you really saying to yourself inside your own head? Are your thoughts solid facts or fears?
“When you notice the automatic thoughts that you have early on, this provides you an opportunity to start engaging in coping skills that will help slow down that hamster wheel,” she says. Turning on the TV or listening to music can be ways to cope in this situation.
Witness And Challenge Your Thoughts
There are often negative and untrue thoughts going through our minds during a panic attack. For instance, you might feel like this panic attack is going to “last forever” or that you will die. Before thoughts have spiraled out of control, start by simply witnessing the thoughts objectively. You can pretend the thoughts are a friend talking to you. Listen in on the stories, worries and exaggerations this friend is sharing and try to challenge these thoughts methodically, one at a time.
Always Seek Professional Advice
Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another person’s symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. It’s important to see your doctor for a check-up to make sure that any recurring physical panic-like symptoms are not due to illnesses, including:
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is your major symptom?
- How long have you had your symptoms? Do they come and go, or are they always present?
- What triggers the onset of your symptoms?
- What makes your symptoms better or worse?
- Do you have other symptoms that may be related to your major symptom? These other symptoms may include:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Feeling that you are not able to get enough air .
- Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge.
- Feeling depressed.
While waiting for your appointment, it may be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms .
Living With Panic Disorder
Panic attacks are often unpredictable, even after your diagnosis. They can make you feel helpless. In addition to your treatment plan, consider these lifestyle changes to help reduce risk of a panic attack.
- Exercise. Physical activity can help you minimize stress. It can also calm your mind.
- Sleep. Not getting enough rest can leave you groggy. It can also cause you to be more emotional. This may make you more prone to anxiety and an attack.
- Skip the alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and any recreational drugs. Any of these can trigger a panic attack or make it worse.
- Join a support group. It’s always good to know you’re not alone. Many times, simply talking about your panic disorder can create a feeling that you have power over it.
What Are The Symptoms
The key symptom of panic disorder is recurring panic attacks. They can strike at any time — at work, at home, at the grocery store, at a bar. The secondary symptom is avoidance. People with panic disorder become afraid of when their next attack will strike. This fear leads them to avoid places, people and scenarios that might act as a trigger. For instance, someone who gets panic attacks while driving might stop driving altogether.
The of a panic attack are:
- An intense sense of impending doom
- Feeling helpless or out of control
- A fear of dying or having a heart attack
- Tunnel vision
- ?Feeling detached from reality
What Causes Panic Attacks
The short version of my story is that I experienced a less than peaceful upbringing and had a fair amount of anxiety and panic attacks as a result.
A trusted therapist explained to me that panic attacks develop out of a psyche that is overloaded with repressed feelings. Panic attacks are like the psyche’s release valve.
My earliest memories were comprised of the adults in my life walking out the door, seemingly for good. Sometimes they threatened to leave unless I promised to behave. As a toddler, I believed they were absolutely leaving and never coming back. There were many such incidents, leaving me with a lack of security or trust in my environment.
In addition, there was no room for my emotions in my highly charged toxic environment. Even quiet times held no respite because I knew they were only the eye of a storm that would soon roar to life again.
As a result, I automatically developed a stance much like a soldier in battle. When in a storm or bracing for the next one, I remained locked in survival mode, shutting down the expression of authentic emotions.
As my high school days were coming to an end, I finally managed to move away from my family and find a place of my own. It was small, I had no money, and I was working all the time, but I had finally found a drama-free environment where I could learn to let my guard down.
What Are Some Common Warning Signs
Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks and high levels of anxiety. Panic attacks can occur without warning or in response to a stressor. Because of this, a loved one with the condition might display noticeable changes in their appearance and behavior. They might seem agitated and on edge in certain settings. They might stop doing things that they used to enjoy. You might even witness a panic attack or the beginnings of one while with them.
But sometimes, symptoms are less obvious. People battling chronic mental health conditions can learn to hide their pain from others. It’s possible to appear outwardly fine, while facing mental difficulties in secrecy. It’s important to remember that mental health conditions are invisible illnesses. Just because some people exhibit outward symptoms, doesn’t mean everyone will.
If you think a person in your life might have panic disorder, pay close attention to how they’re doing in the different facets of their life. Are they avoiding specific scenarios more? Have they developed new or strange phobias? Are they struggling to do well at work or school? Has socializing become more difficult? If so, they might be struggling with an anxiety disorder and you should find time to talk to them about their symptoms.
Stopping Panic: What To Do When Youre Having A Panic Attack
Here, some strategies that have worked for others that may help you:
Remember That It Will Pass
During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.
Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety, and that it will be over soon.
Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their onset, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.
Wrap Yourself In A Blanket
Psychotherapist Rev. Connie L. Habashtells Bustle that for some people, being wrapped up in something warm and cozy is calming and can offer some relief in the moment. “It’s much like a baby is soothed by swaddling,” she says.
Ultimately, it’s figuring out the tricks that work for you and your body.
Step 7: Find A Therapist To Help You Cope
If anxiety impedes your ability to live a healthy, productive life, it’s essential to seek professional help to curtail the progressive nature of anxiety and panic disorders. There, you can help determine the root causes and take effective steps toward management. Psychotherapy — which address mental disorders via psychological instead of medical means — is a common treatment, notes Strauss.
“There are often limiting negative beliefs that contribute to the genesis of anxiety, and psychotherapy can help the client track and challenge the automatic thoughts that accompany the emotions of anxiety and fear,” she explains. “It’s important that one tries to learn the skills to cope with anxiety in addition to consider the use of medication. Treatment modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , Dialectical Behavioral Therapy , Internal Family Systems, EMDR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Interpersonal Therapy can all be used to help the client become increasingly more aware of what triggers anxiety.”
Over time, you will be better equipped to identify these negative thought patterns as they arise, and be able to nip them in the bud, instead of having them spiral out of control.
Focus On Your Senses And Surroundings
When you are having a panic attack, you can feel out of touch with things around you. One way you can feel back in touch with your surroundings is by picking out five things you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. This is called a grounding exercise. You can pick a couple for each sense, or focus on one sense, like finding five things that you can see. This can help you feel connected with your surroundings and in control.
I struggle with panic attacks. Before they begin, I usually feel like there are too many voices and they’re all trying to talk at once and it gets messy. When I’m having a panic attack, I cry and I become really quiet. I struggle with talking about my feelings. Usually, I just write them down and hideaway.
We all have moments like this sometimes, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. But, sometimes it can be easier if you want to say ‘I just popped to the loo.’
Panic Attacks I Turned My Mental Health Crisis Into A Mental Health Triumph
“Although it’s taken me a long time I have learned I am a strong person who has the potential to help others.”
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or to public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack. If this fear becomes very intense, it may be called agoraphobia. See our pages on types of phobia for more information.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.”
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.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is causing my panic disorder?
- What treatment is best for me?
- Should I take a medicine?
- Will I have to take medicine the rest of my life?
- Is there any kind of therapy I should try?
- How long will I have to be in therapy?
- I’m afraid to leave my house. What should I do?
- Is there a possibility that my panic attacks will come back after treatment?
Can Panic Disorder Be Prevented Or Avoided
You can’t prevent panic disorder because doctors aren’t sure what causes it. But you may be able to prevent a panic attack by knowing your triggers. Your doctor can help with that. He or she can help make sure your panic attacks don’t become worse or more frequent. It’s also a good idea to be physically active. Getting exercise is a known stress reliever and may also guard you against panic attacks.
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.
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.
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:
Step 1: Teaching Your Child About Anxiety
This is a very important first step, as it helps children and teens understand what is happening to them when they experience anxiety. Let your child know that all the worries and physical feelings he or she is experiencing has a name: Anxiety. Help your child understand the facts about anxiety.
- Fact 1: Anxiety is normal and adaptive, as it helps us prepare for danger.
- Fact 2: Anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger.
Strategy #4: Come Up With A New Thought
The thoughts that go through our head—the cognitive symptoms of panic—are scary: I’m dying, I’m going crazy, I’m going to pass out, I’m going to throw up and humiliate myself. The list goes on.
So when you feel panic starting to rise, talk back to your thoughts in a new way. One patient made her new thought, “I got this.” Another pictured the wave of panic as an ocean wave to surf—what went up would inevitably come down. And a third decided on none other than “F— you, anxiety!” Choose what works for you.
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 whatâ€™s going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on fear or bounce from one worry to the next.