Shifting The Breathing Pattern
As indicated by anxieties.com During an emergency, our breathing rate and pattern change.
Instead of breathing slowly from our lower lungs, we begin to breathe rapidly and shallowly from our upper lungs.
If during this time we are not physically exerting ourselves, then it can produce a phenomenon called hyperventilation.
However, by changing your breathing pattern while having a panic attack can stimulate your parasympathetic response, which is opposite to the one that gets activated when your body goes into emergency mode or alert. Shifting the breathing pattern will force our body to calm down.
When our parasympathetic nervous system can help us decrease oxygen consumption, our breathing and heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, among others.
This is why learning breathing techniques or deep breathing exercises can help us reduce the anxious response.
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.
Helping To Manage A Panic Attack
We have outlined a few options to help a loved one reach a state of calm while experiencing a panic attack. Please know that NAMI does not endorse any particular suggestion provided below. If someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, they may become very anxious and might not be thinking clearly. You may be able to help them by doing the following:
- Stay in communication with them speak calmly and gently in short, simple sentences.
- Ask if there is medicine the person usually takes during a panic attack.
- Don’t make assumptions about what your loved one needs, ask them.
- Help your loved one slow their breathing by breathing with them. Speaking slowly in a reassuring tone, say: Were going to focus on your breathing right now.Just do your best to take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Hold that breath for a moment Now slowly exhale through your mouth. Now another slow, deep breath in. Hold it And again, slowly exhale through your mouth.
- If the panic attack continues, ask: Has this happened to you in the past? What has helped you in the past?
- If your loved one is unable to identify what has worked in the past, offer help in a way that gives them agency. Example: I know a technique that helps with panic attacks. Would you like to try the technique with me?
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Responding To Panic Attacks
Even if you donât experience panic attacks yourself, knowing how to support someone going through one is really valuable.
âItâs understandable to feel daunted if you are with someone when they experience a panic attack â particularly if it seems to happen suddenly,â says Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind. âIt can help if you gently let them know that you think they might be having a panic attack and that you are there for them. Try to stay calm and encourage them to sit somewhere quietly until they feel better.â
One of the best ways you can help is by encouraging them to breathe slowly and deeply. âIt is important to breathe deeply to ensure your body is getting enough oxygen,â says Lidbetter. âBut a very common symptom of panic attacks is hyperventilation which can result in further feelings of panic. By taking long deep breaths , the body receives the oxygen it needs and makes the person feel calmer.â
There are certain strategies you can use to make this easier. âIt might be helpful to count out loud or ask them to watch while you gently raise your arm up and down. Encourage them to stamp their feet on the spot,â suggests Buckley. âNever encourage someone to breathe into a paper bag during a panic attack as this isnât recommended and might be unsafe.â
How to support someone through a panic attack
You Might Need To Get Help
While most panic attacks are short, some of them can last hours. One panic attack can lead to another.
If your loved one requires emergency assistance, immediately contact help. Panic attack symptoms are similar to heart attack symptoms. If your loved one is experiencing chest pain and hasnt had a panic attack before, you should call 911.
A sign of worsening conditions can manifest itself if the pain moves to the shoulder or army during a panic attack. In the event of a worsening condition, a medical provider should be notified immediately.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack can be a terrifying experience, with many people believing that they are suffering from a heart attack or other medical problem. The symptoms can begin suddenly and without warning, with an intensity that can overwhelm even the calmest and rational person.
Common symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Tingling or numb sensation in your fingers, hands and lips
- An increased heart and breathing rate
- Excessive perspiration
- Needing to use the toilet
- Tightness of the chest
- A sense of impending doom or terror
- Feeling as though you have lost control
In general, most panic attacks will last for between 5-20 minutes, although some symptoms can last for an extended period of time. It is common for one panic attack to trigger another, often extending the experience for up to one hour.
While the above symptoms may feel terrifying, it can be comforting to keep in mind that a panic attack will not cause a heart attack or other physical harm.
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Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.
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.
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Offer A Coping Statement
While someone is having a panic attack, we do want to be empathic, but we dont want to reinforce the idea that panic is dangerous, harmful, or needing to be reduced, minimized, or escaped.
So, rather than giving your loved one lots of reassurance and fussing over them, it can help to remind them that they can cope with whats happening on their own. This gives them back their power to deal with the situation.
You can do this by offering supportive statements like:
- You can handle these symptoms.
- This will pass.
- The feelings arent comfortable, but you can accept them.
- This will roll over you, like a wave.
Remind them that, although panic attacks can feel never-ending, they typically peak in about 10 minutes. Its not possible for the body to stay ramped up for much longer than that.
Ways To Prevent Panic Attacks
âYou need to try to work out what particular stress you might be under that could make your symptoms worse,â says Professor Salkovskis. âItâs important not to restrict your movements and daily activities.â
- Doing breathing exercises every day will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening
- Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence
- Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking these can make panic attacks worse. Panic support groups have useful advice about how you can effectively manage your attacks. Knowing that other people are experiencing the same feelings can be reassuring. Your GP can put you in touch with groups in your area
- Cognitive behavioural therapy can identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks
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How Do You Overcome Suffocation
To overcome suffocation we need to avoid going into panic mode and if someone is suffocating by choking, it usually is because they have something stuck in their throat.
The victim could have difficulties breathing and can pass out.
It is important to lean the person slightly forward and give them 5 slaps with the palm of your hand between the two shoulder blades to make them cough.
If they are still unable to cough up the object and are still suffocating, contact emergency services right away.
Final Thoughts On How To Help Your Child Cope With Panic Attacks
We cannot prevent a panic attack or talk our loved one out of one. Reason and logic only create more angst in the situation. Also, we can equip them and empower them by teaching them coping skills.
God can use us to help our kids navigate the rough and frightening waters of a panic attack.
¹10 Points to Help with Panic Attacks used by permission and adapted from Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation. .
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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.
To Relieve Anxiety Talk Out Loud To Yourself
Give yourself permission to have an anxiety attack by saying the words out loud. Remind yourself that the attack will end, and it wont kill you or cause you to faint.
Carbonell says that understanding the physiology of fainting and reminding yourself of it is important. People faint when their blood pressure drops. A anxiety attack can make you feel like youre going to faint, but you wont because your blood pressure doesnt drop during an attack. Remind yourself out loud of truths like these to counter your fears.
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Focus On Your Five Senses
“Focus on your external reality, rather than the symptoms,” advises Bruha. “Use the five senses to ground yourself in the moment.” Be curious about your environment. What can you see, hear, touch, smell or taste?
This is where you can add tactile items to your kit: a fidget spinner, stress ball or a squishy toy.
What To Say To Someone Having A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be scary to experience and observe. If you are with someone who is having a panic attack, there are things you can say to help. Clear, direct messages are more effective than general comments. It is important to be non-judgemental and provide reassurance.
- Talk to them in a calm voice and speak in short sentences.
- Ask about medications they may use during a panic attack.
- Ask what they need or what has helped them in the past rather than making assumptions.
- Help them slow their breathing by focusing on slow, deep inhales through the nose, and long exhales through the mouth.
- Offer additional suggestions in a way that makes them feel in control. Do this by asking them if they’d like to try a new strategy rather than telling them what to do.
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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 embodied thought.
Embodied thought is a concept we havent yet mentioned explicitly, but its 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.
This state is maintained for a period, often around 15 minutes, and when your client comes out of the meditative state, they should feel more relaxed and in control of their mind. This should directly benefit their therapeutic efforts to lower the background levels of negative mood and anxiety that may predispose them to panic attacks.
Whats The Difference Between Anxiety And A Panic Attack
Anxiety is usually related to something that is perceived to be stressful or threatening. The symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Learn more about anxiety here.
A panic attack is a sudden, intense episode of fear or anxiety, accompanied by at least four of the following symptoms:
- racing heart or palpitations
- sweating shortness of breath or feelings of choking
- dizziness, trembling or shaking
- numbness or a tingling sensation
- hot and cold flashes
- fear of dying or of losing control
- queasy stomach or nausea
- feeling detached from oneself and one’s surroundings.
Panic attacks can be triggered by an event or a stressor, or there may be no apparent cause at all. They have severe symptoms that disrupt what youre doing at that moment. Get more info on panic attacks here.
Another term you might have heard is anxiety attack. Theres no one definition of anxiety attacks that everyone agrees on. Sometimes the term is used to describe panic attacks, and other times its used to describe a feeling of intense anxiety .
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How To Help Someone Breathe During A Panic Attack
When a person is experiencing a panic attack, it is important that they get their breathing under control. Someone trying to help should not give them a paper bag to inhale and exhale from, as this could make them pass out.
Instead, it is better not to bring attention to their breathing and to keep calm and breath normally so that they can mirror this pattern. This method should hopefully get their breathing back under control.
Helping someone who is having a panic attack can be very stressful, so it is important that a person is mindful of what actions could make a panic attack worse.
Actions that could make a panic attack worse include:
- Saying âcalm downâ: While getting a person to talk is vital, phrases such as âcalm down,â âdonât worry,â and âtry to relaxâ could make the symptoms worse.
- Becoming irritated: Remain patient to help a person deal with a panic attack and do not belittle their experience. The focus should be on them, for however long it takes the symptoms to pass.
- Making assumptions: Always ask a person what help they need, rather than assuming or guessing the correct advice.
While a panic attack can happen very suddenly, the person will often experience warning signs. These may include:
- shortness of breath
- feelings of terror or dread
- shaking and dizziness