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.
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.
What Does An Anxiety Disorder Look Like In Young Children
Depending on the type of anxiety, there are a range of physical, psychological and behavioral indications. With toddlers and young children, parents may notice increased irritability, excessive crying, tantrums as well as more difficulty self-soothing or self-regulating. Young children may exhibit regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or excessive clinginess. Children with anxiety disorders may experience stomach and headaches, frequent bathroom urges, rapid breathing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, muscle aches and tension and sleeping difficulties. Other indicators are: hypervigilance, frequent reassurance seeking, feeling r overwhelmed by new experiences; avoiding situations– school, people and places, events, social gatherings– pretty much anything that triggers or fuels their anxiety.
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Why Might I Have A Panic Attack
A panic attack can happen at any time or place, and because it can happen quite quickly, it might feel unexpected.
Because a panic attack is an intense feeling of fear and anxiety, it often happens if you are feeling very anxious about something happening in your life, or you have experienced something difficult or stressful. This might be:
- a difficult situation at home that is making you anxious
- a frightening experience like abuse, or neglect
- feeling stressed about things like exams, work, friendships or relationships
- if you have lost a friend or family member
- if you are being bullied
- anxiety around school, college or university
There are many reasons why you might feel anxious and have a panic attack. Everyone has different experiences and thats okay. Sometimes, it might feel like there is no clear reason why you are having a panic attack.
Whats important is to try and understand what you might be feeling anxious or stressed about, and what types of situations or places can cause you to have panic attacks.
The first step to doing this is to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, teacher or GP. They can help you understand what you are experiencing and help you find the support you need.
I get a pounding heart and my breathing becomes rapid like I cant get any air in – it feels stuck in the back of my throat.
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.
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How To Handle A Panic Attack
Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, says it’s important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.
“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety.”
He says don’t look for distractions. “Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, it’s important to try to remain in the situation until the anxiety has subsided.”
“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.
“If youre having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Causes Of Anxiety Fear And Panic
There are many different causes of anxiety, fear or panic and it’s different for everyone.
When you’re feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
This can be helpful in some situations, but it might also cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating. In some people, it might cause a panic attack.
Regular anxiety, fear or panic can also be the main symptom of several health conditions. Do not self-diagnose speak to a GP if you’re worried about how you’re feeling.
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What Is A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. This page covers:
“My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body would tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.”
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
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Panic Disorder In Children
Panic disorder is more common in teenagers than in younger children.
Panic attacks can be particularly hard for children and young people to deal with. Severe panic disorder may affect their development and learning.
If your child has the signs and symptoms of panic disorder, they should see a GP.
After taking a detailed medical history the GP will carry out a thorough physical examination to rule out any physical causes for the symptoms.
They may refer your child to a specialist for further assessment and treatment. The specialist may recommend a course of CBT for your child.
Screening for other anxiety disorders may also be needed to help find the cause of your child’s panic attacks.
Keep Lavender On Hand
Lavender is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax. If you know youre prone to panic attacks, keep some lavender essential oil on hand and put some on your forearms when you experience a panic attack. Breathe in the scent.
Lavender should not be combined with benzodiazepines. This combination can cause intense drowsiness.
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Strategy #3: Remember Its Just Anxiety
Panic is all in the interpretation. Think of it this way: Its 3 a.m. and the phone rings. What happened? Well, it could mean your sister is dead, your brother needs to be bailed out, or your teenager is in the emergency room. But it could also mean a wrong number, a prank call, or someone who got their time zones seriously mixed up. Until you pick up the phone, the reason for the call is a product of your interpretation.
Always Seek Professional Advice
Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another persons symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. Its 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:
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How To Help Someone With Anxiety
All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people dont know how to best help someone with anxiety. People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety, says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you dont necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So its important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesnt make sense to you. Its distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.
How Are Panic Attacks Managed Or Treated
Psychotherapy, medications or a combination are very effective at stopping panic attacks. How long youll need treatment depends on the severity of your problem and how well you respond to treatment. Options include:
- Psychotherapy:Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. You discuss your thoughts and emotions with a mental health professional, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist. This specialist helps identify panic attack triggers so you can change your thinking, behaviors and reactions. As you start to respond differently to triggers, the attacks decrease and ultimately stop.
- Antidepressants: Certain antidepressant medications can make panic attacks less frequent or less severe. Providers may prescribe serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors , serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants . SSRIs include fluoxetine and paroxetine . SNRIs include duloxetine and venlafaxine . TCAs include amitriptyline and doxepin .
- Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication to treat and prevent panic attacks. They help with anxiety but have risks of addiction or dependence. These medications include alprazolam and lorazepam .
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How To Stop A Panic Attack
If a panic attack occurs, what do you do?
Duval suggests grounding yourself or becoming aware of your surroundings and sensory experiences. This can be achieved by deep breathing, for example.
A big part of stopping a panic attack is to ride out the initial intensity and let it come down, she says. Sometimes being present in the moment can be helpful. Orient yourself to your surroundings.
While panic attacks arent uncommon, you shouldnt have to live in fear. Frequent attacks become a problem when they are causing distress and causing you to withdraw from activities or responsibilities.
Sometimes people will become afraid they might have another panic attack and will begin avoiding doing activities that might bring one on, Duval says. This can cause significant impairment.
If panic attacks or anxiety are making it difficult to live life the way you want, or if theyre causing distress, it might be time to seek out professional help.
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:
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I Can’t Catch My Breath
Feeling like “I can’t catch my breath!” is probably the most common of all panic symptoms. Your breathing feels labored, you strain to take a deep breath, you fear you’re not going to get it – and the harder you try, the worse it feels!
When you feel short of breath, it doesn’t mean you’re not getting enough air. In fact, people will often say “I can’t catch my breath”, and this shows that they’re getting air, because we talk by making air vibrate. If you’re talking, you’re breathing! It’s not a dangerous symptom.
But it does get people very scared, and it produces other uncomfortable physical symptoms, so it’s worth your while to be able to correct it.
You’ve probably already had it told to you, and you’ve probably also read it as well, that what you need to do is “take a deep breath”. If you’re like most people, that advice hasn’t helped you much. It’s good advice, but it’s incomplete. It doesn’t tell you how to take a deep breath. A good breathing exercise should tell you how to take a deep breath, and that’s what I’m going to do.
Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety
There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
- Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.
During therapy, continue to show your support by:
- Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
- Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
- Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
- Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at .
What Not To Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
While its tempting to help your loved one avoid the feelings of panic by distracting them from their bodily sensations or taking them away from the situation, these are considered safety behaviors. While safety behaviors might help to ease anxiety in the moment, they could actually reinforce a cycle of panic that exists in panic disorder.
Safety behaviors and distractions can prevent people from learning that panic attacks, while uncomfortable, are not actually harmful or dangerous.
Your loved one can handle panic without actually doing anything, and its important for them to know that anxiety about panic goes away on its own without causing them harm.
Cognitive behavioral therapy a major method for treating panic disorder teaches you strategies to reduce your anxiety and avoidance around panic attacks. The idea isnt to prevent them but to sit with them until they inevitably pass. And often, you experience fewer panic attacks over time as you grow to fear them less.
The most effective way to react to a panic attack is just to ride it out instead of resisting or escaping it. While escaping a panic attack in the short term reduces anxiety, it just drives the panic cycle in the long term because you reinforce beliefs that panic is dangerous, harmful, or something that must be avoided at all costs.
The idea is to allow the symptoms to just be, which helps you to view panic attacks as a manageable experience, not one that needs to be escaped.
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What Causes Panic Attacks
Experts dont know why some people experience panic attacks or develop panic disorder. The brain and nervous system play key roles in how you perceive and handle fear and anxiety. Your risk of having panic attacks increases if you have:
- Family history:Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, often run in families. Experts arent sure why.
- Mental health issues: People who have anxiety disorders, depression or other mental illness are more prone to panic attacks.
- Substance abuse problems:Alcoholism and drug addiction can increase the risk of panic attacks.
What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
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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.
What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders That Eventually Cause Anxiety Attacks
It is really important to know what are the factors that actually effects on the mental and physical health of the patients if they experience anxiety that eventually leads to the attacks. There are symptoms of such disorders and if they are seen in someone then they can be treated. Some of them are:
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Dont Shame Or Minimize
Its pretty common to worry about having a panic attack, especially in front of strangers, or believe the attack might annoy or inconvenience friends or loved ones.
People struggling with anxiety or panic attacks might intellectually understand the response is illogical. But hearing that from someone else can increase their isolation, Bingham explains.
Avoid saying things like:
- Just relax. Theres nothing to be afraid of.
- Youre upset over that?
- Whats wrong with you?
You might not intend to make your friend feel ashamed, but denying the reality of their distress can certainly have that effect.
Strategy #1: Practice The Symptoms Youre Afraid Of
I know, I knowinducing 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 youre afraid of, you can practice having them outside the context of an attack. Eventually, youll stop seeing them as threatening. Youll learn your body can handle a racing heart or a tight throat. When you practice having your own symptoms, youre always in the drivers seat and youll get the chance to habituate, or as I like to say, your brain will get bored.
So if youre 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.
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To Calm Panic Attacks
Here’s a simple breathing exercise that will restore your comfortable breathing and soothe many of the physical symptoms of a panic attack.
You may have already tried deep breathing and not had much success in soothing your panic symptoms. The reason for that is that most descriptions of deep breathing leave out a critical step. I’m going to show you how to do it right.
Strategy #2: Bring It On
This sounds weird, but in panic disorder, which is fear of having a panic attack, a little reverse psychology works wonders. When you start to worry about panic or feel that first twinge, tell yourself, All right body, I want more. Lets do this! Hit me with your best shot!
Ironically, being willing to feel panic symptoms will stop the cycle of escalation. After all, panic is the fight-or-flight response gone haywire, so when you try to fight panic itself, it all amplifies exponentially. By contrast, when you welcome in the sensations of fear, your body has no reason to fight or flee.
Think of when you were a little kid and you would make yourself dizzy on purpose or pump higher and higher on the swings to feel your stomach drop. Back then you werent just willing to feel the sensations, it was downright fun. Tap into those memories and lean in.