Recognizing Panic Attack Symptoms
The particular symptoms of a panic attack will vary depending on the personand not every panic attack mimics what you might see on TV or in movies. But typically, Chambless says, in addition to a sudden onset of anxiety and fear, a panic attack is accompanied by four or more of the following symptoms, which are outlined in a widely used professional guidebook Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic:
Recognise What Is Happening
When you start to have a panic attack, take a break from whatever you are doing. Remind yourself that your body and brain are overreacting to the actual circumstances of your situation.
Recognise irrational thoughts that might be contributing to your panic attack. For example, your racing heartbeat might make you think you will die. However, focusing on your breath and practicing calming techniques in these moments can help your heartbeat slow down.
Is It Anxiety Or A Heart Problem
Studies suggest that approximately 11 percent of the population suffers from a general anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Anxiety may be felt like a general but low sense of unease, or it may come and go in moments of stress. For some, anxiety involves panic attacks, events that can closely mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.
Because anxiety can coincide with rapid heart rate, abnormal heartbeats, lightheadedness, and chest pain, many people wonder if they are having anxiety, a heart attack, or if symptoms indicate an underlying heart problem. The question is, what comes first: anxiety or rapid heart rate? Here, we discuss some of the clues that may indicate that the heart is the root cause of symptoms.
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Find An Object To Focus On
Slow Deep Breathing Is Key But You Should Practice Every Day
Long, deep breaths calm your body down, but they can be tricky to implement if youre not used to doing them. Dr. Schaeffer suggests that to make this practice easier, you should do it daily anxious or not.
Practice full-body breathing every day, he tells NBC News BETTER. Breathe in deeply through your nose and imagine your whole body filling up with air like a balloon. Next, make your mouth small like you are exhaling through a straw. Slowly exhale through your mouth until you feel like all the air has completely emptied from your body. Repeat this about 10 times and notice any changes in your heart rate or body tension. Once you are comfortable with this kind of breathing, use it during a panic attack to slow your heart rate and calm down.
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Calm Your Anxious Heart
Managing anxiety can improve your quality of life and take stress off your heart.
A wave of dread overcomes youyour chest hurts, your heart flutters, and you can’t catch your breath. These classic anxiety symptoms are often mistaken for a and for good reason. Emotional turmoil triggers the release of stress hormones, which act on the same brain areas that regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Write Down Your Thoughts & Triggers
Journaling is always a great practice for reducing anxiety and panic attacks. During the times when you feel fine, write down your thoughts on your panic attacks.
This can give you a different perspective for when you are experiencing an attack. And then, when you do have a panic attack, also write down how youre feeling.
Getting your thoughts out can quickly help calm you down and alleviate some of the symptoms of a panic attack.
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Let Panic Run Its Course
During a panic attack, you may experience feelings of depersonalization and derealization, in which you feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. You may become fearful that you are “going crazy, losing all control, or having a stroke or heart attack.
When you’re going through a panic attack, it can be difficult to focus on anything else but your symptoms. You may try to push away your upsetting thoughts and physical sensations, but resisting your panic attacks can actually intensify your anxiety. You may also fear your attacks because you dont understand them.
The next time a panic attack takes hold and those feelings of dread set in, try to surrender to your symptoms and allow the attack to run its course. Remind yourself that your symptoms cannot hurt you and know that it will soon pass.
Go For A Walk & Play Some Music
Listen to your body and take a break for a few minutes. Take a walk around the block and get some fresh air.
Listening to some good music also helps, too. Create a playlist full of your favorite songs that you can go to when you feel a panic attack coming on.
There are a lot of songs out there that can help you get through a panic attack.
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Is It A Heart Attack Or A Panic Attack
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think you’re having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While it’s important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, it’s often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
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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Cut Back On Caffeine And Alcohol
You rely on the caffeine in coffee or tea to rev you up, but too much can cause your heart to race or leave you jittery. Consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine daily is generally considered safe, but pay attention to how caffeine makes you feel. There are people who are very sensitive to caffeine, and even small amounts may trigger palpitations, says Dr. Ronen. If you need to reduce your intake, .
As for alcohol? It starts off acting like a sedative to make you feel more relaxed. But as it wears off, the central nervous system becomes overactive. This can cause symptoms such as poor sleep quality and palpitations, Dr. Dickson says. In fact, research shows that even a single drink can up the odds for abnormal heart rhythm for several hours after imbibing. If youre going above the recommended limit of two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women, consider cutting back.
Does Anxiety Require Treatment
Constant worrying and avoidance behaviour can be very disabling to your everyday life. Since the practice of psychology is evidence-based, there are strict guidelines to facilitate effective diagnosis of people with anxiety. Unfortunately, terminology such as mental health, mental illness, and mental disorders come with a lot of societal stigma.
One of the barriers to getting the help you need is the language that surrounds anxiety and other mental health presentations. This is because most people dislike being labelled with a disorder such as GAD and will actively avoid seeking professional help and diagnose.
Sadly, only one-third of people experience an anxiety disorder receive treatment.
Being told that you have a mental illness is a burden nobody wants to shoulder. Ironically, the diagnosis is necessary to prescribe an appropriate action plan to help you maintain a healthy quality of life.
It is a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety.
A teenager may experience anxiety in the lead up to their exams and upon release of their academic results. They may also feel anxious prior to asking someone out to be their boyfriend/girlfriend.
According to Beyond Blue, one in fourteen young Australians aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people.
An adult may experience anxiety in the workplace and in their relationships .
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Find Some Private Space To Normalize With This Posture
While you shouldnt, say, bolt from the company meeting if youre having a panic attack, you may want take a break in a quiet place where you can sit.
When you feel one coming on, if possible, try and go to your nearest bathroom or a private conference room, then, lower your head until it’s almost between your knees and focus on taking slow, deep breaths, says Wright. You may be able to self-regulate and de-escalate the panic attack by doing this. If you can’t go somewhere private and this happens in a meeting, pretend you have to lean down to tie your shoe or accidentally drop your phone on the ground and stay down until you feel yourself normalizing.
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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Look At Other Contributing Factors
Those feelings of pounding or fluttering can, in some instances, be caused or exacerbated by lifestyle factors that have nothing to do with nerves or stress. While getting a handle on your anxiety is the most important step for managing anxiety-induced heart palpitations, addressing these other factors can be a supportive next step. A few to consider:
Difference Between Stress And Anxiety
Stress is the way your body responds to a particular trigger or situation. Under normal circumstances, it is a short-term state that subsides naturally. Anxiety is a sustained long-term feeling that can affect many aspects of your life, including your work and social life.
Generalised anxiety disorder is a common non-cardiac cause of chest pain. It can cause excessive or persistent worry for six months or longer. You may also experience sleep problems, feelings of tension, irritability or restlessness, and problems concentrating.
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Take Deep Calming Breaths
Anxiety And Its Connection To Your Heart Rate
Anxiety creates physical and mental reactions to stressful situations, such as heart palpitations. When a person is nervous, their heart rate rises as this is a natural response to fear.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness¹, these palpitations can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder. In some cases, it may be a symptom of a particular type of anxiety disorder known as panic disorder.
Anxiety is a typical stress response². It’s a coping technique that helps the body stay aware of stressful situations, even though the response may not be warranted.
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Less Common More Risky Maneuvers
Other maneuvers may quickly lower your heart rate, though they are not commonly recommended for at-home use. Some examples include eyeball pressure, breath holding, deep breathing, gagging, squatting or dipping your head in ice water.
These techniques have the potential to be harmful, especially if they are not performed appropriately. Therefore, do not try them unless your doctor has instructed you how to perform them safely.
Reviewed by Mary D. Daley, M.D.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Palpitations And Anxiety
Symptoms of heart palpitations include:
- Fluttering: Some people sense a flapping or fluttery feeling in the chest. Your heart may feel like its flipping.
- Irregular heartbeat: You might feel like your heart skips a beat or beats out of rhythm. You may become aware of your heart rate speeding up and slowing down. You may also feel as if your heart pauses for a second or two.
- Pounding: Your heart might beat forcefully or very strongly. Some people say they can feel their heart beating in their ears.
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Other Methods Of Reducing Heart Rate Fears
It’s can be challenging to directly control your heart rate. But you can control the way that you react to it. One helpful coping strategy is to exercise. Being physically active actually lowers your general resting heart rate in the long term, but in such cases your heart becomes much more efficient overall. Exercise is also a great-way of combating anxiety. With exercise, therefore, you’ll be less likely to have a slowed pulse thats anxiety related and you can be more confident that your low resting heart-rate is actually a sign of your physical health, rather than any possible problem.
Seeing a doctor is obviously a good idea as well. Ruling out the most likely medical causes of a low heart rate may not calm you down completely – especially if you still struggle with anxiety – but it may well give you some peace of mind that your low heart rate is not related to any medical concerns.
Beyond that, try to stop searching on the net for ways to make sense of your low heart rate. Online, you’ll find countless explanations for a low heart rate and you may convince yourself that you’re suffering from a more serious issue, even if youre medically healthy and well.
Finally, learn to control your overall anxiety. The less anxiety you experience, the less you’ll focus on your heart. The less time you spend worrying about your heart, the less likely you are to experience a low heart rate as a result of anxiety.
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