How To Cope With Panic Attacks
When you have had a panic attack, you might worry about if â or when â you are next going to have one. This can make everyday tasks like going to school, leaving the house or meeting up with friends much more difficult. But remember, you are not alone and there is support available to help you get through this. If you are worried about when you are next going to have a panic attack, here are some things that can help you cope.
Speak to someone you trust. If you are feeling anxious or worried that you might have a panic attack, talk to friends or family. They can help you take your mind off what is making you feel panicked and support you to find the help you need. If you are struggling to say how you are feeling, you can always write your thoughts down or put them in notes on your phone if you are planning to speak to a teacher or your GP.
If you are worried about having a panic attack at school, college, or university, speak to a teacher or a member of staff. They can work with you to help you with things like finding a safe space to take some time out if you are feeling anxious or panicked.
If you feel like youre struggling to cope with everyday tasks, speak to your GP. They can listen to how you are feeling and suggest different types of treatments like therapy or counselling to help you tackle your panic attacks.
Talking To A Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health
Communicating well with a health care provider can improve your care and help you both make good choices about your health. Find tips to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit at Taking Control of Your Mental Health: Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider. For additional resources, including questions to ask a provider, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves,call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK . You also can text the Crisis Text Line or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
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.
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How To Cope When You Have Panic Attacks
Desperate for help, he reached out to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which sent him a list of therapists experienced in treating panic attacks and anxiety. This is how I got better,” Sideman says. “I found a therapist who understood what panic disorder was, understood agoraphobia, and knew cognitive behavioral therapy, which I had not known about. He also started practicing meditation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help with treating panic disorder and agoraphobia. According to a study published in December 2013 in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, its effects lasted as long as two years after the initial treatment. And a study published in August 2017 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology suggested that it may be superior to traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of this condition.
People generally can overcome panic attacks faster if they seek help after the first one or two, says psychologist Cheryl Carmin, PhD, director of clinical psychology training at the Wexner Medical Center and a professor at Ohio State University in Columbus. When you do seek help, your doctor or therapist will ask about your symptoms and the situations in which they arise, and might also recommend additional medical testing to rule out other health concerns.
What Else Should I Know About Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may be extremely anxious and fearful, since they are unable to predict when the next episode will occur. Panic disorder is fairly common and affects about 6 million adults in the U.S. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, and its symptoms usually begin in early adulthood.
It is not clear what causes panic disorder. In many people who have the biological vulnerability to panic attacks, they may develop in association with major life changes and major lifestyle stressors. There is also some evidence that suggests that the tendency to develop panic disorder may run in families. People who suffer from panic disorder are also more likely than others to suffer from depression, attempt suicide, or to abuse alcohol or drugs.
Fortunately, panic disorder is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy and medications have both been used, either singly or in combination, for successful treatment of panic disorder. If medication is necessary, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, certain antidepressants or sometimes certain anticonvulsant drugs that also have anti-anxiety properties, or a class of heart medications known as beta-blockers to help prevent or control the episodes in panic disorder.
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Stress Anxiety And Then Panic: Neal’s Story
As Sideman says, his attack occurred in the early 1990s, and few people seriously considered the possibility of a panic attack in a 39-year-old man. So he went home thinking all would be fine, only to have another, more severe attack one week later.
Now, looking back, the situation seems clearer.
I was under a lot of stress starting a new business, working 16-hour days, a close friend was ill and dying, and on top of all that, I was doing a super heavy workout regimen at the gym with a trainer,” Sideman says. “So it was a lot of physical stress, emotional stress, and a lot of financial stresses.” He says he also can see roots of anxiety in his childhood and teen years as well as in other family members.
In the moment, he didnt know what to think because it can be tough to know what a panic attack is like until you have one. His second panic attack was really a full-blown panic attack, where I thought I was going to die,” Sideman says. “I thought I was going to pass out, not wake up, go crazy, have a heart attack.”
He recalled being terrified, and the response he chose was one that can actually make panic disorder worse: He started to avoid the situations where he had attacks.
How Do You Treat A Panic Attack
With counselling and psychotherapy, panic attack sufferers can start to understand and manage their symptoms and eventually overcome attacks and reduce their frequencies. Treatment for panic attacks will also help to develop new skills needed for coping successfully with future attacks.
Most therapists will recommend cognitive behavioural therapy as one of the most effective treatments for panic attacks and panic disorder. The therapy focuses on the thinking and behavioural patterns that bring on an attack and works on reshaping these unhelpful thought patterns. Relaxation therapy and exposure therapy may also be used.
For therapy that goes deeper into the root of the problem, including childhood experiences, past relationships and personal difficulties, psychotherapy is an extremely useful tool as it can remove any underlying issues that may trigger panic attacks.
In addition to professional therapy, its a good idea to have a toolbox of self-help tips at your disposal, so that you can cope with panic and minimise your exposure. Try the following strategies:
For a detailed overview, as well as a look at some of the evidence-based approaches to treating panic disorder, you may find this fact sheet from Anxiety UK useful.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He .
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What Causes Anxiety Disorders
We dont fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety.
Genetics. Some people seem to be born more anxious than others. You may get anxiety through your genes.
Life experience. This could be bad experiences such as being abused or losing a loved one. It could also include big changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.
Drugs. Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs can also have an effect.
Circumstances. Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your anxiety.
Recognize That Youre Having A Panic Attack
Take away the fear that you may be dying or that impending doom is looming, both symptoms of panic attacks. This can allow you to focus on other techniques to reduce your symptoms.
It is not always possible to avoid triggers for a panic attack, but if you know what triggers it, this can help you understand that it is a panic attack and not something else.
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How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed
Medical or mental health providers can diagnose panic disorder. Your provider may diagnose panic disorder when you have repeated panic attacks and you:
- Persistently worry about having more panic attacks or their consequences.
- Obsess about losing control during a panic attack.
- Change your behaviors to avoid situations that may trigger a panic attack.
You May Think You’re Having A Heart Attack
A racing or pounding heart is a common symptom of a panic attack. You might even have chest pain or discomfort. That’s why people having panic attacks often believe they’re having a heart attack. But once in the hospital, they start to feel better because “the danger is starting to go away,” Hunter said.
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What To Do When You Feel The Signs Of A Panic Attack Coming On
Panic attacks can be incredibly frightening. The intense feeling of anxiety can happen very quickly, and the physical symptoms of panic attacks can be so powerful that many people who experience them believe that they are having a heart attack, collapsing or even dying.
When you feel the signs of a panic attack coming on, it is important to know what you should do in the moment. Here, we provide recommendations on what to do when one does start.
If you regularly have panic attacks, its also important to recognise that there is support and treatment that can help you to control them and prevent them from happening in the future. In this article, we will also outline the support and treatment that is available at our Priory hospitals and wellbeing centres to help you to address your challenges and resume the fulfilling life you deserve.
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.
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How Do I Know If Its A Panic Attack Or Heart Attack
Since there are overlapping symptoms, how do you know if youre having a panic attack or a heart attack? One thing to keep in mind is your age. If you are under 40 years old and relatively healthy, chances are that youre having a panic attack. This is even more true if youve had a panic attack in the past.
Another clue can be how long the event is taking place. Normally, a panic attack lasts only a few minutes. While it can be longer, a panic attack will eventually end. A heart attack doesnt end and is one of the reasons that you need to seek immediate care.
Panic attacks normally occur while your body is at rest whereas a heart attack is more likely to happen while youre exerting your heart. This could be during exercise, doing yard work, or simply running up the stairs. People who dont do much physical activity are at higher risk than those who do.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms Include:
- Nausea or stomach cramps.
- Feeling detached or unreal.
Its important to seek help if youre starting to avoid certain situations because youre afraid of having a panic attack. The truth is that panic attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5 to 8 treatment sessions.
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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.
You Answered Yes To Question
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might have panic disorder or panic symptoms. Panic attacks can be very scary, and it is normal to feel initially concerned about these sensations. Panic disorder affects about 2-3% of people in the United States per year, so you are not alone. The good news is that panic disorder can be successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which will help you learn how to effectively manage your panic disorder. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and they are negatively interfering with your life, it might be time to seek help.
It will be important to begin with a structured psychiatric evaluation by a professional to see if you meet criteria for panic disorder, which will inform your treatment plan. Our mental health impacts many aspects of our lives, such as our physical health and our quality of life, which is why it is so important to address any mental health problems with effective treatments.
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. To begin your search for a mental health professional, go to the ADAAâs Therapist Directory.
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Signs Of A Panic Attack
There are 13 recognized signs of a possible panic attack. Four are required for a panic attack diagnosis. These signs include physical and emotional symptoms:
Physical Symptoms of a Panic Attack
The physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by the bodyâs âfight or flightâ reaction to stress. Because the physical symptoms of a panic attack are so severe, people often believe that they are having a heart attack. Those with a known heart condition who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately. Those who suffer a panic attack should have their heart health evaluated to be sure their symptoms arenât cardiac in nature.
These are the physical symptoms of panic attack:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate
- Chills or sensations of heat
Psychological Symptoms of a Panic Attack
These are the psychological symptoms of panic attack:
- Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
Any combination of four symptoms, either physical or psychological, can lead to a panic attack diagnosis. Some people have episodes with the same symptoms as panic attacks but with fewer than four symptoms. These are known as limited-symptom attacks.
There’s A Feeling Of Doom
If you’re having a panic attack, you might feel like you’re losing control or that you might die.
In certain social situations, people with social anxiety disorder may experience similar sensations, such as fear and trembling. However, in a small, 2016 study in Psychiatry Research, Brown and colleagues examined differences in panic attacks in panic disorder. Turns out those awful sensations are much more common in people with panic disorder than with social anxiety disorder.¹
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Help Them Stay Grounded
Grounding techniques can have benefit for a range of anxiety issues, including panic attacks.
Grounding techniques can help contain panic attacks after they begin, explains Megan MacCutcheon, a therapist in Vienna, Virginia.
These techniques help the person focus on whats actually happening, not their fear of the attack. Theyre often most helpful once the intensity of the attack has faded a bit.