What Will Help During A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be overwhelming. You may feel like you are having a heart attack or fear that you are dying. During these times it is important to remember that this feeling will pass. It can be hard to know what to do to feel better during a panic attacksome of the suggestions below might help.
- Recognize that you are experiencing a panic attack and try to remind yourself that it will pass.
- Find a position you are comfortable in. For some people this might mean taking a walk or a bath, for others it could mean curling up in bed.
- Close your eyes or find a specific object to focus on to help ground yourself.
- Concentrate on slowing down your breathing. If this is hard to do, try counting your breaths or timing them to a slow, repetitive sound.
- Think about each muscle in your body, going from head to toe, and relax each of them, one at a time.
After a panic attack, you may feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Youve just been through something really difficult and stressful, so be kind to yourself and try to practice self care in these moments.
What Are Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense fear or discomfort, which includes at least 4 of the following symptoms:
- racing or pounding heart
- shortness of breath or feelings of being smothered
- feeling of choking
- a sense of things being unreal or feeling detached from oneself
- numbness or tingling sensations
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- fear of dying
Panic attacks tend to start quickly and reach a peak within 10 minutes. The peak generally lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes before the symptoms start to settle. However, it can take quite some time for all the symptoms to subside.
What These Factors Have In Common
What causes panic attacks to invade a person’s life? Genetic predisposition, early childhood experience with anxiety and risk, and challenging changes on becoming an independent adult.
What these three factors have in common is that none of them were under your own control. These are all developmental events in life which happen to some people. The factors which cause panic attacks are not something you could have controlled.
There is therefore no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or apologetic about having panic attacks. They are not the result of living badly or of making bad choices or of being “stupid”, or cowardly.
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When Might I Have Panic Attacks
Panic attacks happen at different times for everyone. Some people have one panic attack then don’t ever experience another, or you might find that you have them regularly, or several in a short space of time. You might notice that particular places, situations or activities seem to trigger panic attacks. For example, they might happen before a stressful appointment.
Most panic attacks last between 5 to 20 minutes. They can come on very quickly. Your symptoms will usually be at their worst within 10 minutes. You might also experience symptoms of a panic attack over a longer period of time. This could be because you’re having a second panic attack, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety.
“My panic attacks seem to come out of the blue now. But in fact, they seem to be triggered mainly at night when I want to go to sleep but cannot stop my mind racing, experiencing worry and panic about anything that may be on my mind.”
Can Dogs Have Panic Attacks At Night
Do dogs have panic attacks in their sleep? Dogs can definitely have panic attacks while they are sleeping. This is similar to humans who wake up from a nightmare or dream without warning and feel extremely frightened.
Dont be surprised if your dog begins pacing, panting, drooling excessively, or acting nervous when he wakes up after suffering an anxiety attack during sleep.
If this happens frequently you may want to make sure your dog is sleeping in an environment that will keep him safe such as a dog crate.
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Treatment For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
The most effective form of professional treatment for tackling panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is therapy. Even a short course of treatment can help.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the thinking patterns and behaviors that are sustaining or triggering your panic attacks and helps you look at your fears in a more realistic light. For example, if you had a panic attack while driving, what is the worst thing that would really happen? While you might have to pull over to the side of the road, you are not likely to crash your car or have a heart attack. Once you learn that nothing truly disastrous is going to happen, the experience of panic becomes less terrifying.
Hotlines and support
NAMI Helpline Trained volunteers can provide information, referrals, and support for those suffering from anxiety disorders in the U.S. Call 1-800-950-6264.
Find a Therapist Search for anxiety disorder treatment providers in the U.S.
Support Groups List of support groups in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
Anxiety UK Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families. Call: 03444 775 774.
Anxiety Canada Provides links to services in different Canadian provinces.
SANE Help Centre Provides information about symptoms, treatments, medications, and where to go for support in Australia. Call: 1800 18 7263. .
What Other Behaviours Are Related To Panic Disorder
Adults with panic disorder will often change their behaviour to feel safer and try to prevent future panic attacks. Examples include:
- Carrying items such as medication, water or a cell phone
- Having a companion accompany them places
- Avoiding physical activities that might trigger panic-like feelings
- Avoiding certain foods or beverages because they might trigger panic-like symptoms
- Sitting near exits or bathrooms
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Chills Or Hot Flashes
Many people also report experiencing thermal sensations, including chills or hot flashes, during a panic attack. The physiological mechanisms behind this are not totally understood, although one theory is that this is also a result of the fight-or-flight response.
Although hot flashes are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5, as symptoms of a panic attack, research shows that sometimes panic can actually be a response to a hot flash.
This may be the case for people who are in menopause, when hot flashes are often a result of hormone disruptions. Experiencing a sudden hot flash is uncomfortable and frightening, and may actually trigger a panic attack on its own.
Ways To Help Yourself
Small changes can help prevent further panic attacks.
- Practice breathing exercises regularly. They can help prevent panic attacks and help while theyre happening too.
- Physical activity can reduce stress and tension and improve your mood.
- Eating regular healthy meals can keep your blood sugar stable which can boost your energy and mood.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking if you can. These can make panic attacks worse.
- Try mindfulness. Its a way of being fully present and engaged in the moment that can help with anxiety.
- Join a peer support group. They bring together people who have had similar experiences to help each other. Anxiety UK, No Panic and TOP UK all run support groups and other services.
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Treatments For Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks
The most effective treatments for both panic and anxiety attacks is therapy, even if it is short-term. As these attacks can be brought on by fear, worry, stress, or a disorder, a professional can help you get to the root of the problem.
Here are some types of therapy to treat panic and anxiety attacks and disorders:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy for panic disorder
- Exposure therapy for panic disorder with agoraphobia
You can also take preventative steps to avoid both kinds of attacks. Some helpful things to reduce panic and anxiety include:
- Managing your stress
Chest Pain Or Discomfort
Chest pain is one of the most distressing symptoms of panic attacks. Panic attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks due to chest pain symptoms.
An older study found that approximately 25% of patients who present to their physician with symptoms of chest pain are ultimately diagnosed with panic disorder.
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Coping With An Attack
During a panic attack, experts recommend reminding yourself that you arent in any danger. Carbonell suggested asking yourself, What Im experiencing now, is it danger or is it discomfort?
You should also try to remember that the attack is going to end, regardless of what you do, Gallagher said. Panic attacks typically peak at about 10 minutes.
Try not to take any immediate dramatic actions, such as fleeing the situation, experts said. Also, dont avoid similar situations in the future that will only reinforce the belief that its something really terrible and to be feared, said Lynn Bufka, a senior director at the American Psychological Association.
Instead, let the panic attack happen and let yourself accept everything youre feeling. As Carbonell points out, youre experiencing discomfort, not danger. You want to take actions that will help you stay in place and give the panic a chance to subside.
For example, if youre hyperventilating, you can try slow diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing, Bufka said.
Trott, the Illinois resident at the grocery store, was able to stay in place, as Carbonell recommends. He continued to shop albeit at a quicker pace. If I can bear it, I just keep moving and try to concentrate on what I need to get, he said.
How To Stop A Panic Attack
Trying to force yourself to stop a panic attack may make your symptoms worse. However, there are some ways to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on.
Understanding how panic works and the stages of a panic attack can help you control your racing thoughts and calm yourself. When you understand whats happening with your body and what will happen next, you can talk yourself through the attack.
Learning how to control your breathing can help with hyperventilation and can be a focus for racing thoughts. A technique called box breathing involves inhaling for four counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four count, and then holding for four counts. Repeat this for a few minutes and focus on the counts and the breath.
Exercising regularly and getting proper sleep are also ways to lower your susceptibility for panic attacks. Exercise helps regulate your emotions and reduce stress. Regular, quality sleep can make it easier to manage upsetting situations and negative emotional responses that accompany them.
Relaxation techniques, like gentle yoga or daily meditation, can also help center you. When you practice mindfulness and develop consistency with meditation, you may more easily be able to soothe your fears with the meditation techniques you practice when youre calmer.
Other triggers for panic attacks include certain life changes and major transitions like having a baby, losing a loved one, getting married or divorced, losing your job, or graduating college.
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When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
Below are some tips for you or your loved one to consider during a panic attack:
- Anxiety cannot increase forever and you cannot experience peak levels of anxiety forever. Physiologically there is a point at which our anxiety cannot become any higher and our bodies will not maintain that peak level of anxiety indefinitely. At that point, there is nowhere for anxiety to go but down. It is uncomfortable to reach that peak but it is important to remember this anxiety will even out and then go down with time.
- Emotions are like a wave, they will come and they will go.
- You have experienced this before, you know what to expect, and you will be able to handle it.
- Avoidance is anxiety’s best friend. Avoidance now will mean sustained anxiety in the future.
The following websites and brochures provide useful information for helping and supporting loved ones with panic disorder:
What Are Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks
Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks cause you to feel intense, overwhelming emotions. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, theyre not exactly the same thing. Both panic and anxiety attacks activate your nervous system to send you into fight-or-flight mode, causing physical and emotional symptoms. Their differences lie in what causes the attack.
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Symptoms Of Panic Attacks
The symptoms of Panic Disorder are clearly defined in the 5th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- Recurrent unexpected panic attacks
- A panic attack is a sudden increase in severe fear or discomfort. This discomfort generally reaches its worst peak within a few minutes. During this time four of the following symptoms are experienced:
- Following at least one of these panic attacks, must experience either:
- Continued concern about future panic attacks or the consequences
- Significant change in behavior associated with the attack
- Symptoms cannot be caused by a substance or medication or be due to a medical disorder
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.
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How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
Serious health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory problems, cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. Your healthcare provider may run tests to rule out a physical problem. If theres no physical cause, your provider may make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
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.
Visit the No Panic website for another breathing exercise to calm panic.
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Do I Have Panic Disorder
Signs & Symptoms
This disorder is characterized by having frequent panic attacks. Since many people never had a panic attack before and it can happen abruptly, it is important to know the signs that you may be having a panic attack. They include:
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- A feeling of unreality or detachment
It is possible to have a panic attack without having this disorder, though. So, how do I know if I have a panic disorder or simply had a panic attack?
A person with panic disorder will have:
- Repeated, sudden panic attacks
- A feeling of being out of control during a panic attack
- A fear or intense worry about when the next panic attack may occur
- Avoidance of going out to places or doing things that may cause another attack
A diagnosis from a doctor is important if you had a panic attack in the past. While uncomfortable and scary, panic attacks are not dangerous. Without medical help or treatment, though, they may become worse. A physical examination and questioning may be necessary to rule out any other unrelated problems that are causing your symptoms.
How Can I Help Prevent Future Panic Attacks
Theres no way to guarantee that you wont have another panic attack, but there are several things you can do to manage them and help reduce the chance that you will have more. Consider activities that bring you focus or positive distraction, like sketching in a journal, listening to guided meditation, or going for a run. Not all activities work for all people, but keep experimenting until you find something that works for you.
- Therapy. Consider talking with a trained professional who will be able to help you in your healing process and think of strategies to help with panic attacks. Therapy can also help you work through side-effects of panic attacks, such as fear of a situation you were in while having one in the past.
- Have a plan and stick to it. On your own, with a loved one, or with your therapist, come up with a plan for what will help prevent future panic attacks and what your strategies will be if another one happens.
- Practice self care. Caring for your mind and body can help you feel strong and healthy, and can help with reducing future panic attacks.
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