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What To Do If You Are Having A Panic Attack

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Where To Get Help

How do you know if you’re having a panic attack?

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If youd like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

Managing A Panic Attack At Work

A panic attack, defined by the American Psychological Association as, a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason can strike anyone at any timeeven at work. The feelings and physical symptoms are very real and can be very scary. Panic attacks wont kill you, but depending on how severe and frequent they are, they can have a significant impact on your quality of life in every realm, including work. Often triggered by stressful situations, the symptoms of panic attacks usually recede when the stress ends. Common triggers at work include public speaking, conflict, an important meeting, a major transition such as a promotion or a big project, or a work-related social event such as a meeting with a key client or after-work drinks. The author provides tips for managing your symptoms and keeping them from taking over your workday and how to support a colleague who may be experiencing one.

Youre at work when you suddenly feel a deep sense of dread. Heart pounding, hands trembling, lightheaded, and drenched in sweat, you cant breathe. You think youre having a heart attack and feel like youre about to die. Youre about to call for an ambulance when the symptoms start to fade. You just had a panic attack.

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.

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Focus On Action Over Words

A soothing, familiar voice helps some people, but try to avoid repeatedly saying things like dont worry or asking them if theyre alright over and over.

Of course you mean well, but your words may not have much benefit in the moment. They can also make the situation more stressful, since your loved one may believe theyre doing something wrong by not being alright.

What Causes Panic Disorder

Panic Attacks: Common Symptoms and How to Cope

While the exact causes are not known, what researchers do know is that panic disorder does sometimes run in families. And it is often seen in individuals who suffer from other anxiety disorders explains Cole.

For example, a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder may experience a panic attack when their schedule or compulsions are interrupted. Individuals who struggle with specific phobias are also susceptible to panic attacks. A person with an extreme fear of heights may experience a panic attack in a penthouse apartment.

And for someone with generalized anxiety disorder , a condition characterized by extreme fear or worry, the unending anxiety can escalate to a panic attack. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have a higher incidence of panic disorder than the general population. Illness or traumatic events increase the chances of panic attacks.

People with hyperthyroidism , mitral valve prolapse, and other conditions or diseases also may be more easily triggered.

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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:

  • Diabetes

Improves Systolic Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Stress can worsen the condition, but PMR may help.

In a 2019 study , PMR with music therapy improved systolic blood pressure in older adults.

A study done in 2018, which used PMR by itself, also found that it had the ability to significantly improve systolic blood pressure in adults with high blood pressure.

In both studies, however, it didnt seem to have an effect on diastolic blood pressure.

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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.

How Do You Know If You Are Having A Panic Attack

Are You Having Panic Attacks? (TEST)

The signs of a panic attack include:

  • Immediate panic and fear.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Brick explains that panic attacks are sudden and they can be distressing, especially if you have never had one before.

“This then leads to a catastrophic thought which misinterprets these changes in bodily symptoms to mean immediate danger. Some people may experience thoughts such as ‘I’m having a heart attack’ or ‘Im going to die.’ This in turn keeps the panic going.”

She says your misinterpretation of those bodily sensations creates a vicious cycle by further fuelling panic symptoms, which perpetuates your fear and catastrophic thinking.

What to do if you have a panic attack in public

  • 5min

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What Is An Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes theres an obvious triggergetting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to givebut in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.

Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if youre about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people think theyre having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isnt available or you cant easily escape.

Panic Disorder Treatment Options

Panic attacks and panic disorders are treatable once the underlying cause is identified. Usually medical conditions and other factors are ruled out before making the diagnosis, says Flo Leighton, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and therapist with Union Square Practice in Manhattan. Getting to the root cause typically takes a couple of sessions, says Leighton. Here are some options that may be recommended to you :

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy , is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists says the benefit of this therapy is that we can change the way we think to feel and act better even if the situation does not change. CBT focuses on determining the thought and behavior patterns responsible for sustaining or causing panic attacks. CBT is a time-limited process that employs a variety of cognitive and behavioral techniques to affect change.
  • Medication can be used to control or lessen symptoms related to panic disorder. It is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as the aforementioned cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Medications used to treat panic attacks and panic disorder include antidepressants, though they take several weeks to reach effectiveness. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax work quickly. However they are addictive and should only be used for a short time,
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    Help If Youre Having A Panic Attack

    We know that panic attacks can be very scary, and are caused by a build-up of anxiety. This triggers a chemical reaction due to a rush of adrenaline. Remember, the symptoms youre experiencing are an effect of your anxiety.

    Here are some useful breathing tips to help you calm down:

    • Breath out first to release oxygen. This will make you feel less light headed
    • Try closing your mouth and breathing from your nose if you can. Breathe in for three seconds, counting in your head
    • Now breathe out for three seconds, while focusing on your breathing. This is a natural way to calm your body down
    • Continue to do this until you feel your body start to relax.
    • As you start to feel calmer and your anxiety passes, try to focus on whats around you. If you still dont feel right, call 111 for more support as soon as possible.

    Our online advisors are here to chat through anything youre not sure about from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Click on the purple chat button on this page. We can give you advice and guidance on finding and staying in work. Alternatively, click here to find your local branch

    Treatment For Panic And Anxiety

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    Whether youre dealing with panic, persistent anxiety, or both, effective treatments are available. Some of the most common treatment options include therapy, prescription medications, and self-help strategies. You may decide to try one or a combination of these methods.

    • Psychotherapy can help better you understand your symptoms, develop ways to manage them, work through past pain, determine your path for the future, and gain a clearer perspective that will allow for a more hopeful outlook.
    • Medicationscan assist you in reducing your symptoms. They may only be needed for a short period of time to control symptoms while you work on the other long-term strategies.
    • Self-help techniques, such as breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, can also be beneficial in allowing you to work through symptom management at your own pace.

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    Immediate Ways To Calm Your Panic Attack

  • Refocus your attention. Ground yourself in your senses, whether it’s the feeling of the ground beneath your feet or clothing against your skin. This mindfulness practice can help combat the feeling of detachment associated with panic attacks. If you prefer, you can find one object to focus all your attention on, like the texture of the walls and how it’s not perfectly smooth or rough.
  • Focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Feel the air flow in and out of your chest and focus on counting your breaths. Breathe in for four seconds, hold, then out for four. Keep repeating until you feel yourself calming.
  • Use muscle relaxation techniques. Similar to how the breathing exercise encourages you to focus on your breath, you can also focus on your muscles. Relax one muscle at a time. Start at the top with the muscles your face and neck, then moving down through your arms, to your fingers, through your torso, down to the muscles in your legs and feet.
  • Splash water on your face. This will help refresh and reset.
  • Remind yourself that these feelings aren’t dangerous and will pass. Whether you recognize it as a panic attack or not, know that what you’re experiencing has happened to others and it is not uncommon. Even if you feel frightened or feel a sense of doom, try to think that in an hour, this will have passed.
  • Go for a walk or do light exercises. If you can catch your breath, clear your mind with physical activity and space away from your present environment.
  • When To Get Help

    See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.

    They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.

    They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

    It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.

    You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.

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    How Is Panic Disorder Treated

    First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam and ask you about your health history to make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer to you a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

    Panic disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.

    Psychotherapy. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is especially useful as a first-line treatment for panic disorder. CBT teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the feelings that come on with a panic attack. The attacks can begin to disappear once you learn to react differently to the physical sensations of anxiety and fear that occur during panic attacks.

    For more information on psychotherapy, see .

    Medication. Doctors also may prescribe different types of medications to help treat panic disorder:

    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
    • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
    • Beta-blockers
    • Benzodiazepines

    Another type of medication called beta-blockers can help control some of the physical symptoms of panic disorder, such as rapid heart rate. Although doctors do not commonly prescribe beta-blockers for panic disorder, they may be helpful in certain situations that precede a panic attack.

    How To Get Help After The Panic Attack

    How to Get Through a Panic Attack | Lifehacker

    Many people with panic disorder distance themselves, fearing others wont understand. They may be embarrassed by their panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms. There are also many myths about the disorder that may contribute to a panic sufferers feelings of shame.

    This means that you may need to remind your loved one, family member, or friend that they are not alone and that while you may not understand their experience exactly, you do understand that they have unique experiences that you wish to be supportive of.

    It can also be helpful to encourage them to spend time doing self-care and using strategies that help to combat feelings of loneliness and reduce panic disorder symptoms.

    For example, physical exercise for panic disorder can help reduce stress hormones and decrease muscle tension. It may be worthwhile to invite the person to exercise with you or a small group to relieve some of the anxiety. Also, it is important to remember that on average it takes 5 weeks for the brain to produce endorphins as a result of exercising so it will take more than one or two trips to the gym to feel results!

    Another way to help someone overcome the feelings of isolation related to panic attacks is to gently encourage them to put themselves out there by getting involved in classes, groups, clubs, or organizations. Providing a supportive and understanding group of people can help eliminate loneliness.

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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.

    How To Calm Down After A Panic Attack

    The moments that follow a panic attack can be the worst. You feel exhausted, defeated, and for lack of better words, like a #%$@ed up human being. So, remember this one simple rule be reflective, not reactive. John Tsilimparis, director of the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles suggests writing down the negative thoughts you had during your panic attack, such as Im doing to die, Im going to throw up, and all the what ifs we can all relate to. Then, write down the rational alternative, such as youre not going to die, if youre sick people will be compassionate, etc. This redirects your thought process from thinking youre suffering from an attack to youre reflecting on your attack.

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