Get A Breath Of Fresh Air
Another one of my favourite techniques for overcoming anxiety is simply nothing more than getting a breath of fresh air. It is completely normal to say, Excuse me. Im going to go get a breath of fresh air, when youre out with your friends or family. So, dont worry about what people will think. Everyone desires some fresh air once in a while.
So, crack open a window or slip outside for a couple of minutes. The air will provide you with a steady supply of oxygen, which your brain needs to work efficiently especially when your panic attack is giving it a run for its money. The air also has a calming effect on your mind, body, and soul. So, take deep breaths and relish from this natural treatment for anxiety.
What Is It Like To Have Panic Disorder
One day, without any warning or reason, a feeling of terrible anxiety came crashing down on me. I felt like I couldnt get enough air, no matter how hard I breathed. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might die. I was sweating and felt dizzy. I felt like I had no control over these feelings and like I was drowning and couldnt think straight.
After what seemed like an eternity, my breathing slowed and I eventually let go of the fear and my racing thoughts, but I was totally drained and exhausted. These attacks started to occur every couple of weeks, and I thought I was losing my mind. My friend saw how I was struggling and told me to call my doctor for help.
How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
- Stay with the person
If you can, stay with the person during their panic attack. Just by you being there, you can help them to calm down and remind them that help is available. It is okay if you are finding it overwhelming. You can find another friend, family member or teacher they trust to support your friend and you.
- Talk to them and encourage them
You can chat to the person about how they are feeling or anything that they like, such as favourite Netflix shows or their hobbies. This can distract them from their anxious thoughts, helping them to feel calm and to slow down their breathing. They might find it difficult to talk and might want to focus on their breath – thats okay and its important to respect their boundaries and how they are feeling.
- Check in with your friend
Even though your friend may no longer be panicking, they can still feel anxious or on edge afterwards. You can check in with them to see how they are feeling. This will remind them that they are not alone and you are there for them.
Talk about how you can support themIf your friend feels comfortable to, you can suggest talking about how you can support them in the future. This can be things like helping them find a safe space or finding breathing exercises that can help in the moment. This will help them feel better about coping with panic attacks.
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What To Do When You Have A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be not just worrying, but genuinely and sickeningly terrifying. Those who experience panic attacks likely know the dreaded signs: a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety, shaking, nausea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and more, sometimes so severe that you may fear youre dying.
This paralyzing fear may last anywhere between five to thirty minutes, but they can sometimes feel like the longest minutes of your life.
If youve handled a panic attack in the past, know that you are not alone. Every year, around 11% of Americans face a panic attack.
The good news is that there are various steps that you may take to begin to regain control of your attacks, or at least techniques you can use to calm yourself down in the moment.
If you feel that you cannot navigate this journey on your own, and are looking for resources relating to mental well-being and health, consider utilizing resources like Mind Diagnostics to learn more about mental health and therapy.
The End Of Everything: What A Panic Attack Feels Like
Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago. Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. My heart started racing and my body felt so hot. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. My vision became distorted and my body felt limp, like a wet noodle, she says. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Her mother didnt know what to do.
Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years. For a long time, she had full-blown attacks 2-3 nights a week. I would usually awake to a racing heart or the feeling of my heart expanding in my chestas it might explodeFrom there, I would begin to panic and my heart would go even fasterand my body would shake so hard that it felt like I was having a convulsion. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Sometimes Id go the ER and theyd hold me overnight because my heart would be going so fast and they couldnt get it to go down.
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Tips For Helping Someone With An Anxiety Disorder:
- Make no assumptionsask the person what they need.
- Be predictabledon’t surprise the person.
- Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery.
- Find something positive in every small step towards recovery.
- Don’t help the person avoid their fears.
- Maintain your own life so you don’t resent the person with the disorder.
- Don’t panic when the person with the disorder panics, but realize it’s natural to be concerned with them.
- Be patient and accepting, but don’t settle for the affected person being permanently disabled.
- Say encouraging words such as: “You can do it no matter how you feel. I am proud of you. Tell me what you need now. Breathe slow and low. Stay in the present. It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought. I know that what you are feeling is painful, but it’s not dangerous. You are courageous.”
- Avoid saying things like: “Don’t be anxious. Let’s see if you can do this. You can fight this. What should we do next? Don’t be ridculous. You have to stay. Don’t be a coward.” These phrases tend to blame the individual for the anxiety.
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.
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What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like
The first step in managing a panic attack is being able to recognize when it’s happening.
Panic attacks can impact the entire body and mind and, along with physical symptoms, bring about feelings of doom, dread, and intense fear. They usually come on without warning, and their cause may be unknown.
Panic attacks can be so distressing that they can cause the person to feel as though they are dying, and the experience of having a panic attack can bring about additional fear or anxiety of future panic attacks.
When panic attacks continue to occur over time, it could be a sign of a panic disorder.
How Do You Know If You Are Having A Panic Attack
The signs of a panic attack include:
- Immediate panic and fear.
- 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
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Other Coping Methods And Resources To Help With Panic Attacks
- Self-help apps – such as SAM from the University of the West of England.
- Exercise – Brick says this can burn off additional adrenaline alongside boosting endorphins that you experience following exercise to lift your mood. Physical activity also helps increase your confidence, which can often be zapped by panic attacks.
- Assessing your caffeine intake – high levels of caffeine can further exacerbate and heighten anxious symptoms, which can activate a panic attack.
“Sometimes, understanding panic attacks and how your body is built to aid your survival when faced with a real threat can help you manage attacks better. Having that knowledge will help you challenge those catastrophic thoughts. Logic allows you to understand that what is happening is actually a very normal response,” says Brick.
Focus On Something Else
After a panic attack, your personal thoughts and energy may be overly focused on your anxiety and other symptoms. Instead of feeding your anxiety with more attention or worry, try to concentrate on something that brings you some happiness or a sense of peace.
For example, you may find it helpful to bring your awareness to something fun you plan on doing in the future or to joyful times from your past. If possible, try taking a walk in the fresh air or engage in an activity you enjoy to help clear your mind.
Some distraction techniques that can be effective include counting breaths, watching television, reading a book, meditating, or a creative hobby.
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Ways To Prevent Panic Attack
Physical activities, particularly aerobic exercise will assist you in reducing stress, releasing tension, improving your mood, and boosting your confidence.
Every day breathing exercises can help to avoid panic attacks and to ease them when they occur.
Take regular meals to keep your blood sugar level stable.
Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
While many people experience just one or two panic attacks without further episodes or complicationsand theres little reason to worry if thats yousome people go on to develop panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks, combined with major changes in behavior or persistent anxiety over having further attacks.
You may be suffering from panic disorder if you:
- Experience frequent, unexpected panic attacks that arent tied to a specific situation
- Worry a lot about having another panic attack
- Are behaving differently because of the panic attacks, such as avoiding places where youve previously panicked
While a single panic attack may only last a few minutes, the effects of the experience can leave a lasting imprint. If you have panic disorder, the recurrent panic attacks take an emotional toll. The memory of the intense fear and terror that you felt during the attacks can negatively impact your self-confidence and cause serious disruption to your everyday life. Eventually, this leads to the following panic disorder symptoms:
Anticipatory anxiety Instead of feeling relaxed and like your normal self in between panic attacks, you feel anxious and tense. This anxiety stems from a fear of having future panic attacks. This fear of fear is present most of the time, and can be extremely disabling.
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Is Someone Else Having The Panic Attack
If your friend or family member has panic attacks, some things that you can do to help include the following:
- Stay calm to let the person know that everything is and will be ok. The person might be scared – try to remember that a panic attack is just an intense response to stress. Dont act panicked or voice their fears instead be a soothing voice of encouragement
- Stay with the person as they ride out the panic attack remind them you are there to support them and that it will pass
- Be understanding and empathetic dont act embarrassed, ashamed or ask them to stop, as they cant help what they are going through. Instead be positive, tell them how well they are doing and that you know they can get through this
- Try to help through deep breathing or guided imagery to help redirect a persons focus
You may also want to encourage them to seek help. If their panic attacks are having an impact on their home or work life, they may want to get the support of a mental health professional.
Causes Of Panic Attack
Panic attacks can occur for a variety of reasons, and they can also occur for no apparent reason.
So if you do have the following, youre more likely to encounter them:
- Substance use disorder
- Panic disorder
- Have a condition that involves psychosis
- Underlying medical conditions like an overactive thyroid
When youre exposed to a trigger, youre more likely to have a panic attack, although triggers differ greatly from person to person. There may be no obvious cause in some circumstances.
Some people, however, believe that social gatherings, scenarios like public speaking or that remind you of past or current stressors in your life can set off an attack for them.
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Stopping Panic: What To Do When Youre Having A Panic Attack
Here, some strategies that have worked for others that may help you:
Panic Attacks I Turned My Mental Health Crisis Into A Mental Health Triumph
Although it’s taken me a long time I have learned I am a strong person who has the potential to help others.
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or to public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack. If this fear becomes very intense, it may be called agoraphobia. See our pages on types of phobia for more information.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.
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What Can Instantly Stop A Panic Attack
There is no instant cure for panic attacks, as they vary in duration and intensity. However, several techniques can help to stop or lessen the attack.
Grounding techniques, deep breathing, and positive self-talk are all helpful ways to regain control during a panic attack.
If the person has a severe attack, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide support and guidance in managing panic attacks.
They can also offer strategies for coping with and preventing future attacks.
Try To Find Evidence For Your Fear
When trying to stop a panic attack, you need to get to the root cause of it: your fear. Many times are fears are exaggerated in our mind. Our imagination can play some terrifying tricks on us. A simple way to stop panic attacks is to first label what the situation or trigger is. For example, an upcoming wedding. Then, list your feelings such as anxious, paranoid, scared, etc. Next, name the unhelpful thoughts that youre having. For example, feeling like youre in danger, feeling like youre about to die. Then, list the facts that support your unhelpful thought.
Keep in mind they need to be facts not beliefs. You might have some weird coincidences that you can list but that wont be considered actual evidence. Then, list facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought. For example, maybe youre still young and healthy so you likely arent about to die. Next, provide an alternative and more realistic. Next, focus on reevaluate you how currently feel. This is the Thought Record you can fill out to help you.
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