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.
Stopping Panic: What To Do When Youre Having A Panic Attack
Here, some strategies that have worked for others that may help you:
Things You Shouldn’t Do
Donât try to minimize it. Understand that the panic you see is real to your friend, even if the cause may not appear rational to you.
Donât be judgmental or critical. Blaming someone for a panic attack doesnât help. Donât try to talk them out of it, either.
If you know what causes your friend’s attacks, donât help them avoid the situation. Escape now could be harmful later. It could make the anxiety worse and raise the odds for more attacks. They may also become reliant on you to shield them from their fears.
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Mental Health Treatment Program Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at . For additional resources, visit www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
Panic Attacks In Children And Adolescents
Panic attacks often begin during adolescence, although they may start during childhood. Attacks can lead to severe anxiety, as well as affecting other parts of a child’s mood or functioning.
Some children begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur. Adolescents might use alcohol or drugs to reduce their anxiety. If not recognized and treated, panic attacks can cause future complications for children such as severe depression and suicidal behaviour.
When diagnosed early on, children experiencing panic attacks usually respond well to treatment.
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Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
When To Seek Help
Panic attacks can be frightening and disorienting. If someone is worried about a panic attack, they can talk to their doctor for advice and reassurance.
A person may want to talk to a healthcare professional if their panic attacks:
- are recurring and unexpected
- are getting in the way of daily life
- do not pass with home coping methods
A doctor can talk a person through both short-term coping methods and long-term treatment options.
The symptoms of a panic attack can resemble those of a heart attack. These include chest pain, anxiety, and sweating. If someone suspects a heart attack or stroke, the person needs immediate medical attention.
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Sensory Grounding With Ice Or Cold Water
If you have a washcloth and a water bottle, you have a good start to a panic attack survival kit. Sometimes panic attacks make people feel uncomfortably hot. A damp washcloth around the neck or face can ease this feeling and give you a sensation to think about.
3 ways water can calm a panic attack:
- Hold an ice cube in your hand and focus on the sensation
- Place a cold, wet washcloth on the back of your neck
- Dunk your head into a bowl of ice water
How Do I Calm My Anxious Child
Anxiety and panic share some common symptoms. When your child is experiencing a panic attack or is feeling particularly anxious, follow these steps.
- Be calm yourself. Its not about you.
- Acknowledge that their feelings are real instead of punishing/shaming them for how they feel.
- Practice chest breathing together to encourage their parasympathetic nervous system to do its thing.
- Tell them that you are there for them by saying, I am here for you.
- Give them a long hug .
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may have:
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
- An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
Tip : Chant A Mantra Or Practice Meditation
Similar to the deep breathing exercise in #Tip 1, chanting a mantra or practising meditation are simple tricks to help relax your mind and refocus your attention.
The practice of sacred utterances such as Om or focusing on ones breath during a meditation exercise are great exercises that can help relieve panic attacks
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Focus On Taking Action
A soothing voice might help some people, but try to avoid saying things like Dont worry over and over. You might mean well, but your words may not help in the moment. Try these suggestions:
- Remind your friend to take slow, deep breaths and breathe with them. This can often help as they start to mirror your actions.
- Ask them to count backwards slowly from 100.
- Help them to get comfortable .
- Ask them to name five things they can see, hear, smell or feel.
- Reassure them that theyre experiencing panic and that it will go away.
- If the symptoms continue, become worse, or they dont improve after 2030 minutes, call 000.
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.
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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.
Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
To understand the symptoms, you first need to realize how panic attacks interfere with our body and mind. A panic attack triggers a heightened fight or flight response in our sympathetic nervous system. Since panic attacks may occur without any warning, the symptoms might manifest themselves after some time, usually about ten minutes. The symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
As you can see, a panic attack can wreak havoc inside your body. Our minds are capable of regulating every fiber of our being, after all. Another symptom that you may experience is fear from the panic attack itself. This is a warning sign that you may be developing a panic disorder.
Luckily, panic attacks are not life-threatening on their own. But it sure does not look like that when you are experiencing one. Most commonly, people may mistake a panic attack for a heart attack, further fueling their fear. If you start to experience these panic attacks on a regular basis, your first step should be to look into one of the CBT online therapy companies that can provide you with assistance. A professional therapist will help you understand what is going on and help you prevent panic attacks in the first place. But there are also a few other things that you can do to prevent panic attacks.
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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.
Close Your Eyes And Breathe
Whenever you find yourself having a panic attack, take a moment to lie down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in. Then out. In. Then Out. In. Out. Breathing deep naturally helps slow your heart rate to help you calm your anxiety. Taking the time to focus on your breath helps move your mind into the present inside of the past or future. Find time each day to get that quiet moment to yourself just to breathe. The more you practice mindful breathing, the fewer panic attacks youll have.
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Assessing Panic Attacks: 3 Tests & Questionnaires
Here are a few tools your client can use to examine their panic attacks and the relevant aspects of their mental health:
- The Panic Attack Questionnaire is the most widely used clinical tool for assessing the severity and characteristics of panic attacks and can help you and your client better understand their unique experience.
- The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire is used as part of a diagnosis of a variety of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, and might be useful for examining whether your clients panic attacks are isolated or part of a broader mental health issue.
- The British National Health Service hosts a depression and anxiety self-assessment quiz that may be a useful tool for clients of any nationality to examine their general mental health, which may provide useful insight into the general triggers of their panic attacks.
Self Help For General Anxiety
There are many different ways to try to address your anxiety. The following are some of the most effective techniques for treating your generalized anxiety disorders. After we review these strategies, we’ll take a look at other self-help techniques for panic disorder, which often requires very different solutions than other forms of anxiety.
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.
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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