How Can Therapy Help Manage Panic Attacks
Therapy has proven to be effective in helping with panic attacks. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a frequently used psychotherapy for panic disorder. CBT for panic attacks helps people unravel how their thinking contributes to their panic episodes. Changing thoughts can change behavior in healthy ways.
The main goals of therapy for panic attacks include:
- Identify the sources of anxiety and fear
- Learn to exist in situations that would have evoked a panic attack
- Develop new ways of thinking about negative feelings
- Use coping skills to offset panic-related symptoms and behaviors
Those with the highest chances of experiencing panic disorders are those who have a family history of this condition, and people who have undergone significant losses or traumatic events. You can find a therapist with expertise in anxiety and panic disorders at our online therapist directory.
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
This online resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , helps you locate mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find a facility in your state by searching SAMHSAs online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
Signs Of An Anxiety Attack
These are some of the more common mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:
- feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- nervousness or restlessness
- numbness or tingling in your extremities
- feeling hot or cold
If you notice that quick tips havent been working, you may want to consider seeing a professional for help. Especially if you believe you have GAD and its interfering with routine activities and causing physical symptoms.
A mental health professional can help with streamlining the process of identifying your triggers, maintaining long-term strategies through behavioral therapy, medications, and more.
Anxiety may always be a part of your life, but it shouldnt overtake your day-to-day. Even the most extreme anxiety disorders can be treated so that the symptoms arent overwhelming.
Once you find what treatment works best for you, life should be a lot more enjoyable and a lot less daunting.
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The Real Reason For Travel Anxiety
The renowned neuroscientist Stephen Porges has found the parasympathetic nervous system is activated by signals we receive unconsciously from a person’s face, voice, and touch if they are no threat to us physically or emotionally. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system stimulates the vagus nerve which slows the heart rate, the breathing rate, and relaxes the body.
You can use what Porges has discovered to train your unconscious procedural to automatically activate your parasympathetic nervous system. The following steps are adapted from Panic Free, the book Dr. Porges and I wrote to make this information widely available to panic suffers and to therapists who treat panic.
- Pretend you see your friend walk in.
- Imagine hearing your friend greet you
- Fantasize that your friend coming over to give you a huge hug .
Through repetition of these steps, your unconscious procedural memory will learn to activate your parasympathetic nervous system for you.
Panic Attack Symptoms: How To Recognize One
Have you ever had an overwhelming, intense surge of fear and anxiety, which caused you to have feelings of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and or numbness? If so, you may have had a panic attack and if you did, trust me, you are not alone. Today, were going to talk about panic attack symptoms and how to know when its time to seek treatment.
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Do Not Try To Make Sense Of The Moment
Anxiety and panic attacks do not make sense. Trying to understand why they happen will frustrate you and your loved one. The person experiencing the attack may not understand why it is happening.
Do not spend time trying to get to the bottom of the matter. Instead, work on helping them to overcome it. Once they are calm, you can look into the causes and triggers of the attack.
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How To Help Someone With Anxiety
All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people dont know how to best help someone with anxiety. People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety, says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you dont necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So its important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesnt make sense to you. Its distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.
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Can Lack Of Sleep Trigger Panic Attacks
Lack of sleep can, in turn, increase panic attacks and symptoms of anxiety. The biochemical reaction which comes with lack of sleep can make you feel overstressed and nervous. Tension and stress can cause a nervous system reaction which makes you take short, shallow breaths leading to retention of carbon dioxide.
Walk Or Do Some Light Exercise
Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing.
Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.
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Panic Attacks Can Be Scary
After that incident, I had about five further panic attacks. They were really scary, although once I knew they were panic attacks, I found them easier to manage. I knew I had to simply take deep breaths, keep calm, and the feelings would pass. That was easier said than done though!
I was prescribed medication that I could take reactively when I felt a panic attack coming on, and this did help. But the panic attacks came from a rapid increase in my heart rate as I got more and more stressed about something, so the first thing I had to learn was how to control my breathing.
They were really scary, although once I knew they were panic attacks, I found them easier to manage.
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.
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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:
How To Recognize A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder. Someone having a panic attack is experiencing an intensely anxious reaction to something that may or may not be obvious. Therefore, it is often more helpful to pay attention to the symptoms than to determine the cause of the panic attack. Some visible signs of a panic attack include:
- A feeling of being out of control
- Fear of death or impending doom
Panic attacks tend to come on quickly and often without warning. Most panic attacks only last a few minutes, but they can last longer. Although they may feel unsafe to the person having one, panic attacks are not dangerous.
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Medication For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Medication can be used to temporarily control or reduce some of the symptoms of panic disorder. However, it doesnt treat or resolve the problem. Medication can be useful in severe cases, but it should not be the only treatment pursued. Medication is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as therapy and lifestyle changes, that address the underlying causes of panic disorder.
Medications used may include:
Antidepressants. It takes several weeks before antidepressants begin to work, so you have to take them continuously, not just during a panic attack.
Benzodiazepines. These are anti-anxiety drugs that act very quickly . Taking them during a panic attack provides rapid relief of symptoms. However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, so they should be used with caution.
When To Seek Medical Attention
You should seek medical attention if a panic attack does not subside or gets worse or more frequent. Breathing issues associated with a panic attack can also turn into hyperventilation which can lead to an increase in heart rate called tachycardia. When this happens, the heart is pumping so quickly that it may not be able to move blood throughout the body.
Because of these physical responses, the line between a panic attack versus a heart attack is difficult to distinguish. It is good to learn the differences between the two in case you may need to receive more serious medical attention. For either, immediately seeing a doctor is the best choice to avoid worsening medical conditions.
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What To Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
Talking to someone through a panic attack is one strategy and there are more structured methods to try if your words don’t seem to be helping.
- Count backward from 10, slowly
- Place an ice cube on the writs or face for a few moments
- Take a walk or engage in some type of movement
- Try to solve simple math problems
- Practice visualization
- Try a grounding exercise, like the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
What Is Hyperventilation
Even though your body needs oxygen to survive, and turns that oxygen into carbon dioxide when its been used up within the bloodstream, your body also expects a healthy amount of carbon dioxide in your circulatory system as well. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing either too quickly or incorrectly in such a way that youre taking in too much oxygen while breathing out too much carbon dioxide.
Interestingly, during this time it may feel as though youre not getting enough air, and your instinct may be to take deeper breaths. But by responding to that sensation by trying to take in more air, youre actually making your hyperventilation worse, which is why those that try to get deeper breaths often feel their symptoms getting worse, causing further panic.
When there isnt enough carbon dioxide in your blood, you experience the symptoms of an anxiety attack, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness and more
Notice how each of these symptoms are the same as when youre suffering from severe anxiety, which is why it often feels like an attack and why the symptoms feel so physical. They build on each other to create an experience that feels like something is terribly wrong.
The most likely cause of hyperventilation is breathing too quickly, which is a common response to anxiety. But its not the only cause either. You may also hyperventilate because:
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Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
Anxiety is uncomfortable and ongoing dread that occurs when we worry about the future or things we cannot control. Physical symptoms include sleeplessness, stomach issues, and headaches. Panic attacks come on quickly, often without warning, and are short periods of intense fear, feelings of doom, and physical symptoms, like shaking or chest pain.
Help Them By Focusing On The Present
Grounding techniques are useful for managing symptoms of a panic attack. These involve engaging your surroundings with your senses, rather than focusing on mental feelings of fear.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Hand your friend something to hold and encourage them to focus on the texture. A piece of ice, a ring of keys, an article of clothing almost anything can work for this.
- If there is food or drink nearby, encourage your friend to focus on the smell and describe it. Other fragrances, such as the smell of a candle, can also help ground a person.
- Suggest doing a few stretches or going for a short walk outside. However, be aware that intense exercise can be hard if theyre experiencing shortness of breath.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:
Make Conversation And Offer Support
Trying to get the person talking to you and offering subtle but comforting support is also important. You should tell them that youre not going to leave them and that youre there to help. However, never be forceful or aggressive and only touch them comfortingly after asking for permission. Panic attacks often stem from feeling helpless or out of control. Asking for permission is a great way to give them a sense of control.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks
The real cause of panic attacks has not readily been identified. However, several contributing factors such as stress, genetics and a persons individual temperament may play a role in making someone more susceptible to a panic attack.
Some evidence suggests that panic attacks could be triggered by certain situations. It is best for the individual to monitor their own symptoms and behaviour to better understand which circumstances could potentially be a precursor to a panic attack.
There is some evidence to indicate that panic attacks may be caused by abnormal activations in the amygdala which is responsible for the control of emotions like fear.
What Not To Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
While its tempting to help your loved one avoid the feelings of panic by distracting them from their bodily sensations or taking them away from the situation, these are considered safety behaviors. While safety behaviors might help to ease anxiety in the moment, they could actually reinforce a cycle of panic that exists in panic disorder.
Safety behaviors and distractions can prevent people from learning that panic attacks, while uncomfortable, are not actually harmful or dangerous.
Your loved one can handle panic without actually doing anything, and its important for them to know that anxiety about panic goes away on its own without causing them harm.
Cognitive behavioral therapy a major method for treating panic disorder teaches you strategies to reduce your anxiety and avoidance around panic attacks. The idea isnt to prevent them but to sit with them until they inevitably pass. And often, you experience fewer panic attacks over time as you grow to fear them less.
The most effective way to react to a panic attack is just to ride it out instead of resisting or escaping it. While escaping a panic attack in the short term reduces anxiety, it just drives the panic cycle in the long term because you reinforce beliefs that panic is dangerous, harmful, or something that must be avoided at all costs.
The idea is to allow the symptoms to just be, which helps you to view panic attacks as a manageable experience, not one that needs to be escaped.
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This Will Be Over Soon
Dont Give Them Timelines Or Have Expectations
Being critical or judgemental to a person with panic attacks can only make things harder. They may feel like no one understands them which can cause them to isolate themselves more. Giving your friend or family member a timeline to abide by to overcome their worries and anxieties can also be detrimental to their overall recovery journey.
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