Myth: Panic Attacks Are An Overreaction And Intentionally Dramatic
Reality: Contrary to stigmatizing beliefs, panic attacks arent something people can control. We dont know exactly what causes panic attacks, but we do know that they can often be triggered by stressful events, mental illness, or unspecified stimuli or changes in the environment.
Panic attacks are uncomfortable, involuntary, and often occur without warning.
Rather than looking for attention, most people who experience panic attacks have a great deal of internalized stigma and shame, and hate having panic attacks in public or around others.
In the past, when I felt close to a panic attack, Id quickly leave a situation or go home as soon as possible in order to avoid feeling embarrassed in public.
Often people would say things to me like Theres nothing to even be upset about! or Cant you just calm down? These things usually upset me more and made it even harder to calm myself.
The best thing you can do for someone having a panic attack is just ask them directly what they need and how you can best support them.
If you know a friend or loved one who often experiences panic attacks, ask them in a calm moment what theyd like from you or those around them if one was to occur.
Often, people have panic attack or crisis plans they can share that outline what helps them to calm down and return to baseline.
What Is The Most Effective Treatment For Panic Disorder
If you have experienced panic attacks many times, and you are worried you may experience more in the future, the thought of taking a pill that suppresses your symptoms could be comforting, but we now know that antidepressants or tranquillizers are not the best solution.
As a quick note: medication may be needed in some rare cases, so do check with an experienced therapist, but you also need to realize that when you suffer from panic you automatically think that you belong to one of those rare or extreme cases simply because panic feels so horrible but more often than not, you wont need any medication.
Research has shown that CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is currently the most effective treatment for panic disorders. Not only that, its also way more effective than medication, and it has zero side effects.
When you work with a therapist that specializes in, or understands, cognitive behavioral therapy, you will learn what panic really is, and how your own thoughts can help you break free from the vicious cycle shown in the picture above.
In fact, I discovered what the vicious cycle of panic was thanks to a therapist. And although I did change my lifestyle and learned to manage stress better, I still believe that talking to a therapist was the most effective and overall best way to get rid of panic forever.
Thank you for reading this post! Whats your favorite tip or advice when dealing with panic attacks? Let me know by leaving a comment
If Possible Dont Hide
When you experience panic, your natural reaction may be to go and hide somewhere, because you think it would be too embarrassing to have an attack in a public place. Or, you may go back to your house, or your room, because you would feel safer there.
Again, this is a natural reaction. However, its crucial that you learn not to do this. You want to reinforce the thought that panic is not dangerous, and you also want to gradually expose yourself to the environment or situation in which you are more likely to experience panic.
For instance, if you are far away from home, and that causes you anxiety, and you know the anxiety may trigger panic resist the temptation to go back home, and use the affirmation mentioned in the first paragraph . You can have a look at a list of thirty common panic triggers so you can identify them and learn not to overreact.
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Symptoms During A Panic Attack
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , four or more of the following physical and psychological symptoms must be present:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Paresthesias numbness or tingling sensations
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
If four or more of the above symptoms are present, it is known as a full-symptom panic attack. The Ada app can help you check your symptoms. or find out more about how it works.
Things To Do When You Feel A Panic Attack Starting
Do you suffer from panic attacks? Are you looking for ways to overcome anxiety attacks? Read these 10 tips that will help you stop the panic before it escalates.
Throughout the course of my life I have suffered from and struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, and general fear. I am now living in freedom and I have overcome with the power of God and the blood of Jesus! That being said, I have been in your shoes, and I know firsthand how paralyzing and terrifying panic attacks and general anxiety disorder can be.
After suffering from many panic attacks, I have slowly, but surely, found ways that help stop themsometimes even before they start!
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How To Tell If You’re Having An Anxiety Attack
If you feel like you had severe anxiety, then you had an anxiety attack. Any form of severe anxiety can count as an attack. But for those that are experiencing something more like panic attacks, the experience tends to be similar between different people.
Recall that anxiety attacks can mimic other health problems. If you haven’t been to a doctor, it’s a good idea to go at least once to rule out any more serious issues. Make sure your doctor knows about anxiety, however. Not all doctors are aware of the severity of anxiety attack symptoms. Some may not believe that anxiety can cause so many physical symptoms and sensations, but it absolutely can. Thats why its so important to find the right doctor.
The symptoms below are often experienced differently by different people. During an anxiety attack, your body experiences a wave of stress that is so profound, it’s difficult to know exactly how your individual body will react. Yet below are some of the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack:
You may not experience all of these symptoms at once either, and each one may cause various degrees of severity. You may also feel as though there is no way that it is an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are often so severe that the sufferers live in constant fear of the symptoms coming back.
Anxiety attacks also tend to peak around 10 minutes . Then as they dissipate, they often leave you feeling fatigued and drained, possibly fearful of another attack.
Stop An Anxiety Attack With Belly Breathing
Feeling short of breath is a hallmark symptom of an anxiety attack. But you can make the feeling worse by taking short, shallow breaths. Try belly breathing instead to stop the anxiety attack.
Carbonell compares the type of breathing youll need with the breathing of infants, whose bellies rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. When an anxiety attack starts, exhale deeply, loosen your shoulders, and focus on some longer, deeper inhales and exhales that let your belly rise and fall. Place one hand on your belly if you need to feel this happening.
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Remember To Talk With Them
You might feel tempted to tell your friend that nothing is wrong. You might want to tell them they should stop worrying. This probably wont help. A person can still have a panic attack while also realizing theres no immediate threat to them.
Instead, try to be understanding. Ask your friend if theyve had similar symptoms in the past. Find out from them how the situation turned out. This might help them come to the realization that this feeling will go away fast and everything will soon be back to normal.
Help get their mind off of the panic attack symptoms by starting a casual conversation. When doing this, dont minimize the symptoms. Dont force them to talk if theyre not interested in it. If youre in a public space, ask your friend if they want to leave or get some fresh air.
Can Panic Attacks Be Prevented In The Future
“Panic attacks and anxiety can often lead to avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance can keep panic going. Taking small steps to begin re-engaging in things you have been avoiding that you once enjoyed is really vital for overcoming panic,” says Brick.
It can help to expose yourself to the feared situation, so you can overcome it in the long term. You don’t need to rush into this, and can take small steps. Additionally, Brick stresses the importance of working with an experienced and qualified practitioner to support you in addressing your panic. By seeking professional help sooner rather than later, you can live your life on your terms, not on anxiety or panic’s terms.
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Why Do I Get Panic Attacks For No Reason
Have you recently felt that you have had a panic attack for no reason? Do you get panic attacks and cant understand why they happen?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders groups panic attacks into two categories – expected or unexpected. If you feel as though you have had a panic attack for no reason, it is likely that you have experienced one that would be considered unexpected.
You Can Get Through This
Finally, the most important thing to tell yourself when panicking is: I can do this.
And keep in mind that panic doesnt last forever. You will get relief, but it might take some time. Be patient with yourself and accept your feelings. I promise you, they will pass.
Read more about panic and anxiety here:
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How To Stop A Panic Attack: 5 Psychology
A psychologist provides key steps to get through these scary times.
We are living in scary and uncertain times, so itâs hardly surprising that a new study has found the number of Google searches for âanxietyâ and âpanic attacksâ has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Some degree of anxiety about the current situation is normal. After all, anxiety is one of the most functional human emotions we have. Itâs like our very own built-in alarm system that keeps us safe, warns us of danger and sends signals to our body to get ready to respond.
The global pandemic has seen a rise in threat and danger in the outside world. As a result our alarm system is switched on more than ever. We rarely get the opportunity to feel completely safe, as even in our own homes we are constantly reminded of the threat outside with the news, limits to socializing and local lockdowns.
While some anxiety is normal and helpful, it can become a serious difficulty for some, taking over every aspect of day-to-day life. In these instances, our brain tells us that everything is dangerous â making even the most normal of tasks, like going to the supermarket, or even leaving the house, seem impossible.
During a panic attack you might notice some common physical sensations including racing or pounding heart, feeling sick or having an upset stomach, sweating or feeling hot, shaking, hyperventilating and feeling faint.
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
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.
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Anxiety Attack Symptoms Include:
- Feeling of losing control or going crazy.
- Heart palpitations or chest pain.
- Feeling like youre going to pass out.
- Trouble breathing or choking sensation.
- Nausea or stomach cramps.
- Feeling detached or unreal.
Its important to seek help if youre starting to avoid certain situations because youre afraid of having a panic attack. The truth is that panic attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5 to 8 treatment sessions.
Is It Panic Disorder
If you feel constantly stressed and anxious, particularly about when your next panic attack may be, you may have panic disorder.
People with panic disorder may avoid situations that might cause a panic attack. They may also fear and avoid public spaces .
“There’s no quick fix, but if your attacks are happening time after time, seek medical help,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Read more about panic attacks, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.
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Strategy #: Slowly Inch Into Panic Situations
One client of mine had a panic attack in a spin class and not only didnt go back, but also stopped exercising entirely. She wouldnt even take the stairs. She was worried that getting her heart rate up would induce another panic attack, something she never, ever wanted to experience again.
So, to fight her panic, in addition to challenging the thought that her heart couldnt handle exertion, she also started slowly inching back into exercise and getting her heart rate up a little at a time. First, she jogged a few steps, then a block, then around the block, and slowly, she got herself back to the gym.
If its a place you fear, like being worried youll have a panic attack in the middle of the grocery store, start by going in to buy one item close to the checkout lane. Next time, grab a basket and browse, deliberately taking a little longer. When thats boring, grab a cart and do a weeks worth of shopping. Dont try to rush through it and get out. Take your time. Dont move on to the next level until the current one is easy. Remember: Your brain has to get bored.
Write Out The Facts And Mantras On An Index Card And Keep It On You
One of the tools that has helped me is knowing that even the most vicious panic attack cant kill me. Dr. Rodriguez recommends writing this fact down on an index card or in your phone to read when you feel one coming on. Panic attacks are not life-threatening, she says. Write this down. And maybe add the note to yourself, You have survived panic attacks before. You will survive this one.
Dr. Prakash Masand, founder of the Center for Psychiatric Excellence, recommends writing down some positive mantras to get you out of a catastrophic thought pattern. Or better yet, prepare your own. When you have the negative thoughts of gloom and doom, write down some positive and more realistic rebuttals.
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What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
Do Some Deep Breathing
The feeling of shortness of breath often stems from shallow breathing during a panic attack. You can combat this by purposely breathing slowly and deeplyinhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out, feeling the air slowly fill your stomach and then slowly empty air from your stomach. Deep breaths will send more oxygen to your brain and your organs and help you relax. Close your eyes to help you focus on your breathing.
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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.”