What To Do When You Are Having A Panic Attack
If you struggle with panic attacks, we have outlined strategies that you can use which can help you in the moment:
Remind yourself what is happening
Safely stop what you are doing so that you can focus on what you are thinking.
Tell yourself that your mind and body are just choosing to react intensely to your thoughts when they dont need to. It isnt a heart attack and youre not going to collapse or die.
Control your breathing
Your breathing may quicken during a panic attack. The hyperventilation you experience can cause you to become even more frightened as you worry about not being able to breathe. Focus on breathing slowly, deeply and as gently as possible.
Breathe in through the nose for three seconds, hold the breath for two seconds and breathe out through the mouth for three seconds.
You may want to close your eyes to help you focus. By doing this, you can calm your breathing, reduce your physical panic attack symptoms, and stop the panic cycle.
Remind yourself that this panic attack will pass
Statements like panic is just a high level of anxiety and my panic will pass naturally given time and wont last forever can help you recognise that this is just a moment – you arent controlled by panic attacks and this will eventually go away.
Practise mindfulness and re-focus
Recognize The Signs Of A Panic Attack
This tip for coping with panic attacks might sound strange because you obviously know that what youre feeling is a panic attack. However, recognizing the symptoms of a panic attack, such as heart palpitations, chest paints, and sweaty palms, can instantly calm you down.
Often times, your panic increases because you start to panic about the panic attack. By telling yourself, These are just symptoms of an anxiety attack, you can rationalize with the fight or flight response in your brain. You are telling your body to chill out because nothing bad is going to happen. You dont have to fight or flight because the things youre feeling are just a panic attack there is no imminent danger.
Helpful Tips For Family And Friends
A word for concerned family members and friends: don’t join in the panic. Remain calm and model a relaxed approach to bringing symptoms back down to baseline. Remember that there can often be a fear that there is a medical emergency occurring, but within reason it may be helpful to focus on anxiety reduction first. If a loved one has a history of these attacks, perhaps you can remind them of their therapy tools for calming an attack, before seeking emergency services. Encourage your loved one’s need to change their surroundings- sometimes going outside for fresh air or going into the bathroom to splash cold water on their face can help. Just keep a watchful eye that the person is not so consumed with panic that they may do something to harm themselves Ridiculing or even questioning the person who is having an attack can make things more acute. Even making casual observations can be misperceived by the person panicking. Often there is an underlying fear of going crazy or losing control, and being questioned during an attack can worsen related symptoms or prolong an attack. Hours or several days after an attack has subsided might be a better time to discuss concerns or patterns that you have noticed. Keep your comments limited to helping a person ground back into their body and surroundings, and feeling safe.
Panic disorder can be treated, and even cured. Don’t give up hope. Seeking help from a trained professional in your area can help give you your life back.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Fear Of Vomiting Called
After You’ve Had A Panic Attack
Once you feel your breath returning to normal, you start to feel more in control of your body and your thoughts start to calm down, you might feel drained and tired from the panic attack. It can be a good idea to take some time out to look after yourself and rest if you are able to. If you are not sure what to do to relax, here are some things that might help:
- Breathing exercises a simple breathing exercise can have a calming effect and help you to relax
- Use a self-soothe box. A self-soothe box contains things that make you feel relaxed. You can put some of your favourite things in there to focus your mind.
- Listen to some of your favourite music or watch your favourite TV show. This can help you switch off from your anxious thoughts and help you to calm down.
- Drinking some water can help if you were breathing quickly, felt out of breath or were crying a lot during your panic attack, as your throat might feel dry or you may feel dehydrated.
Everyone has a different way of looking after themselves, so find something that works for you. For more tips and advice on how to look after yourself, visit our taking time out page.
Follow Up With Your Doctor Or Therapist As Directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Read Also: Eating Disorders Essay Outline
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.
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.
Don’t Miss: Serotonin And Eating Disorders
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.
Engage In Light Exercise
Research shows that regular exercise can not only keep the body healthy but boost mental well-being, too.
Experts have found that exercising at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes three times per week can help reduce anxiety.
If you are not used to exercising, talk with your doctor before starting. There is some evidence that starting aerobic exercise anew can trigger additional anxiety in people with an anxiety disorder. Building up gradually can help your body adjust and avoid breathing problems. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as running on a treadmill.
You May Like: Pristiq What Is It Used For
Dont Shame Or Minimize
Its pretty common to worry about having a panic attack, especially in front of strangers, or believe the attack might annoy or inconvenience friends or loved ones.
People struggling with anxiety or panic attacks might intellectually understand the response is illogical. But hearing that from someone else can increase their isolation, Bingham explains.
Avoid saying things like:
- Just relax. Theres nothing to be afraid of.
- Youre upset over that?
- Whats wrong with you?
You might not intend to make your friend feel ashamed, but denying the reality of their distress can certainly have that effect.
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.
You May Like: Phobic Meaning
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.
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.
You May Like: Can You Faint From A Panic Attack
It Feels Like My Body Is Going At The Speed Of Light
Kevin Rosko, 61, Michigan City, Ind.
Courtesy Kevin Rosko
Kevin Rosko was 10 years old when he had his first panic attack. It happened after he watched his uncle get smashed in the head with a baseball. Even though his uncle ended up being fine, Rosko couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d seen.
That night in the bathtub, his heart started racing, his body felt numb and he told his mom he couldn’t breathe.
The panic attacks continued to happen occasionally through Rosko’s childhood and adult life. He saw different therapists and tried a variety of medications, but none got his anxiety totally under control.
The attacks didn’t happen very often, so Rosko learned to live with them. The symptoms were always the same:
“My heart starts pumping like I’m running Mount Everest, he says. It feels like my body is going at the speed of light. I get pain in my arms and back, I feel dizzy, my mind is racing.
Rosko worked as a crane operator at a steel mill before retiring in 2014. If he felt an attack coming on at work, his boss was good about giving him the rest of the day off.
Rosko also helped to care for his sister, who had Down syndrome and came to live with him when he was in his 40s. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago, she became more difficult to care for. That’s when Rosko’s panic attacks ramped up. He began having one about every 10 days, severely impacting his quality of life.
“It relaxes me, he says. It helps me feel less antsy.
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.
Read Also: Phobia Psychology Definition
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.
Also Check: What Is The Name Of The Phobia Of Long Words