If you suddenly feel your heartbeat going erratic and pounding faster than normal, or if you feel your body sweating profusely, trembling or having difficulty breathing, you are having a panic attack.
A panic attack is an intense, overwhelming and sudden feeling of fear, anxiety or panic. Panic attacks may begin after a traumatic experience or some other experience. Since it’s something you have never experienced before, you can’t even define it and that leaves you much more afraid than ever. Or maybe you have been having these occurrences; you are familiar with the feelings but don’t know how to deal with them.
Panic attacks are usually terrifying, and people have different experiences. Some people suffer from chest pain; others feel like they’re having a stroke. Other people have reported feeling like they’re having a heart attack or that they are going to collapse or even die. Panic attacks come so suddenly and last between 5 and 30 minutes.
Most people who suffer panic attacks usually feel the best way to deal with their panic attacks is to avoid situations that might cause panic attacks, such as crowded places, public places, open spaces, enclosed places or places far away from home.
However, learning about your panic triggers and causative agent would help you manage your thoughts and behaviors better than avoiding the situation all together and also reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and how much they interfere with your life.
Truly, no-one wants to experience panic attacks, yet certain circumstances trigger or cause panic attacks, although certain panic attacks happen for no just cause.
A panic attack is said to occur when the body’s “flight or flight mode” (a signal sent to your nervous system by your brain to prepare your body for physical fight or running away) gets activated but there is no imminent danger. The bell just goes off in your head and directs its energy through your body. This symptom is a byproduct of social anxiety.
Some factors that may trigger your flight or fight mode, thereby leading to panic disorders, include:
- an underlying medical condition like hyperthyroidism
- a psychosis condition
- chronic stress
- extreme physical exercise
- anxiety disorder
- traumatic events
- the use or abuse of certain substances
- social events
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks have both physical and emotional symptoms.
According to research, the symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous, though they can be really unpleasant and very frightening, making you feel that something really bad is about to happen. They may seem so extreme that you feel like a heart attack, fainting fit or suffocation is on the way.
After experiencing a feeling so overwhelming at first, you may later feel an intense fear within you—the fear of another panic attack. In this case, you begin to fear ‘fear’ and this makes the physical symptoms get worse and lead to other mental and emotional health issues.
However, intense a panic attack is, experts have concluded that the physical symptoms of a panic attack will not result in a heart attack or cause any physical harm.
Here are 13 symptoms you might experience if you are having a panic attack:
- Heart palpitations and pounding
- Chest pains
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Having a choking sensation
- Trembling , sweating, shaky limbs
- Hotness or chills
- Irrational thinking
- Feeling out of your mind or disoriented
- Feeling sick or nauseous
- Fear of going crazy, or dying
- Tense muscles
- Numbness or a tingling sensation
How can you Deal with Panic Attacks? 11 Proven Methods to Deal with Panic Attacks
Learning about panic attacks can give you clear information on how to deal with them. You can either deal with panic attacks using the self-help method or medical treatment.
This guide will help you understand how to deal with panic attacks better and offer you expert based answers on how to deal with a panic attack.
1. Recognize your panic attack
Recognizing your panic is one way to deal with panic attacks. You can do this by always reminding yourself that panic attacks feel like heart attacks but aren’t. Remind yourself that the panic is only temporary and will pass soon.
Then deal with the fear that comes from recurring panic attacks. This can help you tackle a few of your physical symptoms, such as the fear of dying, the fear of impending doom or the fear of going crazy. Avoiding triggers can prove futile, so it is more rewarding to study, analyze and recognize your panic triggers.
2. Practice mindfulness
The American Family Physician prescribed mindfulness as an effective method to deal with panic attacks in 2015. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present and dealing with physical symptoms such as feelings of disorientation and stress. To stay mindful, you have to focus on something objective, like your feelings at the moment or whatever it is you’re doing. You can do this through guided meditation.
3. Close your eyes and focus on an object
You can either choose to close your eyes or keep them open and focus on one particular object when having a panic attack. Focus is a way of keeping your thoughts from dancing around and closing your eyes is a way to reduce the impact of your environment in your mind through your eyes.
While your eyes being closed can rechannel your panic, focusing on an object would keep your mind in one place. You can do this by taking a mental note of every characteristic of the object; look out for shapes, patterns, colors, stance, and size, and you will feel your panic slowly subsiding.
4. Picture yourself in somewhere you have always wanted to be
Visualization has been an effective strategy for dealing with panic attacks. Research shows that using guided imagery techniques can help reduce anxiety. You can spend time imagining your most happy self being in your most happy place and doing all the things you feel bring you joy and happiness.
Focus on all the elements of nature you can find and tune in your feelings to flow with them.
5. Keep repeating a mantra
Repeating a mantra keeps your hope alive. If you’re a Christian or Muslim, repeating an encouraging verse from your holy book in your mind would help you stay afloat. Spiritual leaders encourage that repeating a mantra can be reassuring and help your faith hold strong. A mantra is connected to you personally; therefore, it speaks greatly to your inner man.
Medical Treatment Method
Panic attacks due to anxiety are best treated medically. Options may include:
6. Use medications
Meditation can go a long way toward keeping your nerves in check. However, they won’t be helpful in treating an underlying anxiety attack because this can be done mostly through psychotherapy. Taking medication can also lead to addiction and because of this, doctors prescribe panic drugs to be used for a short period of time. For long-term use, however, doctors can prescribe antidepressants.
Most of these drugs are not over the counter so you need a doctor’s or your psychotherapist’s prescription to get them.
7. Counseling and psychotherapy
This is one of the most effective strategies to deal with panic attacks. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is at the top of the list among other types of psychotherapy. CBT is a technique aimed at helping you change your perception of frightening situations and give you a gentler approach to these challenges. CBT challenges your brain and affects the triggers for panic attacks.
8. Good breathing techniques
If you are able to control your breathing, you are also able to control hyperventilation, which does trigger other symptoms of panic.
Hyperventilation is one symptom of panic that causes that deep fear that escalates your panic. Learning good breathing techniques and focusing on your breaths during a panic attack can help release your fears and foster relaxation, and comfort.
9. Proper relaxation techniques
Relaxation therapy aims to release tension in our bodies. Just like breathing, proper relaxation techniques can help you reduce the symptoms of panic, such as muscle tension and strain, by channelling your body’s flight or fight response. It helps you focus and ease emotional buildup.
10. Learn problem solving strategies
Keeping several problem-solving ideas handy can greatly help if you are experiencing panic attacks. You may even be in a position to offer help to someone else in a panicky situation, so it is very important to have most of these self-help methods at hand and a health professional on speed dial.
11. Exercise regularly and get enough sleep
Regular exercise keeps both your physical and mental health in good condition. Getting enough sleep cannot be overemphasized, sleep is the way your mind rests and taking that away from it is like deciding not to eat for a whole week. Your physical body will feel weak and begin deteriorating.
Engaging in light exercise, (not vigorous exercise because it can trigger anxiety and panic) can go a long way toward dealing with panic attacks.