Experts say panic attacks usually occur suddenly and can make you feel like you are having a heart attack, dying, or losing control. During a panic attack, you may feel intense fear even though there is no apparent cause, and you are likely to experience physical changes such as rapid heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.
Although you may have only 1 or 2 panic attacks in your lifetime, they can become recurrent. Research shows that recurrent panic attacks can cause panic disorder, but treatment can help.
You may be able to learn techniques to help you stop your panic attacks and prevent further attacks, although it is important to seek professional treatment.
1. Recognizes physical symptoms.
During a panic attack, your body goes into a natural fight or flight response, as if you were in a really scary and dangerous situation. the natural fight-or-flight response, as if you were in a really frightening and dangerous situation, only a dangerous situation is not occurring. Symptoms commonly experienced during a panic attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Dizziness or fainting
- Fear of dying
- Fear of losing control or imminent death
- Feeling of suffocation
- Feeling of detachment
- Feeling of unreality
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet or face
- Palpitations, rapid heart rate or pounding of the heart
- Sweating, chills or hot flashes.
- Shaking or trembling
2. Control your breathing.
Most panic attacks cause rapid, shallow breathing that fuels the attack and causes symptoms to persist. By controlling your breathing, you can help your heart rate return to normal, lower blood pressure, decrease sweating and restore a sense of control. sweating and restore a sense of being in control.
- One method of slowing your breathing is to take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. This balances oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and reduces the feeling that you can’t breathe.
- After holding your breath, begin deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply, then exhale even more slowly.
- To practice diaphragmatic breathing, try sitting in a chair with one hand on your chest and the other slightly under your rib cage. Sit comfortably with your knees bent and your shoulders and neck relaxed.
3. Take prescription drugs.
One of the most effective ways to stop a panic attack is by taking oral agents classified as anti-anxiety medications, usually benzodiazepines.
- Common medications used to treat panic attacks that are classified as benzodiazepines include alprazolam, lorazepam and diazepam. These agents have a fairly rapid onset and can help relieve symptoms within 10 to 30 minutes.
- Other prescription agents that belong to the benzodiazepine group begin to work a little more slowly but remain in the bloodstream longer. Examples of these agents include clonazepam, chlordiazepoxide and oxazepam.
- These agents are often prescribed in low doses to be taken regularly until panic attacks become more manageable through the use of other types of medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy.
4. Try to continue with your activity.
As much as possible, carry on as normal and continue with your current activity and daily routine to avoid being consumed by panic.
- Keep talking, keep moving and keep your thoughts focused. By doing so, you are sending messages to your brain, and your panic, that there is no danger, alarm or reason to be in a state of fight or flight.
5. Avoid running away.
If you have a panic attack in a specific location, perhaps a grocery store, you may want to flee and get out of the store as quickly as possible.
- By staying where you are and taking control of your symptoms, you are taking steps to train your brain to recognize the absence of real danger in the grocery store.
- If you run away, your brain begins to associate that place, and perhaps all grocery stores, with danger, and can create feelings of panic every time you enter a grocery store.
6. Focus on other things.
With the help of a therapist, you can learn ways to naturally focus your thoughts and take control of your panic.
- Examples include drinking something warm or cold, taking a walk, singing your favorite song, talking to a friend, and watching television. – Additional things to try to focus on other than panic include stretching exercises, doing a puzzle, changing the air temperature, rolling down the window if you are in a car, going outside for fresh air, or reading something that is interesting to you.
7. Distinguishing between a stressful experience and a panic attack.
While both types of experiences are similar in the sense that physical reactions occur, such as elevated blood pressure, sweating, and increased heart rate, they are distinctly different events.
- Stressful experiences happen to everyone at one time or another. The body’s natural fight or flight instinct may be activated during a stressful or anxious situation, such as during a panic attack, but there is always a trigger, event, or experience that is directly related to the reaction.
- Panic attacks are not linked to an event, they are unpredictable and the severity of an attack can be extreme and frightening.
8. Implement relaxation techniques.
Take steps to calm yourself by using established relaxation methods to take control of the exaggerated stressful or anxious experience.
- If you suffer from panic attacks or panic disorder, working with a cognitive-behavioral therapist will help you learn relaxation strategies to control panic when it starts.