Everyone is scared sometimes, but when you have a panic attack, you feel like you're losing control. A panic attack usually comes on unexpectedly, as a violent outburst of fear and anxiety. It feels like you're losing control in that moment and you can't counter an attack in the future either. You may suddenly get the idea that you can no longer function normally, that you are suffocated or that you are having a heart attack. These kinds of events can be debilitating, and can hinder you from enjoying life. By learning more about what a panic attack is, and how it can affect your life, you are taking the first step in coping with it. Once you understand the nature of your panic attacks, you can learn techniques to better manage them so that you can regain control of your life.
Part 1 of 3: Coping with a panic attack when it happens
Step 1. Breathe deeply
When you're in the middle of a panic attack, it's hard to breathe naturally. The best way to get through a panic attack is to focus on your breathing. Concentrate on your breathing and try to breathe more deeply, then you can relax better and the panic attack subsides. Conscious breathing can end a panic attack and make it happen less often.
- Take a moment to become aware of the air flowing through your nose or mouth through your air sore to your lungs. After a few breaths, try to notice other body sensations associated with breathing. By becoming more aware of the subtle feelings in your body, you can have a greater influence on how your body responds during emotional outbursts.
- Practice deep breathing first when you are calm, and not in a panic. Practicing it in a safe, calm environment will help you be better prepared if you experience a panic attack or severe anxiety. Practicing deep breathing can help you relax and better withstand a panic attack.
Step 2. Stick with it
Whatever you are doing, try to focus on it. When driving, focus on the feel of your hands on the steering wheel and your body making contact with the seat. Try to focus on your feelings and listen to the sounds you hear. If you are alone, sit down. Feel how cold the tiles are against your skin, or how soft the carpet is. Concentrate on the sensations your body feels: the fabric of your clothes, the weight of your shoes on your feet, or your head leaning against something.
Try to keep thinking rationally. Allow yourself to think clearly. Don't start judging right away ("I can't believe this really happened, it's so embarrassing"), but allow yourself to acknowledge that you're okay, and that nothing life-threatening has happened
Step 3. Identify the physical symptoms of the panic attack
A panic attack can come on very suddenly: one moment nothing is wrong, and the next you are convinced that you are going to die. Because the symptoms of a panic attack can sometimes resemble those of a heart attack or stroke, some people think they are having a heart attack when they are actually experiencing a panic attack. You will not lose consciousness or have a heart attack from a panic attack. Symptoms of a panic attack may include:
- Breathing difficulty, difficulty breathing
- Intense chills or hot flashes
- tremble or tremble
- cloudy vision
- Feeling like you're choking
- severe abdominal pain
Step 4. Watch for stress factors
A panic attack is more likely to occur during stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one, or an important event such as going to college, getting married, or having a child, or psychological trauma such as being robbed. If you have recently experienced stress and are a somewhat anxious person, you are more likely to have a panic attack.
If you've had a panic attack before and are in a stressful situation, know that you're more likely to have another panic attack. Take the time to take extra good care of yourself
Part 2 of 3: Dealing with fears
Step 1. Control stress
Don't let stress build up in your life. Manage stress by doing things every day that help you release stress. That can be yoga, meditation, sports, drawing or other things that can help you get rid of stress.
A very good way to manage stress is to get enough sleep, between 7 and 9 hours a night. Then you can better deal with stress in everyday life
Step 2. Practice progressive muscle relaxation
Relaxation exercises can help you deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis, and they can help prevent long-term anxiety. To practice muscle relaxation, lie down and relax your body. Now tense and relax your muscle groups one by one. Start with your right hand and forearm by making a fist and then relaxing again. Continue with your right upper arm, your left arm, then your face, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, hips, right and left leg, and your feet. Take your time and feel the tension in your body dissolve.
Step 3. Expose yourself to panic symptoms
After experiencing a panic attack, some people become afraid of the panic attack itself. This can lead them to avoid situations where they can panic. You can reduce the anxiety by exposing yourself to the symptoms. If you have recurring panic attacks, you may begin to recognize the body signals associated with these attacks, such as a tight throat or shortness of breath. When you notice these signs, remind yourself that a panic attack is not dangerous for your body.
- Practice holding your breath, breathing shallowly, or shaking your head from side to side. Imitate the symptoms you experience, and control them yourself. Now you see that you are all right and there is no harm.
- Do this in a safe environment so it's less scary if it happens unsupervised.
Step 4. Get plenty of exercise
Exercise is good for your overall health, of course, but there's also a strong link to controlling panic attacks. Because panic attacks are related to physiological effects related to heart functions, such as a rise in blood pressure or decreased oxygen levels -- the effect a panic attack has on your body can be reduced with the help of cardio training.
Go for a run or walk, take a dance class, or try a martial art. Do something you enjoy and get moving
Step 5. Avoid stimulants
Try not to use nicotine or caffeine, especially in situations that have previously triggered a panic attack. Stimulants speed up your physiological processes, making you more likely to have a panic attack. They also make it harder to calm down once you have a panic attack.
For example, if you've had a panic attack before and are someone who usually finds it scary to meet new people, skip that cup of coffee before going on a date
Step 6. Consider an herbal remedy or supplement
If you have a mild form of anxiety (not a severe panic attack) you can try supplements such as chamomile or valerian, which can reduce mild anxiety. Check that it does not affect the effect of other medicines before taking it, and read the directions on the package. There are also other supplements that are known to relieve the effects of stress and anxiety. These include:
- Magnesium. Ask your doctor if you have a magnesium deficiency, because that makes it harder for your body to deal with stress.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. You can take a supplement like flaxseed oil. Omega3 fatty acids seem to reduce anxiety.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Deficiency of this acid, which is a neurotransmitter, makes it harder to control your nerves, causing headaches and palpitations. Take 500 to 1000 mg of GABA per day, or eat more broccoli, citrus fruits, bananas and nuts.
Part 3 of 3: Seeking help
Step 1. Undergo cognitive behavioral therapy
If you want treatment, find a therapist who provides cognitive behavioral therapy. Your therapist will help you identify useless thought patterns that can lead to anxiety or dysfunctional reactions, as well as potential triggers for your panic attacks. Gradually, you are exposed to the specific conditions that make you feel scared or uncomfortable. This can make you more desensitized to the fear. In cognitive behavioral therapy you train your thoughts and behavior so that they support you and do not cause problems.
If you combine cognitive behavioral therapy with breathing techniques, you have useful tools to calm yourself when you panic, and focus on what else is happening in that moment
Step 2. Identify situations where you panic
You can make a list of all the situations where you have a panic attack. That can also help you identify when you think you might be having a seizure. In this way you are prepared to be able to apply techniques such as gradual exposure (cognitive behavioral therapy) and conscious breathing.
By being proactive about your panic attacks, you feel more in control and can mitigate the effect a panic attack has on your mood and behavior
Step 3. Tell people you love that you suffer from panic attacks
Explain the situation as clearly as possible. If you find it difficult to describe the attacks, print out information about panic attacks from the Internet and have them read it. This can be useful for people who have never had a panic attack themselves, so that they better understand what it means. People who love you will appreciate knowing how you feel. You will be surprised at how much support you can get from them, and how useful that support can feel.
A strong social safety net seems to be essential when dealing with stress, especially in the case of anxiety disorders
Step 4. Talk to your doctor about medication
Medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, beta blockers, benzodiazepines, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can significantly reduce the risk of new panic attacks. Talk to your doctor about whether any of these medications might be right for you.
Step 5. Look at your family history
Panic attacks and anxiety disorders often run in families. Learning your family history will give you a better understanding of what triggers fears in your family members, how they deal with it, and what you can learn from their experiences.
Don't be afraid to ask your family members about their experiences with fears. Try to have an honest conversation with your family about fears so that you can better understand what's going on with you
Step 6. Realize that you are not alone
Remember that many people have a panic attack every day. In 2011, the number of people aged 18 to 65 with an anxiety disorder was estimated at 1,061,200 (410,600 men and 650,600 women). The number of people who have ever had a single panic attack is probably much higher. Many of these people seek help from a support group.
If you'd like to talk to other people who also suffer from panic attacks, don't be afraid to join a support group and share your story
- When you feel better, help others who suffer from anxiety. So many people are scared, so tell them your story. You can help others by talking about it and sharing experiences.
- Calm down and think about positive things. Listen to soothing nature sounds or take a nap.
- Know that it is only temporary.
- It may also help to drink a glass of water.
- Don't turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. That only gets in the way of healing and exacerbates the problem. Accepting, getting professional help and informing yourself are much more productive.