Experiencing a panic attack can be terrifying. It’s not just the acute fear and anxiety; an attack has physical symptoms as well, including shaking, disorientation, nausea, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness. These symptoms aren’t dangerous, but they certainly feel like they are. Some people even mistake panic attacks for cardiac arrest, and seek medical attention believing they are going to collapse or even die.
Understanding panic attacks, and knowing what to do when you’re having one, is the best way to manage them.
Symptoms of a panic attack can vary depending on the individual. A person might feel a few or all of the common symptoms. Each attack can bring also on different symptoms. That makes it difficult for people to always identify when they’re having a panic attack. Here are a few of the most common symptoms people report:
Psychiatrists, researchers, and doctors still aren’t entirely sure what causes panic attacks. They are usually linked to a panic disorder, but not always. Some possible causes could be biology, life changes, or stress. Panic attacks can run in families. Women are twice as likely to experience acute panic as compared to men. Psychiatrists also say that once you experience one, you are at higher risk of having another.
There are a few things you can due to calm yourself during a panic attack. These can also help stop or reduce the length of the attack:
All panic attacks subside eventually. It may seem earth shattering while in the throes of a panic attack, but it’s important to remind yourself that this is a temporary state of being. Mentally reframing your panic attack can decrease the duration and intensity of the attack.
It’s important to ride out a panic attack. Looking for distractions or leaving a situation won’t help in the long run. In fact, it can actually contribute to future panic attacks. People who remove themselves from situations during a panic attack often develop an aversion to those situations, which they now associate with the attacks. This in turn leads to greater anticipatory anxiety about encountering those situations again. Let yourself feel the fear and then come through it.
Controlling your breath can be extremely helpful in lowering your heart rate. Breath as slowly, gently, and deeply through your nose as you can. Counting can also help. Some people find it better to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. You will find that after a few minutes of breathing exercises you will feel better.
After the panic attack has subsided, there are a few things you can do. Some psychiatrists recommend people carry on with the task they had been doing previously. This prevents you from giving complete control to the fear. Other doctors recommend going somewhere quiet to recuperate.
There is no physical danger from having a panic attack. However, if you experience them regularly, look into seeking the assistance of a psychiatrist. Repeated panic attacks can be a sign of a greater panic disorder, which can be helped through both medication and counseling. A good psychiatrist can help identify the root cause of your panic attacks and come up with a treatment. Contact our practice today to discuss how we can help treat your underlying anxiety or panic disorder.