Managing Panic Attacks

If you’ve experienced a panic attack, you know the all-too-terrifying feelings, which may consist of weak knees, pounding heart, dizziness, tingling, sweating, faintness, nausea, chills, chest pain, clenched stomach or shortness of breath.

Panic attacks often appear out of the blue and usually last about 10 minutes, which seems like an eternity. They often have no clear cause and no pattern. They may strike several days in a row, once a week, or you may go months without a single symptom. Whatever the cause, they leave you feeling weak, afraid, and very relieved that the episode is finally over and you have survived.

Panic attacks are very real and shouldn’t be taken lightly. For some people, panic attacks can be so frightening that sufferers may avoid social events, or even hesitate to leave the safety of home. Just thinking about having a panic attack, especially in a public place, can trigger tremendous anxiety.

People who suffer from severe anxiety and panic disorders often benefit from counseling such CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which helps people examine, challenge, and learn to cope with stressful situations and fearful, catastrophic thinking. Others find support by getting together with groups of other people who understand and sympathize.

It also helps to arm yourself with various techniques that can help take some of the panic out of panic attacks. Consider giving the following strategies a try:

  • Breathe deeply. Getting control of your breathing will help you control your panic attack. Practice deep breathing techniques when you’re not having a panic attack so you’ll be ready when the next attack strikes.
  • Relax your muscles, beginning at your toes and working up to your neck and head. Breath in while tightening muscles, then breathe out slowly and evenly as you relax.
  • Distract yourself. Focus on your surroundings. Get up and move around. Do a puzzle or watch a movie. Call a friend.
  • Confront your feelings of panic and don’t try to avoid them. Remind yourself that you’ll be okay and that your panic attack isn’t evidence of a physical problem, but just a symptom of anxiety.

Preventing Panic Attacks

  • Exercise regularly, as vigorous exercise such as brisk walking, aerobic exercise or competitive sports will improve your mood and release tension that may trigger panic attacks.
  • Eat regular meals and light snacks to maintain normal blood sugar levels, as spikes or drops may trigger panic attacks. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco.
  • See a doctor for a physical if you haven’t had one for awhile. Knowing your heart and lungs are healthy can remind you that your panic attack isn’t a sign of serious health problems. Ask a friend to accompany you if you feel fearful.
  • Consider drug and alcohol treatment or rehab if you struggle with addiction or substance abuse, or if you use drugs or alcohol to treat panic attacks or other symptoms of anxiety.

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