Panic Attack is the feeling of sudden and intense anxiety, fear and panic. The condition is twice as likely to occur in women than in men. As these attacks are spontaneous, individuals often become preoccupied with the fear that they may occur again, at any time. The symptoms include trembling, disorientation, nausea, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness. Most panic attacks can last anywhere between 5 minutes to half an hour. Thus, interfering with many aspects of personal life causing them to avoid work, school or situations where they fear a panic attack may occur. People are often embarrassed to share what they experience, distancing themselves from family and friends who could actually provide them support.
Handling a Panic Attack:
It’s important to confront your fears and not let panic attacks control you. Here are a few tips to help cope with a panic attack –
- Gain knowledge of your condition:
Understanding what is happening in your body, is the first step in overcoming the panic attack symptoms. Gather knowledge and work on the factors that may trigger an attack. In a panic attack, anxiety which is the body’s “fight or flight” response to uncertainty or trouble is misinterpreted as being dangerous giving rise to the barrage of symptoms. Although these symptoms may seem as if you are dying or having a heart attack, it’s completely harmless.
- Practice relaxation techniques:
Relaxation techniques help to calm the body, relaxes the muscles and aids in thinking more rationally. These also halt the production of stress hormones likes adrenaline. Relaxation methods include calm breathing and deep muscle relaxation.
- Calm breathing:
We tend to breath faster or hyperventilate when we are anxious. This over-breathing can leave us feeling lightheaded and dizzy. Calm breathing helps reduce some of these symptoms. Practice calm breathing by inhaling through the nose for 4 seconds, then holding your breath for 1 or 2 seconds and exhaling through the mouth for 4 seconds. Pause for a few seconds before repeating the same again. Calm breathing regulates oxygen intake and reduces dizziness, lightheadedness, and tingling sensations associated with over-breathing and should be practised twice every day for 5 minutes.
- Deep muscle relaxation:
Deep muscle relaxation eliminates muscular tension, stress and should be practised every day as a preventive mechanism, not just when in panic and stressful situations. Here you begin with tensioning a target muscle group like neck or shoulders. Take deep breaths and tense the muscles as much as possible for 5 seconds. Release the tension and exhale. Remain relaxed for the next 15 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
- Change the way you think:
Thoughts associated with panic attacks can be grouped into two categories: overestimating and catastrophizing. To break the cycle of panic attacks, we first need to change the way we think and then change our actions.
Overestimating is guessing what will happen next, these are not facts. Remember that your fears are unlikely to happen.
Challenge your catastrophic thoughts by imagining the worst possible thing that could happen and then think of a way of coping up with it.
- Facing your fears:
You need to face situations, places and activities that you have been avoiding in fear of suffering a panic attack. Make a list of such activities or situation and try exposing yourself to these, for a brief period to start with and then gradually extending the time. Facing what you fear is sometimes frightening. Take your time and you will eventually be able to overcome your anxiety.
Living in fear of a panic attack and avoiding situations that may cause them only leads to an unending cycle of fear and anxiety. The goal is not to eliminate attacks but to manage them without fear.
Ways to Prevent a Panic Attack:
- Practice breathing exercises.
- Workout regularly. It will help manage stress, release tension, improve mood and boost confidence.
- Eat regular meals.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking as these can worsen panic attacks.
- Become a part of a support group. These groups help you with useful advice on effectively managing panic attacks.
Disclaimer: The above information has been prepared by a qualified medical professional and may not represent the practices followed universally. The suggestions listed in this article constitute relatively common advice given to patients, and since every patient is different, you are advised to consult your physician, if in doubt, before acting upon this information. Lupin Limited has only facilitated the distribution of this information to you in the interest of patient education and welfare.