Panic attacks are best described as a set of physical symptoms brought on by intense anxiety. Sometimes panic attacks are mild, but they can also be completely debilitating. In fact, these attacks can be so severe that some people may think they are having a heart attack.
If you’re experiencing panic attacks for the first time, they can seem overwhelming and you might feel like you cannot function or live a normal life. The good news is that anxiety and panic attacks are treatable. Understanding the symptoms you’re experiencing and exploring treatment options are the first steps towards getting well.
Common Symptoms of Panic Attacks
There are many different symptoms that are associated with panic attacks, but not everyone experiences them the same way.
A person with this type of anxiety disorder could experience only two or three symptoms while others experience many more.
Some of the more common symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Nausea or stomach discomfort
- Headache or migraine
- Muscle weakness or tingling
- Labored breathing
- Feeling of losing control
- Urge to urinate or defecate
Those who get panic attacks typically experience a combination of these symptoms, and in some rare cases all of them at once. The combination of symptoms can be very overwhelming and are often accompanied by powerful thoughts and emotions.
Triggers for Panic Attacks
Panic attacks generally occur when a person begins feeling stressed, but there are many different potential triggers. Often times a person will begin having one of these attacks when they are in a public place. The fear of having an attack around other people can escalate the symptoms. One of the most common fears of those with an anxiety disorder is having other people see them when they are so vulnerable.
Some people get panic attacks when they are at work, stuck in traffic or in social situations. Any high-stress environment can easily lead to a panic attack. This often leads people to isolate or avoid certain situations, which only makes the condition worse.
Treating Panic Attacks
There is not a single treatment that works for everyone who suffers from panic attacks. However, there are many treatments and coping methods that are very effective; individuals just need to learn what works for them in particular. Learning the various coping mechanisms is an important first step to managing anxiety.
Focus on Your Breathing
One of the most effective ways to get a panic attack under control before it becomes a serious problem is to focus on your breathing. There are a lot of different breathing exercises that you can do to calm yourself down when you start to feel really stressed. These exercises can have a real physiological impact on your nervous system, and they have been proven effective in combating panic attacks.
Even just taking some deep breaths and slowly counting to 20 can help a lot. If breathing techniques aren’t effective for you at the first time you try them, don’t worry. Sometimes there are other coping mechanisms that need to be learned via professional treatment like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy first.
Sometimes the best thing that you can do to prevent the onset of a full-blown panic attack is to find effective ways of distracting yourself. There are tons of little ways to distract yourself, such as playing a game on your smartphone, watching TV, or just going for a walk.
Anything that occupies your mind that you enjoy can act as an effective distraction when you want to prevent a panic attack. The more occupied your mind is with something else, the less likely it will be to escalate your anxiety symptoms.
Certain anti-anxiety medications can be very effective at keeping panic attacks under control, though it is usually best used as a short-term solution. These medications can be habit-forming, so you will need to be cautious and use these medications only as prescribed. A doctor will decide whether or not you should be on medications, and which ones to give you if they determine it is necessary.
Daily meditation or mindfulness practices can be very powerful in helping individuals deal with stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
Meditation works at the root of the issue by addressing problems with racing thoughts. It also teaches us to be present, or in the moment, which helps individual suffering from anxiety because these individuals frequently struggle with obsessing about the future in negative ways.
You should make a point of avoiding any stimulants that could actually make your condition worse, such as caffeine, energy drinks and certain herbs. The more jittery you become, the easier it is to have an attack. If you must drink caffeine, you should only consume it in moderation.
Get Plenty of Sleep
A lack of sleep can also make you more vulnerable to panic attacks, so you will need to make a point of sleeping at least 7-8 hours each night.
If you have difficulty getting to sleep, there are a lot of different things you can do. Make sure that you don’t consume any caffeine 3-4 hours before going to sleep, and try playing some white noise to relax you. Adequate sleep is essential for being healthy as a whole, so you will need to keep this in mind.
Panic attacks can definitely be very scary and difficult to deal with, especially if it’s the first time you’re experiencing them.
Many people get panic attacks every day, so you aren’t alone in the way you feel. And, as mentioned previously, they can be treated.
If you are struggling with debilitating anxiety or stress, contact us for a free consultation. We have successfully treated many people who have anxiety disorders.