If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know firsthand the terror that the experience brings. They can be frightening, unexpected, and downright debilitating. They can also create enormous fear- you may not know why you’re having one, and you can’t necessarily tell when an attack might strike you next.
That said, these episodes don’t need to ruin your life. The right techniques and strategies can provide some much-needed panic attack help and relief. Let’s explore what you need to know.
Understanding Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic attack symptoms often vary, and even if a person has had multiple attacks, the symptoms may be different each time. With that in mind, the following symptoms are common in panic attacks:
A sense of weakness
Shortness of breath and a choking sensation
Shaking and trembling
Feeling detached from reality
Numbness and tingling
Even though a panic attack may feel like it lasts a lifetime, the majority of symptoms tend to peak at about 10 minutes, with some of the symptoms lingering for another 30 or so minutes. Because the attack can be so taxing on the body, it’s normal to feel drained and fatigued afterwards.
Researchers have not pinpointed a single cause for panic attacks. However, people who are prone to anxiety and other negative emotions may be at a higher risk. Likewise, high levels of stress and a history of trauma may also be significant risk factors.
Surviving The Panic Attack
When it happens, you may genuinely feel like you’re dying. Indeed, many people misdiagnose their panic attack symptoms for a heart attack- and many people end up in the emergency room as a result of the incident.
Although you may feel powerless in the moment, “toughing it out” is not the only option. With practice and intentionality, you can reduce the severity and intensity of some of your symptoms.
Have An Affirmation
Positive thinking can play a profound role in reframing how you perceive your anxiety. When we think negative thoughts, we tend to experience the world much more negatively. However, the opposite is also true. The more we can channel positive thinking, the more grounded and happier we tend to feel.
Consider reciting one of the following affirmations the next time you have a panic attack:
I am safe.
This will pass.
I can get through this.
Even if this is uncomfortable, I know I will be okay.
I can cope with these feelings.
When you’re in the middle of an attack, you feel like you can’t breathe. The world may seem like it’s closing in. It’s as if you’re drowning, and you feel frantic, frightened, and powerless. Yet, the more you experience this shortness of breath, the more panicked and uncomfortable you will feel.
The first step is acknowledging and labeling what is happening. You are feeling breathless and anxious, and it will pass. Practice breathing through your nose and taking in a deep breath and holding it for 5 seconds. Hold for a second and then exhale with your mouth for another 5 seconds. Continue focusing and counting on your breath- regardless of what other emotions or sensations you are feeling.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Deep breaths help slow down your central nervous system. However, you still may feel very tense and uncomfortable. Progressive muscle relaxation can loosen the rest of your body.
Sit or stand comfortably and close your eyes
Take a few deep breaths
Starting from the top of your body, practice tightening your upper facial muscles. Hold for five seconds, and then release for five seconds
Move down each muscle group (shoulders, chest, abdomen, pelvic muscles, legs) until you reach your toes. Continue tightening each muscle group, holding for five seconds, and then releasing for five seconds
After the attack has passed, it is important to treat yourself with gentle love and compassion. Your body just went through a lot, and it needs some kindness to recover fully.
Self-care doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive to be effective. It just needs to be an act of love. Consider calling a friend, watching a favorite movie, or taking a hot shower.
Panic Attack Help: Seeking Professional Treatment
2.7% of American adults have panic disorder, a condition characterized by repeated and unexpected panic attacks. If you are struggling with panic attacks without relief, therapy may be able to help. You’ll learn healthier coping skills for managing your anxiety, and you’ll also learn proactive solutions for dealing with your attacks when they happen.
Panic attack help is available! As a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional, I integrate evidence-based treatment to help you manage your symptoms. Click to learn more about how I can help you today.