Before A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Unrelated to any specific trigger and unexpected:These types of panic attacks can even occur when you are relaxed or asleep and are the most common type of panic attack.
- Situational-induced:These occur as a response to something specific and expected, such as being in an enclosed space. They happen in anticipation of the trigger or immediately after exposure to it.
- Situational predisposed: With these types of attacks, a trigger often causes a panic attack, but not always. For example, having a fear of spiders and seeing a spider might bring on a panic attack, but sometimes an attack won’t happen at all or one might occur after the trigger is no longer present.
- Emotionally induced:These types of panic attacks are brought on by a special highly emotional circumstance. These types of attacks are common at night.
- Situational: These types of panic attacks are common with specific types of phobias, like social phobias. They are also common in panic disorders.
Knowing the situations and triggers that may cause panic attacks can help you prepare for them. Having tools ready to use when needed offers some control over the situation and can lessen the intensity of symptoms.
Take Any Prescribed Medications
Depending on the severity of panic attacks, a doctor may prescribe a use-as-needed medication. These medications typically work fast.
However, these drugs can be highly addictive, so people should use them exactly as their doctor prescribes. Taken with opioids or alcohol, they can have life threatening adverse effects.
A doctor may also describe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which can help prevent panic attacks from occurring in the first place.
What To Do To Cope With A Panic Attack
When I had my first panic attack at the age of 19, I believed with absolute certainty that I was in mortal danger. I lie in my dorm room bed for what felt like hours, clutching my pounding heart and gasping for air. Fifteen interminable minutes later, it was as if it had never happened, and I felt relatively normal but that wouldn’t be the last incident. I went on to have many more panic attacks, and have since been diagnosed with a panic disorder . I’m among two to three percent of Americans with PD while 18.1 percent of Americans have anxiety disorders in general the most common mental illness. Since that day, Ive treated my condition both with therapy and medication.
Despite managing my PD, I do still suffer the occasional panic attack, but with professional guidance , Ive learned that there are simple things I can do to stop a panic attack in its tracks. I talked with mental health professionals to discuss why my own techniques work and what more those of us living with panic attacks can do.
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How To Stop An Anxiety Attack
People have this powerful idea to make the anxiety attack stop, Carbonell says, but you cant make it stop through force of will. However, if you look back at your history, youll see that every anxiety attack does indeed stop, even if it feels awful for a while.
Your best first step stopping an anxiety attack is to simply notice your symptoms and accept that youre having an attack. This can be challenging if its one of your first anxiety attacks, but after that youll know more about what to expect.
A Panic Attack Comes Out Of Nowhere And Is Not An Anxiety Attack
Though we tend to use the terms panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably, its worth noting that professionally speaking , theres actually no such thing as an anxiety attack, per se.
Anxiety is an excessive persistent worrying over an imminent event that can last a while. A panic attack is a burst of intense fear that typically lasts fewer than 30 minutes, Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford tells NBC News BETTER. She says that she would never use the term anxiety attack to define any such event, noting that the term is something of a lay approach.
Additionally, when panic attacks are linked to a panic disorder, they come out of the blue with no apparent trigger, but anyone can experience a panic attack. If youre afraid of heights for instance, and are up on the roof, you might have a panic attack. The difference here is that in this case, the panic attack has a clear cause, whereas with a panic disorder theres no obvious culprit in the environment.
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Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
Cool Down Your Negative Beliefs
In anxiety, people tend to have negative beliefs about themselves, the world, and others. These may be irrational but they can feel very real and intense at the moment. If youre feeling anxious, try and cool down your negative thoughts by challenging them with evidence. For example:
- Negative belief: Im going to fail this test. Challenge it with evidence: Ive been studying hard and I know the material.
- Negative belief: Everyone is out to get me. Challenge it with evidence: Most people are kind and want to help.
With these challenges, youre not trying to convince yourself that your beliefs are 100% wrong. Anxiety can still be present even if some of your negative beliefs arent true. But by challenging them, you can help reduce their intensity and power over you.
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How Do I Stop Anxiety Attacks At Night
Try doing something relaxing to shift your focus, such as yoga stretches, listening to calm and gentle music, reading an inspirational book, or even a menial chore such as doing the ironing. Go back to bed when youre ready Only go back to bed when youre beginning to feel tired again and ready for sleep.
Getting Through A Panic Attack At Night
Nighttime panic attacks or night terrors can be especially frightening because they have the same symptoms as regular panic attacks, except they wake you up from your sleep, making it difficult to get back to sleep at times. Theyre fairly common, but experts dont really know why they happen.
Its possible that our brains are still dealing with our anxieties and fears while were sleeping or that theres something genetic that increases a persons likelihood of experiencing them. Chronic stress, some medications, chronic physical illnesses, and consuming alcohol, cannabis, or caffeine can increase the chances of nighttime panic attacks.
To help deal with panic attacks that strike at night, I follow some of the same tips as listed above, but I also make sure to do a few things specifically for bedtime:
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine including reading, journaling, meditation, etc.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol or other substances before going to bed.
- Abstain from eating three hours before bedtime
- Make sure the room is cool, well ventilated, and darkwith as few distractions as possible.
- Take a hot shower or bath before going to bed to help the mind and body relax.
Introduction To Anxiety Attacks/panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks are not a psychological term, so their definition can vary a bit depending on the speaker. But anxiety attacks are often used either synonymously with the term “panic attacks” .
Panic attacks are short term moments of anxiety so severe, it can feel like you are about to die. During an anxiety attack, you’ll often experience a host of physical and mental symptoms that can leave you severely frightened and incredibly drained once they pass. These include:
It’s not uncommon to experience other unusual symptoms during an anxiety attack that all contribute to further fear. Anxiety attacks tend to peak around 10 minutes in and then slowly fade over the course of a few hours, often leaving the individual drained and anxious, and in some cases wondering what went wrong.
These panic attacks are rarely just feelings of nervousness or worry. They are very physical and mental events. Those that have never had a panic attack before dont always realize that they had an anxiety attack. Some people have first-time anxiety attacks so severe that they call the hospital because they think something is going horribly wrong.
Ways To Calm An Anxiety Attack
1. Stay in the present moment
Anxiety tends to be a future-oriented state of mind. Instead of worrying about whats going to happen in the future, try to bring yourself back to the present. Ask yourself, Am I safe right now? Is there something I can do about the situation right now? If theres nothing you can do in the present, revisit your concerns later so that you arent getting thrown off track by distant scenarios.
2. Talk to yourself
When you sense a panic attack, remind yourself that what you are experiencing is anxiety and that you are not in real danger. You can even address the fear directly by practicing a response like I am not afraid or This too shall pass.
3. Meditation and mindful breathing
Pay attention to your breathing. Initially, it may be loud and fast try to consciously slow it down and breathe as deeply as you can. Redirect your thoughts to something positive so that you arent overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Give yourself affirmations, like saying I will be okay over and over again.
4. Be aware of your triggers
Self-awareness and increasing your knowledge about your mental health are crucial. The more aware you are of your triggers and how your anxiety starts, the easier it will be to get yourself through an attack.
5. H.A.L.T. your attack
6. Get up and do something
7. Follow the 3-3-3 rule
- Look around and name three things you see
- Name three sounds you hear
- Move three parts of your body
8. Watch a funny video
9. Stay away from sugar
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What Is A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear, panic, or anxiety. They are overwhelming, and they have physical as well as emotional symptoms.
If you have a panic attack, you might find you have difficulty breathing, you sweat profusely and tremble, and you may feel your heart pounding.
Some people will also experience chest pain and a feeling of detachment from reality or themselves during a panic attack, so they may think theyre having a heart attack. Others have reported feeling like they are having a stroke.
How Can You Calm Yourself Down
How to Calm Down Fast Just breathe. Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world. Close your eyes and count to 10 slowly. It really works! . Chew a piece of gum. Phone a friend preferably a funny one. Smell lavender. Curl up with your cat or dog. Listen to calming music. Exercise your body.
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Top 10 Natural Remedies For Anxiety
The bodys instinctive fight-or-flight response is triggered when you feel threatened. Handling a difficult situation or facing intense pressure is also another trigger of anxiety attacks.
However, anxiety isnt always a bad thing. In moderation, it is necessary to have during these situations to keep you alert and on your toes. The right amount of anxiety can also motivate you to solve problems or face your fears.
But when you are in a constant state of anxiety, thats when things can get bad. When you start to experience anxiety interfering with your daily activities, ability to perform tasks and affects your relationships, then you may be crossing from normal and healthy anxiety to an unhealthy anxiety disorder.
What Anxiety Attacks Feel Like
Because of the very physical nature of anxiety attacks, they often are mistaken for some type of serious illness, and in some cases they may create a feeling of health anxiety. For many, the experience of an anxiety attack resembles that of more serious diseases, such as:
Those who only experience an anxiety attack once may overcome it and their fears of a health problem may dissipate. For others, the experience of an anxiety attack may be so pronounced that it creates serious health fears that lead to hospitalization or several visits to the doctor.
It should be noted that only a doctor can rule out more serious conditions, so there is no harm in seeing the doctor for both a medical opinion of the causes of your experiences and to ease your mind. But note that when you suffer from anxiety attacks it can be very difficult for a doctor to convince you that you that you are healthy. Treating anxiety attacks is often the only way to find relief.
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During A Panic Attack
Panic attacks feel different for everyone. Some people might have physical symptoms first, followed by emotional symptoms, while others have emotional symptoms first or experience various symptoms at the same time. Regardless of how a panic attack feels, there are ways to lessen or stop symptoms once they starts.
Panic attacks may feel like they are never ending, but they usually peak within 10 minutes. Keeping this in mind and using techniques that bring relaxation, distraction, and mindfulness can lessen symptoms during a panic attack
Relaxation techniques can help prevent hyperventilation, slow down a racing heart, and interrupt the body’s natural panic response to extreme stress. Some examples include:
- 4-7-8 breathing:Breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight.
- Meditative breathing: Focus on the breath as it enters and leaves the body. As thoughts or distractions enter the mind, bring the focus back to breathing.
- Grounding breathing:Combine a focus on breathing with a grounding experience like drawing circles on the palm of one hand with the finger of the other hand. Doing this distracts the mind and brings attention back to the body.
Panic attacks often get mistaken for medical emergencies because of the common physical reactions that accompany them. If you are unsure whether you’re having a panic attack, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation.
When To Seek Immediate Care
Sometimes, anxiety can be overwhelming and it could lead you to experience great distress. This is natural and not uncommon. A therapist can help you find more effective ways to manage these emotions.
If your anxiety is persistent and intrusive, consider seeking the help of a professional. You can also check out our free anxiety quiz to find out whether what youre experiencing might be something more.
If youre feeling anxious, there are things you can do to help yourself calm down quickly. There are also lifestyle changes you can make that can help lower your stress levels and help you cope with potential triggers.
You might also find it helpful to talk to a therapist.
These resources might help:
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Talk Yourself Through The Anxiety Attack
Another form of grounding involves self-therapy. When you feel the anxiety attack coming on, talk to yourself . Tell yourself that you are having an anxiety attack and that it is going to be OK. You have gone through this before, and you can get through it again. You are strong enough to handle your emotions, and the anxiety attack will not last long. Keep repeating these positive statements until you feel yourself calming down.
What Helps To Manage Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to print off these tips, or write them down, and keep them somewhere easy to find.
During a panic attack:
- Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
- Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
- Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
- Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.
After a panic attack:
- Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
- Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.
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Carry Essential Oils A Plush Fabric And Other Multisensorial Objects
One of the worst symptoms of panic attacks in my experience is that sense of unreality like Im somehow outside my body. Dr. Rodriguez recommends carrying items with you that can help engage your senses to help ground you.
Things like essential oils can help bring you back into your body, she says, adding to carry a soft, fuzzy piece of fabric or even feel your own shirt. Feel it, think about it, listen to it.
Other ways of anchoring yourself during an attack include rubbing your hands or bare feet on a surface such as a chair, couch or rug, says Dr. Schaeffer. Put an ice cube in a paper towel and squeeze it as hard as you can in one hand for a minute until you can feel the coldness and discomfort. Switch hands and repeat until you have the same sensations in your other hand.
When we avoid panic or treat it like an enemy, we make it stronger.