Write Down The Signs Of An Anxiety Attack
Once you know youre having an anxiety attack, try to jot down a few of the symptoms and thoughts you are experiencing. This can help you put your anxiety attack into perspective.
One of the things that worsens anxiety and can make it develop into a panic attack is looking at those symptoms in a catastrophic way, says Cheryl Carmin, PhD, director of clinical psychology training at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and a professor at Ohio State in Columbus.
Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode. Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
What Triggers An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks are unusual, in that they can be triggered under moments of heavy stress or fear, or they can be triggered by nothing at all. Often the first anxiety attack comes at a moment in a person’s life when they’re experiencing a lot of stress . But future panic attacks can be caused by almost anything:
- Worry that theyll have another panic attack.
- Paying too much attention to how the body feels.
- Absolutely nothing.
Once again, it is because anxiety attacks can seem and feel so random that not everyone that has them even knows or believes that theyre having an anxiety attack. Those that have panic attacks too often may even start to develop other anxiety conditions, such as health anxiety, because of how difficult it is to feel like their anxiety attacks are real.
Not everyone that has an anxiety attack once will have it again, however. Some people only experience an anxiety attack because they are under profound stress and exhaustion, or theyre faced with a dangerous situation. For example, if you almost got into a car accident you may experience a panic attack, but only because your anxiety in that situation was so strong that it was uncontrollable.
But many that have panic attacks will have them again. It depends on the individual.
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S Of Anxiety Control That Put You Back In Charge
You Have The Power To End Anxiety Attacks Anytime You Want
Since anxiety attacks are caused by specific reasons, we can end them by addressing those reason. For instance, voluntary anxiety attacks are caused by overly apprehensive behavior, such as worry and imagining the worst. If you imagine you are in grave danger, your body will respond as if it actually is in danger.
Moreover, if you think you are safe and in a peaceful environment, your body will also respond as if it actually is.
Therefore, you control how your body responds by the types of thoughts you think. If you want to feel calm and relaxed, think calm and relaxed thoughts. Then, wait for your body to respond accordingly.
Keep in mind that once stress hormones are in the bloodstream, they will have an effect until your body uses them up or expels them. Similar to how it takes time for the body to burn off the effects of caffeine, which is a stimulant, it will also take time for the body to burn off the effects of a stress response.
But if you remain calm and patient in spite of how stimulated your body feels, it will use up the stress hormones and youll gradually feel better again.
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Identify And Learn To Manage Your Triggers
Long-term problems, such as financial or work-related situations, may take some time to figure out is it a due date, a person, or the situation? This may take some extra support, through therapy or with friends.
When you do figure out your trigger, you should try to limit your exposure if you can. If you cant limit it like if its due to a stressful work environment that you cant currently change using other coping techniques may help.
How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
- Stay with the person
If you can, stay with the person during their panic attack. Just by you being there, you can help them to calm down and remind them that help is available. It is okay if you are finding it overwhelming. You can find another friend, family member or teacher they trust to support your friend and you.
- Talk to them and encourage them
You can chat to the person about how they are feeling or anything that they like, such as favourite Netflix shows or their hobbies. This can distract them from their anxious thoughts, helping them to feel calm and to slow down their breathing. They might find it difficult to talk and might want to focus on their breath – thats okay and its important to respect their boundaries and how they are feeling.
- Check in with your friend
Even though your friend may no longer be panicking, they can still feel anxious or on edge afterwards. You can check in with them to see how they are feeling. This will remind them that they are not alone and you are there for them.
Talk about how you can support themIf your friend feels comfortable to, you can suggest talking about how you can support them in the future. This can be things like helping them find a safe space or finding breathing exercises that can help in the moment. This will help them feel better about coping with panic attacks.
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Find What Relaxes You
There are already things in your life that relax you. You may find it beneficial to make a list of things you enjoy and that help you to relax so you can reference it when symptoms of anxiety arise. When you notice your anxiety rising turn to those activities to help stop symptoms before they escalate.
For example, if you find that a warm bath is relaxing, don’t wait, draw a bath, maybe light some candles or add a few nice scents and get in. Whether it’s a bath, a shower, skipping stones at a park, getting a massage – if it works, do it right away, rather than allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by your anxiety.
Offer Support But Dont Take Over
Avoidance is a core feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel pulled to help out by doing things for our avoidant loved ones and inadvertently feed their avoidance. For instance, if your anxious roommate finds making phone calls incredibly stressful and you end up doing this for them, they never push through their avoidance.
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A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone to help themselves, not doing things for them, which includes virtually anything that stops short of actually doing it yourself. For example, you might offer to attend a first therapy session with your loved one if they set up the appointment. Or, if theyre not sure how to choose a therapist, you might brainstorm ways of doing that, but let them choose.
An exception might be when someones anxiety is accompanied by severe depression. If they cant get themselves out of bed, they may be so shut down that they temporarily need people to do whatever is needed to help them stay alive. Also, sometimes loved ones are so gripped by an anxiety disorder that theyre in pure survival mode and need more hands-on help to get things done. In less extreme circumstances, however, its best to offer support without taking over or overdoing the reassurance.
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Talk To Someone Who Will Understand
If you are feeling anxious, it is important to talk to someone who will understand. This can be a friend, family member, therapist, or anyone else who can offer support. Talking to someone can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety you are feeling. In fact, it is believed that talking about your anxiety can help to reduce the symptoms.
Recognize That Youre Having A Panic Attack
Take away the fear that you may be dying or that impending doom is looming, both symptoms of panic attacks. This can allow you to focus on other techniques to reduce your symptoms.
It is not always possible to avoid triggers for a panic attack, but if you know what triggers it, this can help you understand that it is a panic attack and not something else.
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Panic Disorder In Children
Panic disorder is more common in teenagers than in younger children.
Panic attacks can be particularly hard for children and young people to deal with. Severe panic disorder may affect their development and learning.
If your child has the signs and symptoms of panic disorder, they should see a GP.
After taking a detailed medical history the GP will carry out a thorough physical examination to rule out any physical causes for the symptoms.
They may refer your child to a specialist for further assessment and treatment. The specialist may recommend a course of CBT for your child.
Screening for other anxiety disorders may also be needed to help find the cause of your child’s panic attacks.
Learn How To Manage Your Anxious Thoughts
Anxiety doesn’t come out of the blue. When you have anxiety attacks, it’s often because your mind tends to spiral into negative thoughts – often without your control. Sometimes you can control this anxiety by keeping these thoughts at bay and learning to dismiss triggers that cause you anxiety.
For many, this is easier said than done. But there are many different strategies you can try that may be effective. These include:
A Question Checklist
When you feel anxious, have a checklist on hand of questions to ask yourself about that anxiety experience. The longer the checklist, the more you’ll find that your thoughts become more realistic. Questions that you can use include:
- Is there a reason to believe something is wrong?
- What evidence is there that something is wrong?
- Is there a chance I’m blowing this out of proportion?
Affirmations not for everyone, but those that do use them find them to be very beneficial. Affirmations are things that you say to yourself to make yourself feel better. These include:
- I’m okay. This is just anxiety and I will get passed this .
- I have a great life and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
- My anxiety won’t control me.
Getting Used to Physical Symptoms
The latter is known as “exposure therapy” and there are countless ways to create exercises that will habituate you to your panic attack triggers.
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Why Do Anxiety Attacks Cause These Physical Symptoms
One of the most common reasons that anxiety attacks are such a frightening experience is because they cause physical symptoms that mimic more serious diseases. This causes many people to become incredibly fearful for their health, believing that there is no way something like anxiety can lead to such a physical response.
But anxiety causes a host of different physical reactions that can explain most of the anxiety symptoms, and the most common cause is hyperventilation.
The End Of Everything: What A Panic Attack Feels Like
Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago. Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. My heart started racing and my body felt so hot. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. My vision became distorted and my body felt limp, like a wet noodle, she says. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Her mother didnt know what to do.
Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years. For a long time, she had full-blown attacks 2-3 nights a week. I would usually awake to a racing heart or the feeling of my heart expanding in my chestas it might explodeFrom there, I would begin to panic and my heart would go even fasterand my body would shake so hard that it felt like I was having a convulsion. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Sometimes Id go the ER and theyd hold me overnight because my heart would be going so fast and they couldnt get it to go down.
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Strengthen Your Body And Brain
Lifestyle changes can also be helpful for preventing anxiety and helping you cope with anxiety flares. What you eat, how much you sleep, and your physical activity levels can all have an influence on how you experience anxiety.
Research has found that mood and stress levels can be affected by what you eat. People who consume diets rich in fruits and vegetables, for example, tend to experience lower stress levels.
Research has also found that regular physical activity can be useful for both alleviating and preventing anxiety. One study found that physical exercise had a protective effect against anxiety disorders and significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety.
Sleep can also have a powerful effect on your mental well-being and anxiety levels. Research has found that problems with sleep are one risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder. Even short-term disruptions in your sleep may lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
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Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse
When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.
Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.
Celebrate The Small Victories Along The Way To Success
Overcoming anxiety disorder takes workand often a lot of work. On the way to successfully overcoming it, there are often a great many little steps and victories. Celebrate them. Make a big deal about them. This can be encouraging to the sufferer.
For example, attending the first therapy session is a victory in itself. Experiencing “eureka” and “ah ha” moments are also other reasons to celebrate. Staying the course with therapy is another. Having symptoms subside is another. Overcoming a long-held fear is another. And so on.
Overcoming anxiety disorder is a process that unfolds in many little steps. Since progress is often slow, it can be discouraging. Celebrating and making a big deal about each victory along the way can help the person remain encouraged, which can also keep the person working the process.
People who dont succeed do so not because they cant succeed, but because they give up before meaningful progress is made.
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