What Is It Like To Have Panic Disorder
One day, without any warning or reason, a feeling of terrible anxiety came crashing down on me. I felt like I couldnt get enough air, no matter how hard I breathed. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might die. I was sweating and felt dizzy. I felt like I had no control over these feelings and like I was drowning and couldnt think straight.
After what seemed like an eternity, my breathing slowed and I eventually let go of the fear and my racing thoughts, but I was totally drained and exhausted. These attacks started to occur every couple of weeks, and I thought I was losing my mind. My friend saw how I was struggling and told me to call my doctor for help.
Keep Your Mind In The Present
Notice five things you can see around you. Then, four things you can touch. Three things you can hear. Two things you smell. One thing you taste. When you stay grounded in whatâs going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on fear or bounce from one worry to the next.
Reframe Anxious Behavior And Stop Scaring Yourself
As we mentioned, anxiety attacks are mostly caused by apprehensive behavior scaring ourselves with worry and imagining the worst. Therefore, being afraid of anxiety attacks is one of the most common reasons why anxiety attacks sustainand why people develop Panic Attack Disorder. Since fear is the most common reason why anxiety attacks occur and persist, refusing to scare yourself removes the main reason anxiety attacks occur.
When you stop scaring yourself with worry and imagining the worst, you eliminate the most common cause of anxiety attacks. Yes, you can learn to stop scaring yourself. This is the second most powerful way to eliminate anxiety attacks.
For example, rather than thinking, Oh my gosh, this is awful. What if I completely lose it? Use more affirmative language such as, Ok, this doesnt feel good right now. But its just my bodys emergency response and it will end as I stop scaring myself.
Or, instead of thinking, This is awful. I cant stand it! Reframe that thought to, This is what a high degree stress response feels like. Many people go to great lengths to feel this way. Its a normal part of the bodys survival mechanism. Its not dangerous and I dont have to be afraid of it.
The stress response is our ally not our enemy.
Keep in mind that the Stress Response is our ally when in real danger. It gives the body an emergency boost so that we are better equipped to deal with the threat.
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To Learn To Cope With An Anxiety Attack Effectively First You Need To Understand What Exactly Happens With Your Body And Mind
In a nutshell an anxiety attack is an exaggeration of the arousal of your sympathetic nervous system.
Heres a more detailed explanation for this:
Your brain focuses on some alleged thread, for instance, a very scary thought that was floating somewhere at your subconscious. Your thalamus the part of the brain responsible for regulating consciousness, sleep and alertness transfers that information to your amygdala the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, decision-making and memory which marks it as danger and sends a signal to your sympathetic nervous system, activating the fight-or-flight response.
At the same time, your brain decides to shoot an extra dose of adrenaline inside your blood system, thus triggering the initial panic attack symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating and blood pressure rise.
All of the above are the normal sympathetic responses, in the case that you were facing some real danger. But as in reality theres no danger present, you start panicking as you fail to ascribe these symptoms to something particular and start believing things like you are having a heart attack/severe allergic reaction or actually dying.
This huge mix of fear and panic make other symptoms to kick in and voila a full-scale anxiety attack in action.
Heart Pounding Body Sweating Thoughts Racing It Might Be A Panic Attack Heres What To Do
Chris Trott had just walked into his local grocery store when his mind began racing. It was midday on a Sunday in February and the store was crowded too crowded for his liking. Anxious thoughts swirled in his head: How would he avoid walking into other shoppers paths? What if he got too close and breathed in someone elses air?
Within minutes, I was sweating buckets, just profusely, soaking my clothes, Trott said. Then came the shortness of breath. He could feel his heart pounding. It was terrifying, said Trott, 49, of Lansing, Ill., a south suburb of Chicago.
The uninitiated might assume that Trotts sudden symptoms were related to a heart condition. But Trott knew his heart was fine. He was having a panic attack.
Ive had them off and on for years, Trott said. But theyve become more intense during the pandemic. In the past year, Trott said, he has had at least six full-blown panic attacks. Every day you hear about the virus on the news. It just gets to you, he said.
There hasnt been much research examining the pandemics effect on panic attacks. But surveys have shown that Americans are experiencing elevated levels of stress and anxiety, which, experts say, could contribute to panic attacks.
But once you can recognize a panic attack, you can manage the symptoms, De Faria and other experts say. Here are the steps.
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Help Them By Focusing On The Present
Grounding techniques are useful for managing symptoms of a panic attack. These involve engaging your surroundings with your senses, rather than focusing on mental feelings of fear.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Hand your friend something to hold and encourage them to focus on the texture. A piece of ice, a ring of keys, an article of clothing almost anything can work for this.
- If there is food or drink nearby, encourage your friend to focus on the smell and describe it. Other fragrances, such as the smell of a candle, can also help ground a person.
- Suggest doing a few stretches or going for a short walk outside. However, be aware that intense exercise can be hard if theyre experiencing shortness of breath.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may have:
- Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
- An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
- A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
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What Causes Panic Disorder
While the exact causes are not known, what researchers do know is that panic disorder does sometimes run in families. And it is often seen in individuals who suffer from other anxiety disorders explains Cole.
For example, a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder may experience a panic attack when their schedule or compulsions are interrupted. Individuals who struggle with specific phobias are also susceptible to panic attacks. A person with an extreme fear of heights may experience a panic attack in a penthouse apartment.
And for someone with generalized anxiety disorder , a condition characterized by extreme fear or worry, the unending anxiety can escalate to a panic attack. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have a higher incidence of panic disorder than the general population. Illness or traumatic events increase the chances of panic attacks.
People with hyperthyroidism , mitral valve prolapse, and other conditions or diseases also may be more easily triggered.
Focus Your Attention On A Specific Object
If you prefer to keep your eyes open during an anxiety attack, then try focusing your attention on a single object. The object must be clearly within your field of vision. Note every possible detail about it. Do this until the moment of anxiety has passed.
This will help distract you from your anxiety while allowing you to focus on something that is stable. Because anxiety can go wherever you do, you may find it helpful to carry a comfort object around with you. This could be anything that you find to be soothing, as long as it is small enough to fit into your pocket or bagmaybe a smooth rock, a stress ball, a sentimental object, or anything else that you can hold.
Your object will then be the thing that you automatically engage with if your anxiety begins to flare up. Paying attention to your comfort object will shift your focus away from your anxious thoughts and onto the object, which will decrease your symptoms of anxiety.
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Walk Or Do Some Light Exercise
Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing.
Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.
What Are The Dangers Of An Anxiety Attack
During an anxiety attack, ones thoughts are in chaos. The person goes through a terrifying experience.
They experience heart palpitations, which can sometimes feel similar to having a heart attack. One can also experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness, numbness, the feeling of being detached from reality, and a feeling that the world is spinning out of control.
You may experience one, several, or all of these symptoms. Everyone can have unique experiences during anxiety attacks.
Those who constantly experience this condition quickly realize that it could negatively impact their quality of life. If you don’t learn how to control your anxiety attacks, you’re likely to develop ongoing fears of experiencing more attacks, and possibly develop phobias.
In fact, it can lead you to become so afraid that you give up ordinary parts of your life that were once enjoyable. When left untreated, anxiety can even be fatal.
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Dos And Donts When Someone Is Having An Anxiety Attack
Do not ask them to calm down but do listen to them with empathy.
Since the start of pandemic, there has been an exponential rise in people experiencing mental health challenges across the world. According to a study, there were 375,000 Google searches for anxiety between March and May of last year alone. This is because for many, this is the first time theyre confronted with challenges like anxiety and depression, and dont know what to do when they or someone close to them is experiencing it.
An anxiety attack can be a very scary experience and handling it correctly can go a long way in calming the person down. With the help of Panneer, Re:Set has put together a list of dos and donts to help calm someone having an anxiety attack.
Do Some Light Exercise
An exercise thats gentle on your body can help raise your endorphin levels. These hormones can help improve your mood and keep anxious thoughts at bay.
Doing as little as 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can immediately improve your anxiety level, but if you get into a regular exercise routine, you will be able to see more long-term improvements that decrease your general anxiety. Exercising on a regular basis will also help improve your self-esteem and confidence, which can have an additional impact on your anxiety.
Some benefits that doing exercise has on anxiety include:
- Burning stress hormones that lead to anxiety
- Exhausting your muscles, thereby reducing excess tension
- Releasing endorphins to improve your mood
- Forcing deep breathing
- Distracting you in a healthy way
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What Are Anxiety Attacks
Defining and understanding what you are dealing with is the first step in the recovery process. For many, the wrong terminology can make it hard for them to find out more about what you are going through. For example, while many believe they may be experiencing an anxiety attack, they actually have a panic attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are both terms that are used to describe the same thing. Whether you choose to call it an anxiety attack or a panic attack, however, its important to know the signs and symptoms of an attack when it strikes.
Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack is described as a period of intense fear, which may often be experienced for no reason at all or maybe triggered by overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- An overwhelming feeling of dread and impending doom
- Fear of being out of control
- Having difficulty breathing or feeling like you are out of breath or choking
- Intense shaking and trembling
- Heart palpitations
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and other areas of the body
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling weak, fatigued, or dizzy
- Stomach pain and nausea
Another important thing to point out when talking about panic attacks is that they are often part of panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by sudden and recurring panic attacks that greatly impact an individuals ability to function in their day-to-day life. When someone has a panic disorder, experiencing panic attacks is a part of the disorder.
How To Stop Feeling Anxious Right Now
While itâs normal to get nervous about an important event or life change, about 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized anxiety disorder , which is intense worrying that you canât control, to panic disorder — sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating.
For those with an anxiety disorder, itâs important to look into strategies that can help manage or reduce anxiety in the long term, like talk therapy or medication. But everyone can benefit from other ways to reduce stress and anxiety with lifestyle changes such as eating a well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and taking time for yourself.
Plus, there are steps you can take the moment when anxiety starts to take hold. Try these 10 expert-backed suggestions to relax your mind and help you regain control of your thoughts.
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