Panic attacks are quick and overpowering. But, it is possible to reduce their severity or stop them if you know what to do when they arise.
According to a recent study, around 13% of people will suffer a panic attack at some point in their lives. The event of a panic attack cannot always be fully predicted, but planning what to do can help make panic attacks more manageable.
This blog discusses what a panic attack is, what measures you can take to stop a panic attack, and how to reduce anxiety in general.
What is panic attack?
Panic attacks are not illnesses per se but symptoms of underlying psychological issues – fear, social anxiety, and depression. Therefore, it is impossible to determine what triggers an attack because each person reacts differently. Hence, it is important to seek counseling if one wishes to discover the root cause of the problem.
Why seek counselling?
Your therapist may recommend breathing exercises and other strategies to help reduce anxiety. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most common methods of treating panic disorders. The goal of CBT is to change how you perceive challenging or scary situations and find new ways to face them.
Who is the best person to turn to?
Mental health issues are no longer stigmatised. Increasing demand has led to many people pursuing careers as well. Several institutes now encourage students to enroll in mental health programmes, offering affordable, score-friendly, and flexible programs.
Did you know that an online masters in counseling no GRE programme is equivalent to a traditional 4-year programme?
According to BLS, jobs in counseling will increase faster than psychologist jobs by 2025, with a growth rate of 20%. The statistics indicate that there may be many local counselors in your area or in your community that you can contact. You might even have a friend or family member studying mental health, so reach out to them for support.
Remember, it is short, and you will get through it
As frightening as they may seem at the time, panic attacks are temporary and harmless. To deal with one, accept that this is a brief period of intense anxiety that will pass soon.
It typically takes 10 minutes for the symptoms of a panic attack to peak, after which they gradually subside.
Take deep breaths
Panic attacks can result in rapid and shallow breathing caused by chest tightness. Symptoms of tension and anxiety can worsen as a result.
Take deep breaths, focusing on each one as you do. As you inhale and exhale, breathe deeply from your abdomen, counting to 4 as you fill your lungs.
Alternatively, people can try “relaxing breath,” which involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding their breath for 7 seconds, then exhaling for 8 seconds.
However, people suffering from panic attacks may sometimes find that deep breathing worsens symptoms. When this happens, the person may find it beneficial to do something they enjoy instead.
Do you know the 5-4-3-2-1 method?
An individual suffering from a panic attack may feel detached from reality. Intense anxiety can cause the senses to be overwhelmed.
Grounding and mindfulness are both aspects of the 5-4-3-2-1 method. This method helps you focus on things other than sources of stress.
The following steps should be completed slowly and thoroughly by the person using this method:
- Examine five different objects. Think about them briefly.
- Listen to four different sounds. Consider their origins and the differences between them.
- Pick up three objects. Observe their textures, temperatures, and uses.
- Identify two distinct odors. Your clothes might smell like the detergent in your laundry, the coffee you brewed, or the soap you used.
- Describe one taste you can recognise. You can try tasting a piece of candy or noticing what you taste in your mouth.
Make a mantra and recite it
Mantras are words, phrases, or sounds that help with focus and provide strength. People can relieve panic attacks by repeating mantras to themselves.
For some, the mantra may have a more spiritual meaning and can serve as reassurance, such as, ‘This too shall pass.’
The person will be able to relax their muscles and regulate their breathing as they focus on gently repeating a mantra.
Don’t underestimate the power of a walk
The rhythm of walking may also help an individual manage their breath as they separate themselves from a stressful environment.
Exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, resulting in fewer and less severe panic attacks. Endorphin, a hormone, is released when you move around, relaxing your muscles and improving your mood.
Relax your muscles by trying these techniques
Muscle tension is also a symptom of panic attacks. Relaxing the muscles can help you cope if the mind recognizes that the body is tranquilizing. Other symptoms, such as rapid breathing, may also subside.
Coping with anxiety and panic is easier when you practice progressive muscle relaxation. It means various muscles must be tensed and then relaxed alternately. Here are some tips:
- Hold your breath for five seconds.
- When you release your muscles, say ‘relax’.
- Take 10 seconds to let the muscles relax before you move on.
If prescribed, take the medication
The severity of panic attacks dictates whether a doctor prescribes a medication to be taken as needed. Most medications are effective right away. Some contain benzodiazepines or beta-blockers. Beta-blockers like propranolol lower blood pressure and slow a racing heartbeat. Valium and Xanax are two of the most common benzodiazepines prescribed to treat panic attacks. In addition, a doctor may recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which may prevent panic attacks.
Although these drugs can be highly addictive, it is important to take them exactly as prescribed by your doctor. When combined with opioids or alcohol, they can cause life-threatening side effects. So seek proper guidance before taking them. You can learn more about this if you enrol in an online masters in counseling no GRE.
Never stop working on finding what triggers you
It is not uncommon for panic attacks to be prompted by the same things, such as crowds, enclosed spaces, or money problems.
People may reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks by learning to manage or avoid their triggers.
Since panic attacks don’t last long, many people think they can manage them on their own. They are not comfortable with seeing a therapist for a temporary problem. However, it is important to remember that while you may be able to manage panic attacks on your own, if you don’t find the root cause, you may not be able to stop them for good. Find a counselor you’re comfortable with and let them diagnose the underlying cause. Following their guidance and, if necessary, by taking medication, you can learn how to manage your attacks. In addition to knowing your triggers, deep breathing, using the 5-4-3-2-1 method, and holding on to your mantra can help control panic attacks.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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