How to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 6 million Americans suffer from various forms of panic attacks and related disorders. While it mainly affects adults in their 20s, panic disorder can also affect young children, older adults as well as adolescents.
So, what causes panic attacks? Well, the exact cause of these attacks is unknown. However, recent research shows that it runs in families. Also, it’s highly prevalent in people who suffer from related anxiety disorders.
For instance, if you have an extreme fear of heights, you may experience a panic attack if you find yourself in a penthouse apartment. Also, if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may sometimes experience a panic attack, if your compulsions or schedules are interrupted.
The good news is panic attacks are treatable and manageable, once the trigger is identified. If you suffer from panic attacks and panic disorders, you should not allow them to control your life. Here are some tips and tricks on how to stop panic attacks, and enjoy a healthier, happier life.
Panic Attacks – Know The Symptoms
Understanding the symptoms of your panic attacks can help you identify the onset of an attack, deal with them more effectively and establish how to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on. If you don’t know the symptoms, you may end up giving in to fear, and the attacks will become more severe. From there, the symptoms will continue building on to each other, and they will eventually cycle out of control. It’s therefore very importand that you recognise the signs.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), you may experience the following symptoms whenever you have a panic attack:
- Sweating profusely
- Accelerated heart rate, pounding heart and palpitations
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling dizzy
- Choking sensation
- Shaking and trembling
- Shortness of breath
- Fear of dying
- Fear of losing control
- Hot flushes or chills
If you suffer from panic attacks, there is a high chance that you’ve experienced some of these symptoms. The symptoms may vary from one person to the other, depending on the trigger.
How To Stop A Panic Attack When You Feel It Coming On
Below are a list of our top tips on how to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on:
1: Let It Run Its Course
Whenever you experience a panic attack, you shouldn’t panic. When you panic, you cede control of your life, to fear and anxiety, and you end up losing control. And when you lose control, you may find yourself in life-threatening situations or act irrationally. Instead of panic, you should just let fear run its course. Don’t even attempt to push or resist the bad thoughts. Most attacks usually last approximately 10 to 20 minutes. After that, they will be gone, and you will eventually go back to your normal self.
So, the next time you experience a panic attack, don’t try to panic or attempt to push away the bad thoughts. Instead, just remind yourself that the symptoms will not hurt you in any way, and they will just pass within a few minutes. When you do this, you will always be in control of yourself, whenever you experience panic attacks.
2: Breathe Deeply
As noted above, panic attacks are usually accompanied by hyperventilation and shortness of breath. And these symptoms can leave you gasping for breath, especially if you are not used to them. Learning how to breathe deeply can help to reduce the attacks, lower anxiety and minimize the fear. So, whenever you experience a panic attack, find a comfortable place to sit, lie or stand and then place one hand on your stomach. Once you assume this position, you should then take a deep breath through the nose, making sure that you fill your belly with air. You should then exhale and empty all the air from the lungs while focusing on the movement of your belly. Repeat this process for as long as you feel comfortable again and refocus your mind.
Mindful, controlled, deep breathing remains one of the fastest and most effective methods for helping the body to relax and reduce the hyperventilation during a panic attack.
3: Relax Your Body
Panic attacks are usually accompanied by anxiety. And as much as it may appear impossible to relax your body when you are anxious, it doesn’t mean that it’s not doable. Releasing the tension from your body when you experience panic attacks can significantly help you to calm down and control your thoughts. Once the panic attacks set in, you should first take a few deep breaths. When you do this, your mind will relax the areas of the body that had tightened up. For instance, you may have hunched your shoulders or tightened your jaws after experiencing the attacks.
Repeating this exercise will help the entire body to loosen up and relax while reducing the severity of the symptoms.
4: Distract Your Mind
Panic attack symptoms can take control of your mind, making you feel disconnected from the world around you. You may also feel overwhelmed with anxiety, and depression may also set in. Whenever you experience these panic attack symptoms, you should try to find a means of distracting yourself. However, this doesn’t mean fighting with the symptoms. To distract you can focus on a single object around you such as a clock, a shiny object, and insects moving around or just call someone or try to move to a different spot. You can also install a game or an app on your smartphone, which you can be using to distract your mind every time you experience panic attacks.
Distracting your mind can really help to alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack.
5: Picture Your Happy Place
When panic attacks hit you, your body may run hot, your heartbeats will increase and your face may even turn red. Regardless of the symptoms that you experience, picturing your happy place can prove to be an effective method for dealing with the situation you are experiencing. It may be a picture of gently rolling waves, sunny beaches, a cabin by the mountains or just rolling picturesque. Whatever puts your mind at ease, just picture yourself there and then focus on smaller details. For instance, you can imagine yourself smelling rotting wood in the forest, or digging your toes in cold water.
6: Take Care of Yourself
Apart from the above-listed methods, you may also need to undertake some lifestyle changes – so that you can cope with the attacks better. For instance, you can join a yoga class or meditation sessions, to help your body to relax and alleviate anxiety. Also, exercising regularly can help to bring a sense of balance in your life, wellbeing and relaxation. Whenever you exercise, your mind releases feel-good hormones, which can go a long way in helping you to deal with stress and anxiety. Some of the activities that you can engage in include jogging, biking, dancing, and evening walks. You can also join a support group, where you exchange ideas, tips and share stories with others who experience panic attacks.
7: Live Your Life
While you may want to avoid panic attacks as much as you can, you shouldn’t allow fear to control your life. For instance, you may be tempted to avoid situations or places that trigger panic attack symptoms. However, it’s not advisable to do that. In case you experience a panic attack in the area that you’ve had one in the past, just stay where you are until the symptoms are over.
As noted above, panic attacks will not hurt you in any way. And they will be over in 10 to 20 minutes or so.
Panic attacks are treatable and manageable, once the triggers and underlying causes have been identified. Some of the available treatment options for panic attacks and panic disorders include:
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Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is premised on the idea that your thoughts can trigger certain behaviors and feelings – as opposed to external things like events, situations and people around you. So, cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to change the way you think, so that you can act and feel better, whenever you experience panic attacks. It focuses on identifying the behavior and thought patterns that trigger panic attacks and then working with that information to help reduce their severity.
This alternative treatment method has been around for many decades. As the name suggests, it involves exposing the patient to the triggers and symptoms but in a controlled and safe environment. For instance, your therapist may ask you to engage in activities like doing jumping jacks, running around or even holding your breath for a few minutes. These activities will then cause panic symptoms. As you do these things repeatedly, your body and mind will eventually get used to the triggers and symptoms, and they will eventually lose their hold and power over you.
You can also use medication to reduce and control the symptoms that you experience during panic attacks. Antidepressants and Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan are the main types of medications prescribed for panic attacks. However, these medications should be used together with alternative methods like cognitive behavioral therapy, for effective treatment.
How To Stop A Panic Attack When You Feel It Coming On – Final Thoughts
Panic attacks affect victims differently, as the symptoms vary from one individual to the other. Therefore, there is no single effective means of treating them. But with the right information and tools, you can lessen the symptoms and make the panics more manageable. Also, it’s highly advisable to track your progress, writing down potential triggers, the methods that have proven successful as well as setbacks – to determine what’s working for you and what you need to work on.