A panic attack can be described as an overwhelming feeling of fear with intense feelings of anxiety and physical symptoms. Panic attack symptoms experienced include:
● Heart palpitations
● Difficulty breathing
● Tight chest
● Numbness or tingling sensations
● Feeling detached
● Feeling like you’re losing control
Panic attacks can be triggered by stressful events such as exams, speaking events, crowded environments, flying and being stressed at work.
However, they can also appear to come out of the blue and for no apparent reason. Although this may seem to be the case, these type of attacks are nearly always caused by a build-up of stress in a person's life. Factors such as poor relationships, lack of sleep, poor eating and drinking habits, negative outlooks on life and unresolved 'issues' can all cause stress hormones to be released in the body. It is these stress hormones released in the bloodstream that build up over time which in turn cause a person to experience a panic attack.
Unfortunately, once a person experiences a panic attack they often become afraid of experiencing another panic attack and thus avoid doing certain activities or going to public places that they have associated the panic attack with. Conditions such as Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) can then be developed as a result.
Regardless of all of the above, the most important thing to remember is that however intense and debilitating a panic attack feels they cannot hurt you and can be overcome.
Here are some tips to help deal with panic attacks:
Slow your breathing down: People can often hyperventilate during a panic attack. By learning to slow your breathing down you can help stop the physical symptoms and reduce the panic.
Remember the facts: Tell yourself that the evidence doesn't lie. All a panic attack is is a strong feeling of anxiety and panic. It can't hurt you. It may last a minute or it may last an hour but it WILL pass and you will be ok. Statements like this can help reduce the panic and make you feel calmer. You may have to keep saying the statements to yourself before they start to work.
Distract yourself. Take your mind of the fearful thoughts you are experiencing. If you've ever had an attack before you'll know that you always get through them. This understanding can help you relax and focus your mind elsewhere. Think of a favorite musical song or a good film scene. Anything to take your mind away from your negative thoughts.
Challenge fearful (trigger) thoughts. This can take some practice but the habit of observing and changing unwanted negative thoughts that pop up just before you have a panic attack is essential to eliminating them for good. The next time you start to feel like you are going to have a panic attack observe your thought patterns. What are you thinking? How can you change your thoughts? An example would be:
Oh my god, I'm having another attack! Stop. Change the thought to It's ok if I have an attack. I know that an attack can't hurt me. I will be ok.
By changing the thought as soon as possible you stand a good chance of reducing your anxiety and can even stop the panic attack. This practice is called CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) and is often used by mental health practitioners in helping people overcome anxiety.
If you are interested in learning about more panic attack symptoms experienced by individuals please leave a comment below and we will be more than happy to provide you with more information.