How to Stop a Panic Attack
With all the stresses and strains of modern living, having a panic attack is the last thing you need.
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack you know how it feels. It comes on suddenly and is incredibly intense. You might believe you are having a heart attack. Your heart is racing so hard it feels like it will damage itself. Then the stomach churns, you feel faint. Are you dying? Here comes the sense of dread. Is everyone looking at you? You need to escape from this situation, which may have brought on the attack.
Once it’s over you start to fear the next attack, which creates a cycle of living in ‘fear of fear’ and adds to the sense of panic.
You need help!
Watch my YouTube video panic attacks:
What To Do
People who have had panic disorder for some time usually learn to recognise this ‘heart attack sensation’, and to control many of the symptoms.
Though it feels like it lasts forever, panic attacks can last up to one hour but normally last between five and twenty minutes. If panic attacks occur on a regular basis and begin to affect your everyday life, you may have, what is known as a panic disorder.
Thankfully panic attacks can be treated. Often it is just a matter of learning to recognise the symptoms. There are simple but effective techniques that can release you from these crippling effects of panic.
Caution – Is it Really a Panic Attack?
I’m not trying to frighten you but there are a few physical ailments and conditions that you need to check out with your Doctor before you diagnose yourself with having a ‘panic attack’.
- Mitral valve prolapse: This is when one of the heart valves does not close off properly. Easily mended
- Fast Heart Rate (Tachycardia): You need to have an ECG to check for any irregularities
- Hyperthyroidism: Makes your heart beat fast; you need a blood test
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): If the monitoring systems in your body realise that your blood sugar is low, everything speeds up to compensate; you need a blood test
- Stimulants: Anything that artificially increases the heart rate, such as too many coffees and energy drinks, illegal drugs or the use of amphetamines. Stop using and see if it helps.
- Changes in medication: Stopping a course of tablets suddenly can cause the body to malfunction. It’s best to reduce the amount over a few days. Discuss stopping with your GP/Doctor
- Running on empty: If you live in a constant state of flux, with high stress levels you may be suffering from adrenal failure which can trigger panic attacks. Needs treating.
- Depression: Can bring on panic attacks and may need treating.
So you’ve checked out all that with your Doctor?
Let’s start by taking a some facts ….
- At least one person in 10 experiences occasional panic attacks, which are usually triggered by a stressful event.
- In the UK, approximately one person in 100 has panic disorder.
- Most people first develop the disorder when they are in their twenties.
- The condition is approximately twice as common in women as it is in men.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times during their lifetime. It is a perfectly natural response, particularly when you are in a dangerous or stressful situation. However, for people with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur regularly and at any time. Panic disorder is where you have recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no obvious reason.
Are you someone who:
- Always looks on the black side, expecting the worse, someone who sees a half empty glass rather than half full?
- Are you always checking your body for signs of illness?
Flight or Fight
Our natural defence system against stress is our flight and fight response which is one of our most basic and primitive action and one of our most powerful. It’s meant to be powerful. It protects us from moving buses, falling trees and anything else that may come between us and life. This flight of fight response speeds up your heart, pumping adrenaline into your blood to get you ready to run for your life. Our poor bodies have not evolved as fast as our world, so while our brain is telling us to run, our bodies stand still.
The fight or flight response helps you either stand and cope with the danger, or run away from it. It’s normal and it’s natural. What makes a panic attack different, is there is no danger – it’s just the expectation or possibility of danger that’s triggering the panic attack – it could just be a passing split second thought that tells our body to run for the hills.
While some panic attacks can be attributed to a family history of panic attacks, or to a psychological disorder, they can also occur with no clear reason – just out of the blue.
Anxiety, or a feeling of unease, often happens before panic attacks. The feeling of unease can range from mild to severe, and can include feelings of worry and fear. Some people live with constant anxiety; they worry all the time but cannot put their finger on just what they are anxious about. It’s good to work on that, if this is you.
Here are some tips to reduce your anxiety levels, get you out of your bad mental health habits:
There are several different conditions that can cause severe anxiety. They include:
- Phobias: an extreme or irrational fear of an animal, object, place or situation
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): a long-term condition that causes excessive anxiety and worry relating to a variety of situations
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: a condition that has psychological and physical symptoms and caused by frightening or distressing events that may have happened to you or you have witnessed
Follow each of the latest advice links above for more info.
The number of panic attacks that you have will depend on the severity of your condition. Some people may have one or two attacks each month, while others may have several attacks a week. And although they can be very frightening and intense, they are not dangerous. A panic attack will not cause you any physical harm and it is unlikely that you will be admitted to hospital if you have one.
My 5 Step Plan for Managing Panic Attacks
If you are having panic attacks, follow this advice:
- Check with your GP/Doctor that it is not something more serious (see above)
- Follow the steps outlined in my infographic above to cut down on your overall anxiety levels
- Start to learn to calm down now, breathing or meditation, it’s no good trying this in the middle of attack. Try my 10 minute relaxation exercise (see my podcast link below to listen now.)
- Tell your friends and family what to do if you have a panic attack whilst with them
- Sign up for the course on Living Life to Full website. It’s free and research shows it actually works. Stick with it though, you have a lot of work to do.
Let me know how you get on or any other useful tips I can add here.
Further Advice and Help
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – advice from the NHS
- Relaxation exercise for ten minutes: Put your ear plugs in and close your eyes…ready?