What is a Panic Attack?
In a panic attack, you feel a lot of fear, worry, or dread all at once. These episodes are too much to handle, and they show up in both mental and physical ways. During a panic episode, you might find it hard to breathe, start sweating profusely, tremble, and feel like your heart is beating fast.
A person having a panic attack may also feel removed from reality or themselves in addition to these physical symptoms. They might also feel pain in their chest, which could make them think they are having a heart attack. In some cases, the feeling might be like the signs of a stroke. When a panic attack starts quickly, it can be very scary.
What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?
People often have trouble catching their breath during a panic attack. This leaves them feeling out of breath and causes them to sweat a lot and tremble or shake. Some people may feel like they are choking and have chest pain that can look like the signs of a heart attack. Along with dizziness or fainting, digestive problems like nausea and stomach pain may also happen.
A lot of people say that their limbs feel numb or tingly, and some say they feel disconnected from themselves or reality. During panic attacks, people may have a strong fear of losing control or dying, which makes the experience even more upsetting. Panic attacks are not life-threatening, even though they can be scary. The symptoms usually go away in a few minutes.
12 Ways on How to Stop a Panic Attack
You can try these 12 things to stop or better handle your panic attacks. Different kinds may help you at other times and in different ways.
1. Help yourself by getting counseling.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other treatment types can help people with panic attacks. They want to change how you think about and deal with harsh conditions. Some study shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also change the neural pathways linked to panic symptoms.
Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), can help people with panic attacks deal with their symptoms. That being said, they are usually only suggested for short-term crisis use because they can lead to dependence. In some situations, antidepressants or seizure medicines may be prescribed to help with long-term anxiety.
3. Acknowledge the Attack.
Realizing that you’re having a panic attack and not something life-threatening can help you stay calm and remember that the attack will pass.
4. Deep Breathing.
Deep breathing with the diaphragm can help calm panic attacks. Pay attention to taking slow, deep breaths through your nose. Let your chest and belly fill up with air, and then slowly let the air out through your mouth.
5. Close Your Eyes.
If you’re in a busy place with a panic attack, closing your eyes can help you focus on breathing by blocking out other senses.
6. Practice Mindfulness.
Meditation and other mindfulness practices can help you stay in the moment and feel less disconnected during a panic attack. To relieve stress and encourage relaxation, this method includes focusing on the present moment, being aware of your emotional state, and meditating.
7. Find a Focus Object.
Pay close attention to a single, transparent object during a panic attack. Briefly describe the object’s features, like color, shape, and size. Keeping your watch on this object can help ease the signs of panic.
8. Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques.
Muscle relaxation techniques can help you rest and feel less tense. If you want to relax your body, try progressive muscle relaxing, which works on one group of muscles at a time.
9. Picture Your Happy Place.
Imagine a peaceful, calming place as you use guided imagery methods. Visualizations like these can help lower worry and anxiety. Choose a quiet place to do your mental images.
10. Engage in Light Exercise.
Regular exercise can help keep your body healthy and calm you down. Before you start an exercise plan, especially if you’re not used to being active, talk to your doctor. Build up your exercise routine slowly, and do things that won’t make you anxious, like walks, swimming, or yoga.
11. Keep Lavender On Hand.
Lavender is a traditional medicine known to help relieve stress and calm people down. Using products with lavender essential oil that has been diluted may help you deal with your nervousness. Before using essential oils, talk to a doctor or nurse and ensure the product is good quality.
12. Talk with Someone.
Talking about your panic attack with a friend, family member, or coworker can help you feel less alone and less stressed. It would be best if you told trustworthy people that you often have panic attacks so that they can help you when you need it.
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Tips and Strategies on Managing your Panic Attacks
Panic Attacks (Panic Disorder) Facts
Panic Attacks Overview
Panic attacks are sudden, overwhelming fear or distress. Panic disorder, an anxiety disorder, is characterized by them. Panic attacks:
Panic attack definition: A panic attack is a sudden, intense fear or discomfort that lasts minutes. Physical and psychological symptoms are common.
Panic Attack Symptoms (Physical)
- Panic attacks can cause a rapid or pounding heartbeat.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Shortness of breath, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Nausea or stomach discomfort.
- And choking.
Duration and Frequency
Panic attacks peak within minutes and subside within 20-30 minutes. Some panic attacks last longer. Panic attacks occur frequently in people with panic disorder.
Panic Disorder Triggers
Panic attacks can occur without warning. They can also be triggered by crowded, enclosed, or anxiety-inducing situations.
Impact on Daily Life
Panic attacks can significantly impact a person’s daily life and functioning. Fear of experiencing another attack can lead to avoidance behaviors, which may limit social activities, work, or travel. Over time, this can contribute to feelings of isolation and anxiety about possibly having a panic attack in public.
Panic Attack Treatment
Effective treatment options are available for panic attacks and panic disorder. These may include therapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals understand and manage their panic symptoms, and medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can help reduce anxiety.
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Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder Statistics
- Panic attacks are experienced by approximately 2-3% of the population. Panic disorder, characterized by recurrent panic attacks, affects around 2-6% of adults.
- Age: Typically, panic attacks emerge between 20 and 30, although they can manifest at any stage of life, including childhood and adulthood.
- Gender: Panic disorder is more prevalent among women, occurring twice as often as men. Biological, hormonal, and socio-cultural factors may influence the higher incidence in women.
- Co-occurrence: Panic attacks commonly coexist with other mental health conditions. Roughly 60-70% of individuals diagnosed with panic disorder also experience major depression, and many may have additional anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety or social anxiety disorder.
Estimated percentage of people that experiences panic attacks.
Source: National Institute on Mental Health
people with panic disorder also have major depression and other anxiety disorders like generalized or social anxiety.
Source: National Institute on Mental Health
20-30 yrs Old
Panic attacks usually start between 20 and 30. They can develop at any age, including childhood and adulthood.
Source: National Institute on Mental Health
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What Causes Panic Attacks?
There are many things that can cause panic attacks, and the exact cause may be different for each person. Here are some common things that play a role:
- Stress: Being under a lot of stress at work, with relationships, or because of changes in your life can make you more likely to have a panic attack.
- Genetics: Having a history of panic disorders or worry in your family can make you more likely to have a panic attack.
- Neurochemical imbalances: When chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain don’t work right, it may lead to panic attacks.
- Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, like hypertension or heart problems, can cause panic attacks because of how they affect the body.
- Using drugs or alcohol: Using drugs or alcohol, or even just wanting to stop using certain drugs or alcohol, can cause panic attacks.
- Trauma: Panic attacks and other anxiety disorders can be made worse by traumatic events or a past of abuse.
- Phobia: People who have a certain phobia can have panic attacks when they are in situations or see things that make them feel very scared.
- Major life changes: Moving, changing jobs, or losing a loved one are all big events that can make you more likely to have a panic attack.
How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack?
It can be helpful and comforting to help someone who is having a panic attack. To help them, do the following:
- Stay Calm: It’s crucial to remain calm yourself. Panic attacks can be very frightening for the person experiencing them, and your calm demeanor can help them feel safer.
- Reassure Them: Gently let the person know that you are there to help and support them. You might say something like, “I’m here for you, and I’ll help you through this.”
- Encourage Slow Breathing: Panic attacks often involve rapid, shallow breathing. Encourage the person to take slow, deep breaths. You can suggest they breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, and then exhale for a count of four. This can help regulate their breathing.
- Maintain Personal Space: Ensure the person has enough personal space and isn’t feeling crowded, as crowded spaces can exacerbate panic attacks.
- Use Grounding Techniques: Help them ground themselves in the present. You can ask them to describe the surroundings, count objects in the room, or touch and describe the textures of nearby objects. This can help divert their focus away from the panic.
- Offer a Glass of Water: Sipping cold water can sometimes help calm a person during a panic attack. Avoid giving them any stimulants like caffeine or sugary drinks.
- Avoid Judgment: Be non-judgmental and understanding. Avoid saying things like, “Just relax” or “It’s all in your head.” Instead, acknowledge their feelings and validate their experience.
- Be Patient: Panic attacks typically peak and then subside. It may take some time. Be patient and provide continuous support.
- Keep Conversations Simple: Avoid complex or deep conversations during a panic attack. Simple, reassuring statements can be more helpful.
- Offer to Help with Breathing Exercises: If the person is willing, you can guide them through breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques.
- Respect Their Wishes: Some people prefer to be alone during a panic attack, while others may want your company. Respect their wishes and let them take the lead on how they’d like you to help.
- Offer to Seek Professional Help: If the person experiences frequent or severe panic attacks, it may be helpful to suggest seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist.
- Follow Up: After the panic attack has subsided, check in with them later to see how they’re feeling and if they need further support.
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How To Stop A Panic Attack In Public?
Stopping a panic attack in a public setting can be challenging, but there are techniques you can use to manage the situation and reduce its intensity. Here’s what you can do:
- Find a Safe Space: If possible, locate a quiet, less crowded area with some privacy. This could be a restroom, a secluded corner, or even stepping outside for fresh air.
- Practice Deep Breathing: Focus on your breathing and take slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. This can help regulate your breathing and calm your body.
- Ground Yourself: Engage your senses to ground yourself in the present moment. Identify and focus on specific objects or sensations around you. Describe them in your mind to divert your attention from the panic.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Replace negative thoughts with positive and reassuring statements. Remind yourself that the panic attack is temporary and that you have successfully coped with similar situations.
- Use Visualization: Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a calm and safe environment. Visualize a place that brings you comfort and peace. Concentrate on the details and sensations associated with that place.
- Seek Support: If you feel comfortable, contact a trusted friend, family member, or someone nearby. Let them know you’re experiencing a panic attack, and would appreciate their presence or assistance.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Remember that panic attacks are a natural response, and you’re not alone in experiencing them. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you’re doing your best in managing the situation.
- Utilize Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery to help calm your body and mind.
- Use Medication if Prescribed: If you have medication prescribed for panic attacks, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Take the medication as prescribed to help alleviate symptoms.
- Consider Professional Help: If panic attacks in public settings are recurring, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. They can provide you with strategies tailored to your specific needs.
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Panic Attack Treatment
The treatment of panic attacks typically involves a combination of therapeutic approaches and, in some cases, medications. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a highly effective form of therapy for panic attacks. It helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to panic. Through CBT, you can learn coping strategies and relaxation techniques.
- Exposure Therapy: This CBT-based approach exposes individuals to the situations or objects that trigger panic attacks gradually. Over time, this desensitizes them and reduces their fear.
- Medications: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to manage panic attacks. These can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, or other anti-anxiety medications. Medication is typically considered for severe or chronic cases.
- Relaxation Techniques: Practicing relaxation methods like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help manage panic attack symptoms in the moment.
- Lifestyle Changes: Reducing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake, improving sleep patterns, and regular physical activity can help prevent panic attacks.
- Support Groups: Joining a support group for people who experience panic attacks can provide a sense of community and shared coping strategies.
- Biofeedback: This technique allows individuals to monitor their physiological responses and learn to control them. It can be a valuable tool for managing panic attacks.
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At We Level Up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a comprehensive mental health center, a range of essential services are offered to support individuals in their mental health journey. These services may include:
- Diagnostic Assessments: Conduct thorough evaluations and assessments to accurately diagnose mental health conditions and understand each individual’s unique needs.
- Individual Therapy: Individual therapy sessions with licensed and experienced mental health professionals. These sessions allow individuals to explore their concerns, gain insight, and develop coping strategies specific to their circumstances.
- Group Therapy: Offering group therapy sessions that bring together individuals with similar challenges to share experiences, provide mutual support, and learn from one another under the guidance of a trained therapist.
- Medication Management: Collaborating with psychiatrists or medical professionals to provide medication evaluation, prescription, and ongoing monitoring for individuals who may benefit from psychotropic medications.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Utilizing CBT techniques to help individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns, behaviors, and beliefs contributing to their mental health challenges.
- Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Incorporating mindfulness-based practices, such as mindfulness meditation or mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), to enhance self-awareness, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
- Psychoeducation: Providing educational resources and information to help individuals better understand their mental health conditions, including symptoms, causes, and available treatment options.
- Family Therapy: Engaging family members in therapy sessions to address relational dynamics, enhance communication, and support the overall well-being of the individual and their loved ones.
- Crisis Intervention and Support: Offering immediate support and intervention for individuals experiencing mental health crises, ensuring their safety, and connecting them to appropriate resources.
- Holistic Approaches: Integrating complementary therapies and approaches, such as art therapy, music therapy, yoga, or exercise programs, to promote overall well-being and support the mind-body connection.
- Supportive Environment: Creating a safe and non-judgmental space where individuals feel heard, respected, and supported throughout their mental health journey.
- Continuing Care and Follow-up: Providing ongoing support, follow-up care, and relapse prevention strategies to ensure sustained progress and address emerging needs or challenges.
How To Stop A Panic Attack Popular FAQs
How To Stop A Panic Attack Fast?
To stop a panic attack quickly, try deep breathing exercises, challenge negative thoughts, practice grounding techniques, and seek a calm and safe environment.
How long does a panic attack last?
The duration of a panic attack can vary from person to person and from one episode to another. Typically, a panic attack lasts for a relatively short period of time, typically peaking within 10 to 20 minutes. However, some panic attacks can be briefer, lasting just a few minutes, while others might last longer, up to an hour or more in some cases.
What are the best medication for panic attacks and anxiety?
To manage waves of panic attacks, focus on deep breathing and relaxation exercises, challenge negative thought patterns, use grounding techniques, and seek support from trusted individuals or professionals. Developing coping strategies tailored to your needs can also be beneficial.
How To Stop A Panic Attack? 8 Steps & Tips for Maintaining Your Mental Wellbeing
At We Level Up FL, we are dedicated to providing individualized mental health services tailored to meet each person’s unique needs. Our organization is deeply rooted in extensive research and a profound understanding of the complexities of mental health. With a collaborative approach, our team works closely to develop personalized therapy programs to address the specific challenges and goals of every individual we can assist.
Our unwavering commitment lies in offering empathetic support and guidance throughout the therapeutic journey. We firmly believe in empowering individuals to take charge of their mental health and make meaningful progress toward improved overall well-being. Our customized approach aims to create a safe and nurturing environment where individuals can explore their experiences, develop coping strategies, and foster personal growth.
At We Level Up FL, we recognize the importance of an individualized approach to mental health care. We strive to build a strong therapeutic alliance with each client, working collaboratively to identify their strengths and growth areas. By tailoring our interventions and treatment plans, we aim to optimize outcomes and support individuals in achieving lasting positive change.
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