The ultimate guide on how to deal with panic attacks
Panic attacks have become a common occurrence for people, increasingly more so in the past couple of years. These attacks can be extremely devastating, both mentally and physically. And the worst thing is that it can hit you before you know what is happening. If you happen to be experiencing them on a regular basis, it may be in your best interest to search for the best online mental health counseling that is available to you. Professional assistance is invaluable when dealing with panic attacks, after all. But that is not the only thing that you may want to consider doing. If you want to know how to deal with panic attacks, you first need to understand them. In this article, we will explain what panic attacks are, what causes them, what the symptoms are, as well as how to try to prevent them from occurring in the first place, and how to deal with them after they do occur.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is basically an uncontrollable response that our brain has when faced with a scenario that heightens our fear and discomfort.
It can happen even where there is no apparent cause for fear, and many people might mistake it for a heart attack. Most people experience at least one panic attack during their lifetime. Some experience panic attacks on a regular basis, unfortunately. Some, on the other hand, have to deal with panic attacks on a daily basis.
If left unchecked, panic attacks can cause significant physical and mental harm. They may lead to avoidance of public places, people, or other essential activities. Panic attacks are also closely linked to anxiety disorders, as the best online CBT therapy for anxiety has good results when it comes to handling panic attacks. The important thing to note is that it is possible to handle and overcome panic attacks, given enough time and effort.
What causes panic attacks?
Unfortunately, to this date, it is still uncertain what exactly causes panic attacks to happen. That being said, panic attacks are usually connected to another mental condition. For example, people that have panic disorders, phobias, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), have higher chances of experiencing panic attacks. Another very common denominator is stress, as people under a great deal of stress are much more prone to having panic attacks.
A panic attack usually follows a specific “trigger”. This is unique to every person and can vary wildly between different people. Some of the most common triggers include:
- Public speaking
- Large social events
- Any sort of conflict
- Reminders of past or current stressful situations
Working with a therapist will help you identify your personal triggers. In some cases, you may even be able to benefit from interpersonal therapy. If your panic attacks are triggered by interpersonal relationships, this particular therapy has great effectiveness in stopping or controlling them.
Symptoms of a panic attack
To understand the symptoms, you first need to realize how panic attacks interfere with our body and mind. A panic attack triggers a heightened “fight or flight” response in our sympathetic nervous system. Since panic attacks may occur without any warning, the symptoms might manifest themselves after some time, usually about ten minutes. The symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
As you can see, a panic attack can “wreak havoc” inside your body. Our minds are capable of regulating every fiber of our being, after all. Another symptom that you may experience is fear from the panic attack itself. This is a warning sign that you may be developing (or have already developed) a panic disorder.
Luckily, panic attacks are not life-threatening on their own. But it sure does not look like that when you are experiencing one. Most commonly, people may mistake a panic attack for a heart attack, further fueling their fear. If you start to experience these panic attacks on a regular basis, your first step should be to look into one of the CBT online therapy companies that can provide you with assistance. A professional therapist will help you understand what is going on and help you prevent panic attacks in the first place. But there are also a few other things that you can do to prevent panic attacks.
Preventing panic attacks
First off, it is not always possible to prevent a panic attack from happening. That being said, you may want to incorporate some habits into your daily routine that might help. For example, you may want to start with breathing exercises, as well as with regular exercise. Following a diet that is low in added sugar may also avoid glucose spikes which may contribute to a panic attack. It is also advisable to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and high amounts of caffeine, as they are known to make anxiety worse.
For some people, simply avoiding the trigger will prevent a panic attack from happening. Unfortunately, avoidance might not be possible for everyone. If your trigger is work-related, you might want to consider changing your work environment, to ensure long-term mental health. What you can do is try to change your living conditions but this is also circumstantial. Nonetheless, avoiding triggers is one of the easiest ways of preventing a panic attack, if you can manage it.
But let’s say that you simply can’t prevent the panic attack from occurring. In that case, you need to figure out how to deal with panic attacks.
How to deal with panic attacks?
Before we get to the list of things that you can try, you first need to understand that everyone is different. Breathing exercises, for example, may work wonders for some people but be completely useless for others. With that in mind, here’s what you can try:
- Closing your eyes
- Practicing being mindful
- Muscle relaxation techniques
- “Happy place”
- Light exercise
- Internal mantra
Most people find that taking certain medications (Xanax, for example), helps a great deal in dealing with their panic attacks. However, these medications can lead to dependence and they are not a good substitute for treatment. That said, taking medications is a short-term solution in most cases. You will need to visit your doctor and have them prescribed, as all medications that help with panic disorders contain benzodiazepine. Furthermore, your doctor may prescribe other antidepressants such as SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), as well as various anti-anxiety drugs.
Closing your eyes
If your panic attack trigger is a visual stimulus, simply closing your eyes can help a great deal. Even if you are uncertain, try to close your eyes when you are facing a panic attack and observe the effects. When your eyes are closed, you will have an easier time focusing your thoughts, concentrating on your breathing, etc.
Practicing being mindful
Another great way to deal with panic attacks is to be as mindful as you can. Mindfulness involves recognizing your emotional state, focusing your attention on the present, as well as meditating to relax and reduce stress.
Obviously, being mindful is very hard to do when you’re in the grip of a panic attack. But it is far from impossible. What you want to do is focus on the sensations that you are familiar with. Try planting your feet firmly on the ground, feeling the texture of your clothes with your hands, etc. What you need is a “return to reality” and that is what being mindful is all about.
Muscle relaxation techniques
A panic attack usually tenses most of the muscles in your body. Therefore, you will want to utilize a few muscle relaxation techniques when facing it. In some cases, these techniques alone can help you stop the panic attack altogether. While there are many advantages of online counseling, you may want to find a therapist near you to guide you through the learning process. With your therapist, you will learn how to tense the muscles before releasing the tension, how to relax specific sets of muscles, as well as how to achieve “rapid relaxation”.
As with most things, practice makes perfect. If you devote some time to practicing these techniques, you may find that they are extremely effective when it comes to dealing with a panic attack.
All of us have our own concept of a happy place. When in throes of a panic attack, you can try to make a conscious effort to “go there”. Simply picture yourself in your happy place, trying to focus on as many details as possible. Guided imagery is really powerful and it can help you maintain control even when facing a panic attack.
Light exercise, according to research, is proven to reduce anxiety and, thus, help with panic attacks in most cases. However, if you have never exercised before, the act might trigger a panic attack on its own. You may want to consult with your doctor or therapist before starting to exercise. Alternatively, you may simply choose an alternative to exercise such as walking or swimming.
An internal mantra is something that you repeat to yourself over and over again. Many people utilize the power of mantra to “program” their brains into a more desirable state, but it can be used quite effectively in fighting a panic attack. Repeating the internal mantra, which can be as simple as “It will pass“, over and over again can be all that you need to overcome a panic attack.
Sometimes, all you may need is a bit of lavender. Lavender is a well-known, traditional, remedy that has the power to help some people with their stress issues. Lavender does not cause any withdrawal symptoms or dependencies, making it perfectly suitable even for long-term use. Products that contain lavender oil can be quite effective in managing or reducing anxiety and even panic attacks.
One thing to note is that these products are not regulated by the FDA. This means that you need to be extra careful when purchasing them. Always try to get your lavender oil from a reputable pharmacy if you can. Furthermore, you will not want to apply any concentrated oil directly on the skin, nor do you want to combine using lavender products with Xanax or any medications that contain benzodiazepine. In some cases, this combination can produce intense drowsiness, which may not be something that you want.
For most people, professional counseling is the only thing that can help them with their panic attacks. If you want the counseling to be effective, you will need to be able to recognize a bad therapist, choose the right therapy type, as well as understand what the therapy entails. For example, CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) involves changing the way you see particular situations. Its aim is to help you find new approaches to panic attack-inducing situations.
The main issue with therapy, however, is that it may be too expensive for most. Mental health is usually not covered by insurance, meaning that you will need to pay for it out of your own pocket. You can, however, find affordable online counseling these days. Depending on your specific needs, online counseling may be as effective as in-person therapy.
You can enroll in therapy sessions individually or as part of a group, both online and face-to-face. Exposure-based CBT is also an option, but it might be very difficult at first. In this particular modality, the goal is to expose you to a panic attack-inducing trigger and then help you deal with it. At the very least, therapy sessions will help you learn how to deal with panic attacks on your own.
Panic attacks can be extremely unpredictable and difficult to deal with. But if you take the necessary steps to lower the risk, learn how to deal with panic attacks, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, things will be better! Also, make sure to keep an eye on Consumer Opinion Guide, as we have many more tips on how to improve your mental health. We can also help you find some of the best online therapists. Visit our website and find the best online counseling solution for your needs.