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Panic attacks can be disturbing episodes in a person’s life. A panic attack is when a person experiences extreme feelings of terror for no apparent reason. They can happen anytime and anywhere and often occur with no warning. It can cause the person experiencing them to become paranoid about when their next panic attack might occur. They may also develop an aversion to places where they have had an attack. If a person experiences chronic panic attacks or a panic disorder, it can quickly start to affect every part of their life.
What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?
A panic attack can cause you to feel sudden and intense negative feelings. You might feel intense anxiety, terror, or dread. Becoming disoriented and unaware of your surroundings is also common. During a panic attack, you will likely have trouble focusing. This causes you to become overly alert to perceived danger, even if there is no danger present.
Physical symptoms include a rapid or irregular heart rate. You might experience shortness of breath as well. Sweating, dizziness, and trembling are also symptoms that may be experienced during a panic attack. You may feel like you are having a heart attack. Experiencing a panic attack can last anywhere from five minutes to over half an hour and can be extremely debilitating.
Is It a Panic Disorder?
Panic attacks can be a natural reaction to situations that are particularly stressful or dangerous. The average person might experience a few panic attacks in their lifetime. They will feel the emotional and physical symptoms, wait until they pass, and get back to normal fairly quickly. If you are experiencing recurring, unexpected panic attacks, you may be living with a panic disorder.
There are a few main factors that differentiate panic attacks from panic disorders. The first thing to consider is how often you are experiencing panic disorders without a known cause. The second factor to examine is if these panic attacks are affecting your life, even when you are not experiencing one. Living in constant fear of when you may experience the next panic attack or avoiding places or things because you are worried it will trigger a panic attack are concerning signs. If you experience panic attacks or anxiety about panic attacks often, you may want to seek advice from a medical professional or a mental health team.
Managing Panic Attacks
There are several things you can do to try to get ahead of panic attacks and panic disorders.
There are several things you can do for your physical and mental health that may help you manage feelings of panic and anxiety. Regular physical exercise can help you manage stress, relieve tension and balance your mood. You can also make sure that you are eating regular, healthy meals and getting enough sleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, as these can alter your mental state and trigger panic attacks. Working with a therapist trained in cognitive-behavioral or dialectical behavior therapies can provide useful tools as well.
Working Through It
There are many different things that may help you work through a panic attack. You will need to explore different options until you find something that works best to relax you. Here are a few options you can try next time you are experiencing the distress associated with a panic attack:
- Remember to breathe: Deep breathing exercises can help relax your body and mind during a panic attack. Practice breathing in deeply, holding it, and releasing your breath slowly.
- Count: Counting can help distract and refocus your brain. You can try counting slowly from one to twenty. You could also try something a little more challenging, like counting backward or in random intervals, such as by threes.
- Ground yourself: There are many grounding techniques you can try. You can catalog in your mind, one thing you can see, one thing you can touch, one thing you can smell, and one thing you can taste. By engaging your senses in this kind of activity, you will effectively ground yourself, which may help you pre-empt a panic attack.
After experiencing a panic attack, you will probably feel extremely drained and over-stimulated. It can take a big toll on your mental and physical capacities. Taking care of yourself after a panic attack can go a long way toward managing feelings of anxiety. Reducing the negative feelings you have and creating a positive space for you to recover is the best move you can make following a panic attack.
Remember to take things slowly, as pushing yourself too hard or letting yourself get overstimulated again will likely make your mental status worse. Get something to eat and drink, but avoid alcohol and caffeine. Panic attacks can be draining, so replenishing yourself can help you feel better more quickly. Reduce stimulation and do something that is comforting for you. You could curl up in a dimly lit room with a soft blanket and take a break, for example.
Panic attacks are terrifying experiences for the person facing them. They can quickly become very debilitating. At Alter Wellness Care, we understand that experiencing panic attacks has an extreme impact on every part of your life. Our team specializes in treating anxiety and panic disorders. We offer a variety of evidence-based therapies in conjunction with group resources and any necessary medical treatments, such as prescription medication therapies. Our compassionate team can help you understand the root causes of your anxieties and help you learn to cope with any challenges that come your way. Call Alter Wellness Care today at (866) 311-3510 for more information on how we can support you.