Panic attacks are the body’s reactions to an occurrence of deep fear even though there is no readily apparent source for those feelings. They are not only frightening for the person experience the attach, but they are also scary for anyone with the person at the time because most people don’t see an real danger and they don’t know what to do to help.
When a person has these attacks more than just a couple of times, they may have a panic disorder. These attacks are not psychosomatic or due to nerves or stress. They are real physiological events that can significantly impact a person’s life. The problem is that they occur at any time, day or night, in the middle of an important meeting or even driving.
No two people experiences panic attacks in the same way. In general, symptoms may include any combination of different physiological events such as a rapid pulse, trembling, hyperventilation, an overwhelming sense of peril, disaster or death, sweating and/or chills, headache, nausea, chest pain, trouble swallowing, and dizziness.
Many times the most devastating symptom is the resulting fear of having more panic attacks and no control over when or where they may occur. In fact, panic disorders often led to agoraphobia which is the fear of leaving home due to having no control over panic attacks
While the exact cause of panic disorders is not known, there are factors related to this medical condition. Major stressful events, thedeath of a loved one, a stressful job or other major life changes or traumatic events can trigger panic attacks. Genetics also plays a role.
The good news is that panic attacks are treatable. It’s important to get to a doctor not only for treatment, but to ensure that the symptoms are truly due to panic attacks and not some real health problem, for example a heart attack.
The doctor will ask lots of questions to help understand possible triggers or exacerbating elements, family history and such as caffeine use. Blood and perhaps other tests will be ordered to help assure a correct diagnosis.
If the doctor concludes that the symptoms are from panic attacks or a panic disorder, there are various treatments that will help. The primary treatment options include medication and counseling.
Following through with any treatment suggested by your primary care physician is critical to overcoming panic attacks. In addition, here are several tips to help control panic attacks when in public.
Slowing down your breathing is important to reaching a calmer state. Learn to be aware of your breathing because faster, shallower breaths are often one of the first symptoms of a panic attack.
Awareness of your breathing can help you start panic relieving exercises as quickly as possible to prevent a more serious attack. Imagine the lower part of your lungs and start to take some slow, deep breathing into that area. Be sure to breathe through your nose. Some people like to breathe out through their nose, others through their mouth. The important thing is that the exhale is as slow as the inhale.
While you are doing this, think of a place that you love to be, someplace where you feel safe and peaceful. Perhaps you are wiggling your toes in the sand as the waves wash up over your feet, or maybe you are snuggled up in a soft warm blanket enjoying your favorite book. If it's too hard to imagine this safe place, just count your breaths as you breathe in and out.
Have someone you can call and talk to when you notice a panic attack coming on. (If you are driving pull over first into a safe place to park for a few minutes.) Talk to the person about something you enjoy, positive things in your life, upcoming events.
Remember; at the same time be aware of your breathing. If you are able to share the panicked thoughts that triggered the panic attack with your friend, do so. This will help you work through the situation and the dysfunctional thinking that triggered the panic attack.
If you don’t have friend you can call, talk to yourself. Ask yourself is your thinking about the situation is helpful or harmful to you. If there is a specific situation that is causing you a great deal of stress, think about how you could get some help with the issue, or make a list of several positive steps that you could take to positively deal with the problem.
Along with following your doctor’s orders for medication and/or counseling, you will find that understanding your panic attack symptoms, calming breathing techniques and a positive support system will go a long way towards helping you control your panic attacks.