A panic attack can be a terrifying experience, characterized by sudden and intense feelings of fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, and sweating. If you are prone to panic attacks or have experienced one in the past, it’s important to know what to do when it happens.
The symptoms of a panic attack can vary from person to person, but generally, include a sudden onset of intense fear or anxiety, a pounding or racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, and a feeling of impending doom. Some people may also experience chest pain, nausea, and dizziness. The physical symptoms can be so intense that people may go to the emergency room thinking they are having a heart attack. These episodes can be incredibly distressing and can make it difficult to function in daily life.
When a panic attack occurs, it’s important to remember that it will pass, even though it may feel overwhelming in the moment. The following strategies can help you to cope with a panic attack in the moment:
- Focus on your breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths can help to reduce feelings of panic and anxiety. Try inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and exhaling for a count of four. Repeat this process several times.
- Use grounding techniques. Grounding techniques, such as focusing on a specific object in your environment or repeating a calming word or phrase, can help to bring you back to the present moment and reduce feelings of panic.
- Use visualization. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful place, such as a beach or a forest. Focus on the details of this place and allow yourself to relax into the visualization.
- Distract yourself. If possible, try to engage in an activity that you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music. This can help to take your mind off of the panic attack and reduce feelings of anxiety.
It is also important to address the underlying causes of the attacks and develop strategies for preventing them in the future and this include:
- Identifying triggers. Keep a journal of your panic attacks, noting the date, time, and circumstances surrounding each episode. Over time, you may notice patterns or triggers that precede the attacks.
- Practicing relaxation techniques. Regularly practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and prevent panic attacks.
- Engaging in regular exercise. Regular exercise can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and improve overall physical and mental well-being.
- Seeking professional help. A doctor or mental health professional can help you to understand the causes of your panic attacks and develop a treatment plan, which may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
It is important to remember that panic attacks are a common experience and that you are not alone and that it is okay to reach out for help and support from friends, family, or a support group. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself and know that with time and effort, you can learn to manage and reduce the frequency of panic attacks.
About The Author
Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018.
Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get.