Self-Help Strategies for Panic Attacks:
(Blog by Fouzia Fayaz)
How they happen. What is the difference between panic attacks, and panic disorder? What’s the conventional treatment? What are some self-help strategies?
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear or anxiety that can come on suddenly and often for no apparent reason. They can be very distressing and can cause a range of physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and stomach distress. People who experience panic attacks may also have feelings of impending doom or a sense that they are losing control.
What Causes panic attacks?
It is not fully understood why some people experience panic attacks and others do not, but it is believed that a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may play a role. Panic attacks can be triggered by a variety of factors, including stress, certain types of medical conditions, and the use of certain substances (such as caffeine or drugs).
What is the difference between panic attacks, and panic disorder?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by the occurrence of recurrent panic attacks. In addition to experiencing panic attacks, people with panic disorder may also have persistent concerns about having another attack and may avoid situations that they believe could trigger an attack. Panic disorder can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, as it can interfere with their ability to go to work, socialize, and engage in other activities.
Conventional treatment for panic disorder often includes a combination of medications (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or benzodiazepines) and therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy). The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and to help the person manage their anxiety.
What are some self-help strategies to come out of a panic attack, or to ease the discomfort during one?
Even though seeking help from a medical or behavioral health provider is crucial, if you or your loved one is experiencing such attacks, or have developed a fear of having recurrent panic attacks, there are several self-help strategies that can be helpful in managing panic attacks and panic disorder. These include:
Deep breathing exercises: When we are anxious or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can exacerbate the physical symptoms of a panic attack. By taking slow, deep breaths, we can help to regulate our heart rate and calm our body and mind.
Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, starting at the feet and working up to the head. This can help to release tension and reduce physical symptoms of panic.
Self-talk: Panic attacks, are an indication that your primitive part of the brain, which is responsible for survival, through fight and flight response, has gotten activated. Feeling panic when there is a true danger like a speeding car going in front of you, you see a wild animal, or you get caught in a fire, etc, is your body’s way of keeping you safe. But when there is no danger, this feeling of panic is a false alarm. So self-talk, by using words, and sentences to reassure yourself, saying, I am safe, this is just a false alarm, a feeling of dread, and it will pass, we learn to handle such feelings at that moment, through our mature brain.
Regular physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity can help to reduce stress and improve overall physical and mental health. Persistent physical activity done for more than 30 minutes can boost your body’s relaxing neurotransmitters like Serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
Adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall physical and mental health.
Stress management techniques: Techniques such as relaxation exercises (such as mindfulness meditation or yoga) or journaling can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety.
Seeking support: It can be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, to help manage panic attacks and panic disorder.
Staying Hydrated, and consuming healthy foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants, protein, complex carbs, omega-3 fatty acids, etc, can also boost our body’s natural relaxing abilities, thus maintaining a healthy mind/body.
It’s important to remember that panic attacks and panic disorders are treatable conditions. With the right strategies and support, seeking help through therapy, and. Medications may be needed at some point, it is possible to recover from panic attacks or panic disorder and live a full and fulfilling life.
AGSF, K. N., Pharm D. ,. M. Ed ,. CDP, BCGP. (2022, December 28). How To Use The 333 Rule For Managing Anxiety. Geriatric Academy. https://geriatricacademy.com/333-method-anxiety/
Panic attacks and panic disorder—Symptoms and causes—Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms