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How to deal with panic attacks?

If you experience panic attacks regularly, the debilitating symptoms can adversely impact your daily life. While feeling anxious about everyday problems is normal, if you routinely avoid situations due to your difficulty coping with anxiety, you may need additional help from a qualified therapist.

Learn more about panic attacks and how to cope with living with panic disorder.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder causes someone to feel frequent and unexpected anxiety and panic attacks. These attacks can make someone feel like they are losing control of a situation and are usually accompanied by waves of discomfort and fear.

Research is still being done on this disorder, but studies on how the brain and body interact with each other provide more insight into how to cope with panic disorder.

What is a Panic Attack?

Panic attack symptoms manifest rapidly. While the physical symptoms of a panic attack aren’t dangerous, they can be distressing to the person experiencing them. The physical sensations of unexpected panic attacks can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and can include:

  • Chest pains
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling extremities or numbness
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness and feeling faint
  • Hot flashes/chills
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Ringing ears
  • Choking sensations
  • Sudden urge to use the restroom

Someone having a panic attack may also feel like they’re having a heart attack or experience an impending sense of doom, even though no danger is present.

Experiencing an attack doesn’t mean you have a panic disorder, but having to deal with panic attacks more frequently can lead to other problems, like issues at school or work. Left untreated, the symptoms of a panic disorder can negatively affect your quality of life.

The Difference Between Panic and Anxiety Attacks

The term “panic attack” is used to identify people with panic disorder. However, people with other psychiatric disorders like anxiety also experience panic attacks. Anxiety disorders and panic attacks are closely linked, but while anxiety and panic attacks share some qualities, there are differences in the intensity and duration of the attacks.

The difference between an anxiety attack vs. panic attack is that anxiety attacks intensify over time and may cause sleep pattern disruptions, irritability, high startle responses, lack of focus, and muscle tension.

How to Cope With Panic Attacks?

If you have a panic attack, there are several simple techniques you can try to calm your mind and body, including:

  • Deep breathing: Rhythmic abdominal breathing can help regulate your heart rate and respiratory systems. Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, inflating your abdomen like a balloon. Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds, deflating your abdomen. It may help to close your eyes to focus on your breathing technique.
  • Block out excessive stimuli: Heightened sensory stimulation can be a trigger for your panic attack. If you feel an attack starting, try to remove or block out the causes of your sensory overload. Wear noise-canceling headphones, close your eyes, or move to another room.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a common CBT technique used to address anxiety symptoms. Panic attacks can cause you to dissociate or separate yourself from reality. Practicing mindfulness helps ground you in the present moment and prevents you from spiraling.

Focus on familiar physical sensations like how the breeze feels on your face or the texture of your shirt. This gives you a tangible sensation to focus on. You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation to help bring you into the present moment.

What Help is Available for Me?

Insight Therapy Solutions offers anxiety therapy to help you recognize your anxious feelings, thoughts, and actions to get back control of your mental health and life. If you or a family member is experiencing regular panic attacks, our clinicians can provide you with the strategies you need to help prevent a panic attack before it strikes and manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Book a free 15-minute consultation to use our clinician matchmaking service to find the ideal therapist for your mental health needs.

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