By Precious Nhliziyo, a Clinical Nurse at Claimont Health
Panic is an overwhelming, sudden sensation of fear, occurring suddenly and without warning. This intense surge of fear often appears for no apparent reason and can lead to panic attacks, which if not handled correctly, can have a serious negative impact on your quality of life.
So, what is a panic attack like? A panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear and has physical as well as emotional symptoms.
During panic attacks, there is a rapid build-up of physical symptoms which can include:
Panic attacks are unpleasant and can be frightening due to the intensity of the symptoms.
Nobody wants to experience panic attacks and you might find yourself avoiding situations you fear a panic attack may occur, but there are methods to help you to deal with them in a safe and sensible manner.
Coping with panic attacks can be difficult, but It’s important to be aware that the symptoms of a panic attack will not cause you any physical harm. Here are our best tips to cope with panic attacks that will help to aid you in managing and controlling them.
To cope with one, you must first recognise you’re having a panic attack. If you recognise you’re having a panic attack, you’re able to remind yourself that these feelings will pass and you will be okay.
By eliminating the fear that you may die or that impending doom is looming, both of which are symptoms of a panic attack, you can allow yourself to focus on other techniques that can bring you out of your current state.
Often, during a panic attack, people hyperventilate, meaning they take deeper breaths than normal resulting in feeling short of breath, consequently, this can cause a feeling of dizziness, disorientation and even chest pains.
Controlling your breathing will make you less likely to begin hyperventilating, in turn, helping you to calm the panic attack and control other uncomfortable symptoms that can arise following hyperventilation. By using breathing techniques, essentially, you can help decrease the symptoms you are facing and prevent a panic attack from worsening.
As you focus on your breathing, try to get a slower and steadier breathing rhythm by taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for a second and then breathe out for a count of four, feeling the air slowly fill your chest and then slowly leaving again.
Closing your eyes while focusing on your breathing can help to calm a panic attack.
Similarly to breathing techniques, muscle relaxation techniques can help to calm panic attacks by controlling your body’s automatic response. Start with something simple, for example the fingers in your hand, rather than clenching your hand into a fist, relax your hand, then slowly move your way up through your body, relaxing one muscle at a time.
Consciously relaxing your muscles will help you to shift your focus and have control over your body, helping you to manage your symptoms and stop your panic attack.
During a panic attack, your mind tends to race, often with very negative thoughts. For example, thinking about disaster or death, shifting your focus from these and concentrating your mind elsewhere can help to control a panic attack.
Some people find it helpful to shift their focus to a singular object, such as the clock ticking in the corner of the room, the colour, size and shape of the clock. By focusing your attention on a singular object, this should distract you from the panic, helping to ease your mind and body.
Panic attacks can cause a feeling of separation or detachment from reality, by practising mindfulness, you can help to combat your panic attack by bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
Mindfulness helps to ground you in the reality of what is around you. If you focus on the physical sensations which you are familiar with, for example feeling the texture of your clothes on your skin or your feet on the ground below; you will give you an object to focus on and ground you firmly in reality, this will help control the situation.
Although it’s not known what causes panic attacks, and often they occur without an apparent reason, different factors often play a role, the most prominent of which is stress. Panic attacks are often triggered by different factors depending on the individual, so it’s important to understand this so a necessary treatment solution can be put forward.
At Claimont Health, we specialise in treating mental disorders with extreme compassion and professionalism. Our team of highly trained consultants and therapists intently listen to you and offer the best advice and treatments you need to live a happy and fulfilling life. If you suffer from panic attacks, get in touch today and privately speak to one of our consultants to enter your road to recovery.