What to do in a panic attack
25th July, 2008
Panic attacks belong to a family of anxiety disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and Phobias. A panic attack occurs when a high level of anxiety causes adrenalin to produce severe symptoms reaching a peak in minutes.
Panic attack symptoms can include chest pains, nausea, breathlessness, pounding heartbeat, and even a fear of dying. The effects of panic attacks continue long after an attack, and sufferers live in fear of the next one. Panic attacks can seriously impact the way a person lives their life by limiting what they do or where they go as they attempt to avoid situations that trigger the attack.
We all experience fear or anxiety from time to time and often there is a real reason why we are afraid or anxious and we still feel in charge. However, when the fear or anxiety is triggered arbitrarily, the experience is sudden and overwhelming; the sufferer of the panic attack is so distressed they feel they are going to die.
What to do in a panic attack
During an attack you will probably be hyperventilating (breathing too fast and taking in more oxygen and less carbon dioxide). Begin to breathe from your diaphragm and not the chest. Place both hands under your ribs and take slow breaths in and slowly breathe out. Notice how your hands move in and out as you breathe.
2. Do anything to take your mind away from the source of the panic attack, for example:
• Splash water on your face
• Phone a friend and talk about anything of interest apart from your panic attacks.
• Think of something that has made you laugh
• Find a pen and paper and write a letter or a poem or compose a song
• Put your favourite dance music on and have a dance
• Switch on the radio and listen to your favourite program or music
The list is endless - but do something that will take your mind away from your panic attack.
When the panic attack is over, you will need to identify the underlying reason for your panic attacks, and stop them once and for all. Look for an experienced and professional counsellor or psychotherapist to help you uncover the cause of your anxiety.
Working with a professional counsellor in a relationship you can trust, in the safe and confidential setting of the counselling room, you can begin to explore what causes your panic attacks.
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