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How to cope with a panic attack | Psyche Guides

https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-manage-the-effects-of-a-panic-attack-in-four-steps

psyche.co

How to cope with a panic attack | Psyche Guides
A panic attack is a dramatic false alarm clanging in body and mind. Recognising this is the first step to dialling it down

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Experiencing Panic Attacks

Experiencing Panic Attacks
  • Around 15 to 30 percent of us experience a panic attack at least once in our lives, which is essentially our body’s emergency response system.
  • Symptoms include more blood being pumped into our muscles, narrow vision, faster breaths and auto-shutting of the digestive system.
  • Side-effects may include sweating and dizziness, and the commotion usually lasts a few minutes.
  • The body is now primed for a ‘fight or flight’ response, and if there is a real danger, a panic attack can be life-saving.

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Understanding The Panic Cycle

There are three reactions that the body produces when in the grip of a panic attack:

  1. Catastrophic or danger-oriented thoughts, which fuel the feeling of fear.
  2. Physical symptoms, like sudden racing of the heart.
  3. An urge to escape.

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Panic And The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) region of the brain is activated during a panic attack, and two opposing components get to work as needed:

  1. The Sympathetic Nervous System: Releases adrenaline and other hormones to help with the ‘fight or flight’ response.
  2. The Parasympathetic system: Calms the body and is mostly activated when one is relaxed.

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Breaking The Panic Attack Cycle

Being aware of your body’s response and trying to relax can help restore the balance to the autonomic nervous system **(ANS), allowing the parasympathetic system to come in the front.

One needs to understand that panic attacks, in general, are not dangerous but is an automatic response for your protection. It is our mind or the fear psychosis that can cause the real ‘panic’.

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Challenge Your Catastrophic Thoughts

Panic attacks can be false alarms in many cases.

The bad thoughts that one may have (“I am about to die!” or “I am going crazy!”) need to be challenged and replaced by rational thoughts like: I am having a stressful, emotional response to a problem, and this will be over in a few minutes.

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Breathing During Panic Attacks

Breathing deeply and consciously will help your parasympathetic nervous system to get into action. Slowing down your breath also relaxes you in general, and just 10 breaths per minute can minimize many fear-based symptoms.

It’s good to practice beforehand any breathing technique. For instance, the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness technique makes you breathe slowly while you pay attention to five sights, four things you can feel, three sounds, two smells and one taste.

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Panic Attacks: Resist The Urge To Escape

If you flee the place where you have a panic attack, the problem can penetrate deep inside you, leading to long term fear.

Staying in place makes us face our fears and understand that the thing we feared wasn’t what we imagined it to be. Remember that the panic attack will pass away in a few minutes.

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Risk Factors For Anxiety

  • Being female (women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than are men
  • Caving into societal pressures to be ‘nice’ or be a high achiever
  • Being a perfectionist
  • High reluctance to share feelings
  • Childhood trauma
  • Cumulative stress
  • Genetic predisposition

Tips For Treating Anxiety

  • Visit your primary care doctor. Your symptoms may be from another condition with similar symptoms.
  • Ensure your chosen mental health professional is well versed in cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves the active restructuring of anxious thoughts and behaviors.
  • Consider skipping the caffeine and other stimulants that may exacerbate anxiety.
  • Exercise. Research indicates that routine exercise wards off the development of panic-related disorders.
  • Remind yourself that it’s okay to be anxious—in fact, the more demand you put on yourself to not be anxious, the more stressed you become.
  • Recognize, identify and cope with your anxiety to stay in control.