No, you're not going crazy
A panic attack is an episode of intense fear that occurs suddenly and triggers extreme physical reactions even without any apparent cause or danger. These episodes can be excessively frightening and the first thing that you may think of is that you are losing control because no one around you seems to be aware of the impending doom you feel. You may also think that you are experiencing a heart attack, or if the episode is very severe, you may even think that you are dying.
A lot of people experience panic attacks once or twice in their lifetime which isn't something that usually needs to be addressed. However, if a stressful situation that you've been dealing with has ended and your panic attacks are recurrent, unexpected, and you are in constant fear of getting another episode, this may already be a sign that you are suffering from a condition known as panic disorder.
Yes, panic attacks are serious
Learn about it and find a treatment
Reduce Panic Attack Impact
Stressors As mentioned, most panic attacks happen in the presence of stressors. By reducing or totally eliminating these stressors, you are more likely to feel relaxed and forget about that panicky feeling. For instance, if your stressor is being around too many people, you can effectively reduce panic attacks by staying away from larger crowds. By avoiding the stressor on the long haul, you are guaranteed to reduce the incidence of attacks in the future.
Control Breathing Victims unconsciously perform fast and shallow breathing during an impending attack. Once hyperventilation sets in from fast breathing, the body then triggers other symptoms such as chest pains, increased heart rate, and tingling of the extremities among others. You do not have to suffer from these unwanted symptoms again. What you can do to eliminate symptoms is to execute breathing retraining. Train yourself to perform slow and deep breathing instead. Breathe in slowly for about five seconds, then hold your breath for the next two, and finally exhale for seven seconds long. The manner by which you breathe is important too. Always breathe in through your nose and then exhaled with pursed lips.
Meditation The good thing about meditation is that it is an activity that you can perform anywhere and at any time of day. Through the application of meditation techniques, you are helping your mind to be more focused. A focused mind is all that you need during a panic attack, as it will enable you to think rationally than act impulsively or based on your prevailing emotions. Meditation will help you in washing away all symptoms of panic so you can go back your previous state of normalcy.
Just Say No Caffeine from coffee and energy drinks as well as nicotine from tobacco products are categorized as stimulants. With increased consumption of these stimulants, you are more likely to suffer from exacerbated symptoms. By reducing the amount of caffeine or nicotine intake, your entire system becomes more relaxed, and thus will be more than able to cope more efficiently during a panic attack.
Desensitization Desensitization simply refers to the process of letting your body go through the panic attack experience. By repeated exposure from such a condition, your body will create mechanisms to cope up with efficiently in time. This approach may sound counter-productive when treating panic attacks, but this approach has proven itself to treat the condition for good. It is recommended that desensitization be performed with someone watching over you through and through.
Prescription Medication Prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and anti-depressants are the usual medications given to individuals who suffer from panic attacks. Although these drugs are effective in getting rid of symptoms, they do not target the cause of anxiety disorder. In addition, people who take them to control panic attacks can become highly dependent- something that can pose danger on the health and wellness of its users. Medications may only be used in combination with the treatments mentioned above. If possible, medications should only be taken when the symptoms from a panic attacks get very very bad. Patients should be aware that treating a panic attack will not rely on the consistency of taking meds, but will be based on one’s willingness to change habits and behaviors in the long term.
Medications and Behavior Therapy
Medications and Behavior Therapy are both known to be very effective in assisting patients with their condition, but of course usually one of them is preferred by most individuals suffering panic attacks.
Antidepressants and benzodiazepines may be both prescribed to patients, especially among those who have severe or frequent panic attacks. They enable victims to lead normal lives and perform daily routines as patients feel more confident that they have drugs that will help them in controlling a panic attack case.
Antidepressants used in the case of panic attack effectively relieve a patient of anxiety signs and symptoms. The most common antidepressants used in the control and management of panic attack are SSRIs. Prozac, Lexapro, and Zoloft are SSRIs that are given to individuals with panic attack as they are considered to be generally safe by the FDA. In terms of pharmacologic therapy, SSRIs are known to be the first line of treatment for people suffering from panic attacks.
SNRIs such as Effexor may also be used to eradicate the symptoms of panic attacks, but they are known to produce more side effects than SSRIs. Bear in mind that antidepressants only prevent symptoms from developing into a full-blown panic attack. It can only do so much as making the body feel more relaxed, thus reducing the likelihood that a panic attack develops. For immediate relief, benzodiazepines are highly recommended.
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Ativan perform functions that antidepressants cannot fulfill. They provide relief while the victim is suffering from a panic attack. Once the medication is taken, the level of anxiety effectively goes down to a near normal score. These medications are fast acting compared to antidepressants.
Patients who decide to take the pharmacologic approach need to be aware that most of these drugs are habit forming. This means that extended periods of intake may lead the patient to dependence. In addition, medications only guarantee to treat the symptoms, but not the cause of the problem. On the long haul, it is no practical to solely rely on medications. The benefits from antidepressants fade away when one stops its intake. Furthermore, the dosage of treatment may increase in time, thus patients run the risk of developing other problems as well.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps the patient with becoming aware of their panic attack- its causes, symptoms, and possible treatment regimen. You can go to a medical professional to learn about the intricacies of panic attack and follow recommendations to treat the symptoms as a whole. Learning may be under the expertise of a therapist or may be performed by yourself.
Patients are expected to cope easily from sudden panic attacks. The use of relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and meditation are all known to result in the elimination of the condition altogether. These coping mechanisms are more effective than steady intake of drugs and are considered to be safe too. Studies reveal that patients who decide to undergo behavior therapy are more likely to get cured at a faster rate than those who chose medications.
Behavior therapy is known to be the least expensive across all panic attack treatments. Ninety percent of patients who underwent behavior therapy reported zero recurrence of panic attacks after a 10 to 12 behavioral therapy session treatment plan.
Before you experience a panic attack, you’ll be able start to feel it coming. When you’re under stress and you feel like you’re about to have another episode of a panic attack, the first and best thing to do is to breathe and relax your muscles. When relaxing your muscles, make sure to tense the muscles in one area of your body for a couple of seconds first before releasing the tension and relaxing them. Remember, when it comes to relaxing, breathing is also an important factor. Make sure to take deep breaths and focus on the pace of your breathing.
Don’t Try to Escape– Mentioned earlier, one factor that can precipitate to a panic attack is that feeling that you’re stuck in a situation where there is no escape. If you feel like a similar situation is causing you these panic attacks, one helpful tip to stop the panic attacks would be to not run away from the situation itself. When you run away from the scene, it’s like your mind has registered the fact that the situation does indeed pose as a threat, which does not help at all. Instead of trying to flee, stay put where you are, relax, and breathe until you feel the panic swelling down. The panic response in your mind will then register or learn that the situation or the event is not causing you any stress.
Divert Your Attention– When you feel like you’re about to experience a panic attack, try to think of something else aside from that thing that is causing you a lot of pressure or stress. Sing your favorite song or think about a funny scene in a movie or television show that you just saw. Think of positive things that will divert your mind from the negative thoughts that are triggering your panic attack. Drinking a cold glass of water will also help. This step is one of the most helpful ways to stop a panic attack before it even starts.
Act Normal– The panic response in your body will feed off unnecessary or inconvenient actions that will only heighten your panic attack. Instead of doing something that will only affirm your body that you are indeed in panic, try to continue acting normal even when you’re feeling scared or stressed. Continue what you were doing and eventually your mind will feel at ease and will not register the stressful situation as a threat to your being.
Record the Previous Methods You’ve Used– Another helpful way to stop panic attacks is to keep track of the different methods or tricks that you’ve done to prevent or stop your panic attacks. Try to keep more than one notebook, and keep separate notebooks for your office, car, and home. Aside from tips, you can also include phone numbers of emergency hotlines or the number of a close friend or relative that can help in case the panic attack is more than what you can manage.