How does one stop panic attacks? Panic attack symptoms can include a variety of unpleasant things starting with an overwhelming sense of fear. In this case, we are talking about irrational fear, though there will be physical and emotional causes to the terror that may stretch back in time, sometimes to childhood.
In any event, a rapid heart beat, chest pains, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, sweat and chills, abdominal pains, nausea, clammy palms, dry mouth, dizziness, light-headedness, a sense of unreality, a belief one is going to die or is having a heart attack, and so on are commonly possible (or some combination).
One should also note that panic attacks should be distinguished from other unpleasant conditions like heart attacks!
But assuming those distinctions from other conditions, let’s discuss what to do during an attack and then between attacks.
I. What to do during an attack
a. Especially at first, learn to breath for panic attacks: slowly and deeply. This will usually cut down on the dizziness, light-headedness, and some other panic symptoms.
b. Some drugs or herbs like Kava Kava or homeopathic remedies can have a quick calming effect, depending on the substance. Of course if you are on some prescription drug, talk to your doctor first about possible complications if you are considering taking drugs and natural substances for panic attack. Avoid alcohol.
c. Distractions like music or talking or physical activity, especially if done before onset of the peak of panic, can be effective. In other words, if you feel your anxiety level rising, do something about it earlier rather than later. Distractions by themselves in one sense merely serve to delay confronting an inevitable problem, but physical exercise and music can also improve mood in altering brain chemistry. Or depending on what is talked about, one can reduce unnecessary irrational “what if” thoughts.
d. Confront the giant fear. One’s thoughts in a panic tend to the “What if … bad thing” sort. But what if one could face the monster that makes you fear? Here we are not considering real and imminent danger, but rather facing what normal people face without much trouble because its reasonable to do so.
That may be something one can only do with help and maybe counseling, but it does work. And if one cannot face the whole thing, perhaps one can face a small piece of it. Can you accept a small “bad thing” as something you can live with? There’s a victory.
II. What to do between attacks
a. Practice a healthy lifestyle. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar (especially if you are asthmatic), and illicit drugs. Eat a proper diet, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, do Yoga, limit time vegetating in front of entertainment media, practice an enjoyable and healthy hobby. Practice slow and abdominal breathing exercises. Depending on your circumstances, you may consider a less stressful job or less toxic living environment or counseling regarding some personal relationship(s). Pray regularly if you are into that. Exercise gratitude (as long as you mean it). Lifestyle issues do have their effects on your anxiety and well-being.
b. Learn and practice the techniques of Panic Away to cut general anxiety and the fear of having another panic attack.
c. Keep an emotional journal. Look for irrational patterns and faulty assumptions in your thinking. Identify your fears. Make rational counter-arguments. Take special note of what helps.
d. Consider professional therapy. This may depend on your insurance and finances, but there is a time for this, especially if you are burdened with a past dramatic emotional trauma like the loss of a parent or an close encounter with violence or if your anxiety is getting in the way of living in a significant way. Look for cognitive behavior therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, exposure therapy or the like.
Emotion Freedom Technique can potentially be done independently, and the Linden Method offers a year of phone/email counseling for less money than a cognitive behavior therapist. (A version of the Linden Method is also available for children.)
Therapy that is effective for anxiety and panic attacks should not take an endless number of sessions, but it should require some discipline and progress from you … with supervision and encouragement. Panic attacks can be stopped.
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