Have you ever had this feeling that you can’t breathe and your heart is racing really fast? Your hands and feet begin to sweat, you tremble with the fear of death and you feel completely helpless. Well, this could be the situation when you are having a panic attack.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, in the U.S. 6 million people suffer from panic attack once a year. One out of four people experience panic attack once in their lifetime; whereas, one out of 20 people are constantly fighting panic attacks. Women are twice more likely to develop this disorder than men. Half of the population develops it before the age of 24.
Those who have never experienced panic attack must be wondering what it is? Panic attack is an intense feeling of apprehension or fear which occurs without the presence of actual danger. The situation becomes quite debilitating and often results in anxiety. Following are some of the common symptoms of panic attacks, these symptoms may vary from person to person:
· Shortness of breath
· Irregular heartbeat
· Lightheadedness and dizziness
· Nausea and choking sensations
· Sweating and shaking
· Weakness and fatigue
· Heartburn and chest pain
· Muscle spasms
· Sudden chills or hot flashes
· Tingling sensations in your extremities
. A fear of going crazy
. A fear death or serious illness
What are the causes of panic attacks?
There are a number of causes that lead to panic attacks. It can be inherited e.g. if someone from your parents or grandparents have this disorder than you are also at a risk of developing this disorder.
Traumatic life incidences also contribute to the occurrence of panic attacks. It is also associated with the thinking pattern of an individual i.e. pessimistic approach may also lead to panic attacks. There are some other biological factors that play a part in developing such conditions. However, what exactly triggers a panic attack is unknown and many scientific investigations are being made on this subject.
One such study that has been conducted on humans and animals revealed that there are certain areas of the brain that are involved in causing panic attacks. A small structure called amygdala is responsible for coordinating fear response. In case of panic attacks abnormal activation of the amygdala takes place.
How to deal with the panic attacks?
Frequent occurrence of panic attacks can adversely affect your work life and your relationships. In fact it stops you from enjoying the pleasures of a quality life. Many people who suffer from panic disorder become afraid of leaving their houses and also fear showing in public, as a result they develop agoraphobia.
Good news is that panic attacks can be controlled.
Here are some steps you can follow:
Improve Your Self-esteem
The first step to prevent panic attack is to change your perception about yourself. Studies show that people with low self-esteem are more susceptible to develop mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Feeling of being worthless, loneliness and isolation are all those factors that can trigger panic attacks.
The best thing you can practice is that keep your self-esteem high. Never perceive yourself to be worthless. Have strong beliefs about yourself, which include love, acceptance and respect. Researches prove that building high self-esteem can help you out with conditions like panic disorder.
Overcome Negative Thoughts
Cognitive distortion also known as negative thinking is one of the major factors that can trigger anxiety and panic disorders. To achieve your goals and high self-esteem positive thinking is a must. Negative thinking can lead to feelings of loneliness, fear and hopelessness which ultimately result in panic disorder.
Focus on Self–care
Your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to take time out for yourself and your life feel out of balance. Indulge in some self-caring moments and regain the balance of your life. Take some time out of your day and focus on the physical, relational and spiritual aspects of life. Focus on your health issues and promote habits essential for physical well being. This would help you a great deal in controlling panic attacks.
Take proper Sleep
Sleep issues and anxiety usually go hand-in-hand. Most of the people with panic disorders also suffer from sleep disorders. Even if they get successful to fall asleep, it becomes difficult for them to stay asleep during the night. It is important to have a sound sleep in order to prevent panic attacks.
Stay away from Stress
Stress is one of the major factors that trigger anxiety and panic attacks. You can try some relaxing techniques to reduce stress. Fight-or –flight is one of the strategies that can help you manage stress. Exercise, yoga and meditation are also very helpful in reducing stress.
Try relaxing techniques
One of the common symptoms of panic attacks is heavy breathing, to calm yourself you can try these breathing and relaxing techniques. You can even try them when you are not having an attack.
Put your right hand on your upper-chest and the other hand over your diaphragm. Now breathe in through your nose and count till 5. Now breathe out slowly again from your nose. You can try this breathing exercise twice a day for 10 minutes as it will help you drop the frequency of the panic attacks.
You can also relax your muscles by following these techniques, lie down or sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and focus on your toes, now curl them and keep them curled for 5 seconds and then relax. Now bring your focus to your feet and try to contract all the muscles of your feet for 5 seconds and then relax. Now follow the same technique on every muscle individually, including calves, buttocks, thighs, chest, shoulder, stomach, fingers, hands, neck and arms.
Panic attacks can make you feel weak and fatigued, but do not let these panic attacks fool you. When you feel panic attack, do not retreat to your bed or couch, instead you can follow this:
Walking can be very relaxing in the state of panic attack. It helps to release endorphins in the brain which helps to reduce stress levels.
Yoga and stretching can be equally effective to cope with panic attacks and help you relax. Lie down on your back, now try to bring your right knee close to your chest and hold it there with your hands for 20 seconds, while breathing through your nose. Now repeat the process with your left knee.
Or stand straight, now bend forward and try to touch he ground with your finger tips. Stay in this position for 10 seconds, and then slowly move back to your standing position.
Join Support Group
Knowing that you are not alone in this situation gives you the courage to fight panic attacks. Your doctor or a therapist, even a friend can recommend you a support group. By joining a support group you can find out how other people are dealing with the same situation and you might find a solution to your problem.
Take a Therapist Advice
A therapist can help you to get to the root of the problem; he may also devise a plan for you to overcome it. You can ask your doctor to refer you a good therapist.