How to Deal With Panic AttacksArfaq Hussain
A panic attack can be one of the most frightening things that a person can experience. Unless you have personally experienced a panic attack, it can be difficult to imagine the intense fear and terror that accompany them.
Anyone can suffer from panic attacks, although they are more common in women than in men. Around 4% of the population will suffer panic attacks at any one time.
Most of the times, however, it is said that they can lead to the symptoms of anxiety where people find it scary and hard to come out from it. It can make people feel anxious, often finding themselves not being able to avoid situations. This can in the future develop into a panic disorder or even an anxiety disorder. Either of which is what we do not want to encounter.
Panic attacks manifest themselves in different ways. For some people, they are awoken from sleep with feelings of intense fears. For others, they can occur at random intervals such as when at work, travelling on public transport, shopping or even at home.
Some people can anticipate panic attacks – when entering situations where they know panic is more likely. This can be at the supermarket, cinema, in places they feel trapped, or when experiencing a period of high stress in their lives.
Some people may have occasional panic attacks but can continue living a next to normal life in spite of them, whereas other people suffer such severe and frequent panic attacks, that they can no longer work, be passengers in vehicles, cross bridges, and in severe cases they may even be unable to leave the house. It can be said that it can affect mental health quite significantly.
Symptoms of panic attacks vary from person to person, but the one thing they all share in common is the feeling of intense terror and fear. Some people may feel like they are dying, and sufferers have presented themselves at their doctor’s surgery or hospital emergency department, convinced they were suffering a heart attack and were seeking medical advice.
Other symptoms involve sweating, trembling, needing to use the toilet, feeling sick, agitation and a feeling of impending doom. The most common physical symptoms involve deep breathing and chest pain.
Dealing with panic attacks can be difficult, but with help, overcoming them is possible.
First, I would recommend trying to focus on your breathing and closing your eyes. You can say this is similar to breathing exercises and you’re not wrong. It is a coping technique which is often overlooked and doing it for 20 minutes can make a difference.
Some antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to also be effective against panic attacks. Beta-blockers may be prescribed, to calm the symptoms of a panic attack, such as the racing heart and surge in blood pressure. Benzodiazepines have been used to help sufferers cope with the symptoms of panic attacks, although these are now prescribed much less often due to the risk of addiction and dependence.
Psychological therapies are extremely efficient at combating panic attacks. Cognitive behaviour therapy is clinically proven to help sufferers learn to manage the thoughts and feelings that precede and accompany a panic attack and teaches techniques to help sufferers manage their symptoms.
Grounding techniques have been shown to be highly effective, with sufferers being encouraged to ‘ground themselves’ in the real-life situation, rather than fixating with the thoughts rushing through their mind. Grounding works on the basis of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Sufferers use their senses, smell, touch, sound, sight and taste, and will look for (for example) 5 things they can see. 4 things they can smell, 3 things they can taste etc. This helps to keep them ‘in the right mood and get their confidence back just from their 5 senses.