Yesterday a good friend called me, she was breathing fast, crying and kept asking what was going on with her. She went to the emergency department because she felt like she was having a heart attack. She reported sweating, racing heart, not being able to catch her breath, and felt as if she was going to faint. I could hear the fear in her voice between her heavy breathes. My goal was to assured her that she was going to be fine. I ask her to slow her breathes by exhaling in and out at a slower pace. She made it the the emergency department safely and I asked her to call me as soon as she was told what was going on. My good friend called me back hours later and stated that her heart is fine. She was not having a heart attack after all but was having a panic attack. I was happy to hear that my friend is physically well. My dear friend is now afraid that she will have another attack as she never wants to relive that traumatic experience.
Fortunately panic attacks are the easier to treated when comparing them to anxiety disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This isn’t to say that if you have a panic attack you have an anxiety disorder. Anyone can have a panic attack, children, adults, elders, even animals. In fact no one truly knows the scientific reasons behind why they exist. A report from Psychology Today says that one million americans are affected by panic attack symptoms each month.
What causes panic attacks?
No one truly knows what causes panic attacks. Panic attacks are known to just happen without any particular cause and/or warning. They can occur when you are happy, when you are asleep, relaxed or when you experience a stressful situation. Reoccurring panic attacks are often triggered by a specific situations and improves with Psychotherapy such a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At times it may be helpful to meet with a doctor to discuss medication options. For those dealing with anxiety from normal stressful situations and occasional panic attacks self help techniques such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness can be applied in your daily life to reduce symptoms. Online support groups is another excellent resource for support.
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
Feeling like you are hyperventilating
Racing heart beat, feeling faint
Feeling like you can’t catch your breath
Heaviness in the chess
Overwhelming fear feeling as if you are losing control
Tingling in the arms, hands and feet.
How long dose a panic attacks last?
A full blown panic attack usually last several minutes up to10 minutes.
How can I stop a panic attack when having one?
The AWARE technique
Accept the panic attack, don’t fight it, the more you try to fight it the more anxious you will become. Let it be- your goal is to get through these few minutes of feeling terrible.
Watch the panic attack, observer what is happening to your body, what you are doing and how you are responding to whats going on.
Act normal like nothing has changed. Breath as normal as you can, remain calm.
Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3. Continue to complete steps until you feel the panic attack fading.
Expect the best results. Practice often, you don’t have to wait until you experience a panic attack to apply the AWARE technique, you can apply it to everyday symptoms of anxiety.
This is a video from youtube explaining how to apply the AWARE technique by Helen Back.
Remember anxiety is part of our everyday emotions. We are bound to feel overwhelmed and anxious from time to time. One million americans experience panic attacks each month, even more experience daily symptoms of anxiety. There are many self help options available over the internet. Self help techniques such as Award, mindfulness, meditation practices, yoga, and supports groups are a great options to explore for reducing stress.