Coping with Panic Attacks
By Maryam Sheikh
Many people suffer from anxiety. This can manifest itself in sudden periods of extreme panic and physical bodily reactions known as panic attacks. In order to appropriately deal with and respond to panic attacks, it is integral to learn about their symptoms, triggers, and how to support yourself or someone else as they recover and navigate anxiety.
Signs of a panic attack
How do you know if someone is going through a panic attack? Some signs of panic attacks include dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, trembling or shaking, chills or hot flashes, and sweating. They can last from five minutes to half an hour.
Recovering after a panic attack
It is important to take care of yourself after a panic attack. As the anxiety subsides, try to focus on your surroundings and attempt to continue what you were doing before the attack. While recovering, practice controlled breathing by yourself or with someone nearby. If you are able to, speak to a loved one or trusted individual. Use positive self-talk and remind yourself that the anxiety will subside and that you are capable of overcoming obstacles. If it is helpful to speak with others that cope with similar struggles, consider seeking out support groups.
To help prevent future panic attacks, make sure you are taking measures to manage your anxiety and stress levels. You can do this by regularly exercising to release tension and improve mood. Additionally, you can practice regular breathing exercises; there are many apps (including the Calm App) that provide guided exercises. Make sure that you are managing your health by eating regular meals to stabilize blood sugar levels and avoiding caffeine, smoking, and alcohol as they can worsen panic attacks. Lastly, consider going to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as it can assist in identifying and changing negative thought patterns that can impact panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be triggered by different things. Each person experiences anxiety differently, but some factors that can contribute to panic attacks include stress, traumatic events, and changes in one’s life.
Supporting someone who is experiencing a panic attack
What can you do if a friend or loved one is having a panic attack? Firstly, stay with the person and remain calm. Offer to get them medicine if they usually take it and work through breathing with them. Importantly, do not make assumptions about their needs. Instead, ask them how they can be best supported. Being present and supportive can help reduce stress in stressful situations, prevent the situation from worsening, and can help provide control during a difficult time.
Supporting someone after a panic attack
It is important to support someone not only while they are experiencing a panic attack, but also afterwards. It is helpful to support them as they seek out help, whether that is through therapy, medication, or other means. Try your best not to panic when they panic; maintain calmness when they are facing waves of anxiety. Progress can be slow and is not always linear, so allow them to approach therapy at their own pace. Above all, remember to check in on them and remind them that they are loved and cared for.
NHS Inform. “How to deal with panic attacks.” https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/how-to-deal-with-panic-attacks.
HealthLink BC. “Helping Someone During a Panic Attack.” https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw53602.