Important tips to help with panic attacks

If you suffer from panic attacks, keep reading to find out how these tips can help you deal with them.
Panic disorder is a very severe and debilitating condition. Perhaps it first started with sudden bouts of fear or anxiety, seemingly without a specific threat or cause. The symptoms may have progressed to a physical state in which your heart races and your body sweats. For some, it might escalate to avoidance of places or circumstances where panic attacks have previously occurred. It can become severe enough to make you feel uncomfortable in public, or doing everyday things like taking public transportation or grocery shopping.

Here are three backgrounder topics to help you understand panic attacks and how to treat them.

Important tips to help with panic attacks

Risk factors for panic disorder

You are more likely to have a panic disorder if you:

  • Are a female
  • Have a familial history of panic and anxiety attacks
  • Have previous history/experience of panic attacks

Common panic attack symptoms

You may experience common symptoms of extreme fear during a panic attack such as:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sense of terror, borderline fearing death

Possible panic attack treatments

Having panic attacks doesn’t necessarily mean you have a panic disorder. Some people can have one or a few attacks and never experience them again. However if you are seeing a pattern developing, consider the following options for treating panic attacks:

Psychotherapy. Also known as behaviour therapy, this method helps you understand where your panic comes from, whether these are indeed panic attacks or something else (like depression). Your therapist may help you recreate the attacks in a safer environment to detach the fear associated with each episode. Think of it as starting your computer in safe mode.

Medications. These are generally antidepressants and sedatives. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the most appropriate option once you are diagnosed and have tried a form of psychotherapy.

Lifestyle adjustments. Recurring panic attacks and panic disorder are complex conditions, still poorly understood. However, there are several lifestyle adjustments you can undertake to decrease anxiety:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine or drugs as these affect your nervous system
  • Exercise to relieve stress and anxiety
  • Practice stress management and relaxation techniques such as breathing
  • Join a support group – it is hard to not feel alone in this situation, but there are many others out there dealing with the exact same problem
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