We would like to cover the topic of panic attacks and panic disorders today. Please join us in learning about how you can deal with these common issues safely and effectively.
What is Panic Disorder?
Panic attacks are relatively common for most Americans. The feelings are considered a sudden episode of intense fear or anxiety that often have physical reactions. While the causes of panic attacks an innumerable, most people may only have a couple of panic attacks in their lifetime. The Mayo Clinic mentions that most of the time, the problem goes away shortly after it occurs.
These attacks are sudden and are often frightening, with feelings of a heart attack or even believe that you may be dying. These are singular, quick experiences where your body is reacting to stress in an extreme way. However, what about sustained panic attacks?
Multiple sustained panic attacks over a long period of time are likely a panic disorder, and while it can affect your quality of life, they can be treated. There is a lot to learn about panic disorders, but we can guide you in what you should know.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
The symptoms of a panic disorder can vary depending on the intensity of the disorder. Generally, the condition seems to begin in the late teens or early adulthood, and women are more prone to panic disorder. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, some signs and symptoms of panic disorder include:
- Sudden and intense feelings of anxiety and fear
- Fear of being out of control or impending doom or death
- Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, dizziness, circulatory issues, chest and stomach pain, and nausea
- Escalating intrusive thoughts on when future panic attacks may occur
- Avoidance of locations where panic attacks have occurred
In many cases, the symptoms of panic disorder have similarities with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Like PTSD, panic attacks can be triggered. Also, like PTSD, the range of triggers for panic disorder can vary widely. Unfortunately, panic disorders can be mysterious like many aspects of the brain and how it controls how we view the world.
Professional counseling can help in treating panic disorder, but there are also additional steps you can take if you find yourself in the early moments of a panic attack.
Treating a Panic Attack As It Happens
The treatment of a panic attack as it occurs can help reduce the intensity of the attack and help you feel more safe and secure. Generally, if you are aware of the panic attack because you recognize the symptoms, you are already off to a good start in diminishing the hold of a panic attack on you.
Your first step should be to start the process of self-talk. Specifically, you should be speaking to yourself with positive affirmation and pointing out that this is just a temporary symptom in your rational mind. Self-talk is a rather surprising aspect of mental health that is not discussed enough. Specifically, avoid “what-if” questions. Keep your mind in the present.
There may be a tendency to try to escape the situation, but distracting yourself from the issue may not work. Your second step is to not fight the symptoms, but rather acknowledge them and repeat to yourself that they will pass.
Breathing exercises in the third step are important. A panic attack may cause you to breathe in a quick and shallow way. Instead, try to slow your breathing down and take controlled breaths. Start by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Placing a hand on your belly to feel the motion of your breathing may help you keep track of your breaths. A few minutes of this should be helpful in winding down.
In your fourth step, realize that a panic attack can create tension in the body. It would be wise to work out those tense spots by tensing and relaxing those muscles as best you can. The motion of the muscle should help loosen up those areas and reduce discomfort associated with a panic attack.
By this point, some of the more immediate symptoms of a panic attack should be reduced enough for you to think about what you need most. There are two paths here, based on your needs and how you process stress.
H.A.L.T. or Exercise
Depending on your personality and immediate needs, you have two sets of options.
H.A.L.T. is an acronym for Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness. Generally speaking, these four states can make anyone’s mood sour but can often have an undue-sized impact on panic attacks. If you recognize that you fit into any of these four categories during the process of dealing with panic attack symptoms, you should move to rectify that.
Hungry? Easy enough to have a snack. Pick something healthy but comforting to relieve the hunger and make yourself feel better. You’re never too old for the comfort of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Angry? Remove yourself from a situation or space that evokes your anger. Leave the room, take a walk, or engage in another outdoor activity. Separate yourself from any triggers.
Lonely? Take an opportunity to talk to someone you can trust. Even a simple phone call can be helpful. If it is safe to see someone, spend some time with them. Whether it is engaging in an activity or simply being in their presence, having someone around can really help.
Tired? Sometimes taking a nap when stressed out is a viable option. Again, it depends on your immediate feelings, but if fatigue has set in, there is no harm in catching a couple of hours of sleep midday if you can.
While H.A.L.T. helps in general, sometimes the power of a panic attack can be removed by taking away its energy. A great way to redirect the energy of a panic attack comes from exercise and physical activity. Expending energy through simple exercise and physical activity can help diminish the power of a panic attack over a person.
So, once you have dealt with the immediate physical symptoms of a panic attack and reinforced your moment in the present, your task should be to figure out what works best for you. Will you H.A.L.T. or exercise?
Dealing with Panic Disorder
Having a panic disorder means that you are prone to future panic attacks. This can be scary and raise your anxiety to the degree that you may find yourself triggering an attack during a down period.
So, how can you deal with the disorder in the long term? Generally, it involves mindfulness and, ideally, working with a professional. Having knowledge of the scope and symptoms of panic disorder will do a lot to put your mind at ease when you have a panic attack. Knowing that it is a glitch in your fight-or-flight response system can help you ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the response. Techniques such as H.A.L.T. and exercise to burn off energy that can feed a panic attack are also in your toolbox.
Much panic revolves around fears of the future, be it the anxiety of a potential catastrophe or unexpected consequences. One thing to do is change your mindset and understand that such fears are uncertain projections. Catastrophizing can be useful but in the right circumstances. If you find yourself going to the well of catastrophe over every occurrence, you will only trigger yourself.
Seek out ways to confront fears safely to reduce the hold of those fears over you. Making written affirmations of your power of mind over situations that send you into a spiral can also be good to have as needed.
However, your best option to manage long-term panic disorder is to work with a professional.
Seeking Professional Help
New Age Psychiatry offers licensed and certified psychiatric services through virtual telehealth appointments within the state of Florida. We understand the fear and anxiety that comes with panic disorder, and we will work hard to help you manage your condition.
New Age Psychiatry is a modern mental health service in Florida that approaches addiction and other mental health issues with compassion and forward-thinking techniques. New Age Psychiatry offers certified psychiatric services through telehealth appointments in Florida. Some of the highlights of the New Age Psychiatry approach include:
- Online Screening – We will begin with certified online screening to provide an overview of psychiatric care. We also offer a personalized, specific diagnosis through our psychiatric Telehealth services.
- Diagnosis, Recovery, & Treatment – Our full range of comprehensive psychiatric telehealth services can aid in treating a multitude of psychiatric illnesses and assist in the recovery process
- Telehealth Services – Our psychiatric telehealth services are available throughout the state of Florida and can assist you in psychiatric care through counseling and medication management