Many situations can contribute to panic attacks, even if you have never had one before. An attack can indicate underlying mental health concerns or prolonged stress that should be addressed. Even if you’ve had a panic attack before, feeling “prepared” for one is tough.
Is It a Panic Attack or Something More? The Signs and Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath;
- A choking sensation that can inhibit breathing;
- Chest pain, which may include a racing heart;
- Fear of danger;
- An intense need to escape the situation;
- Dizziness and nausea, which may impair balance.
When doctors formally diagnose a panic attack, they look for four or more of these symptoms. A panic attack commonly lasts for only a few minutes, but it can certainly feel like much longer. The possibility of more panic attacks can keep patients on edge and feed a cycle of fear.
How Can You Prevent Panic Attacks?
Some people experience panic attacks when they are exposed to the source of a phobia or anticipation of a worrisome event – such as public speaking. Healthy stress management techniques can help you avoid and shorten panic attacks:
One of the first signs of panic is a restriction of breath. If you start to notice you’re having trouble breathing, take long, deep breaths. Fill your lungs as complete as you can. If you notice that your chest muscles are becoming tight, you can drum them gently with your knuckles to loosen them.
Get to a Quiet Place
Many people who face panic attacks have their anxiety fueled by the idea that others are looking at them. If you feel this way, getting to a bathroom or another quiet, private location can help you address these feelings.
Get More Sleep
You are more likely to respond effectively to stress – and even fear – if you get enough sleep. Reduced sleep weakens your ability to manage emotions and surprises. This can be made much worse when stimulants like caffeine are used.
Many panic attack sufferers find comfort in a process called “grounding” that offers cognitive distractions from panic. In grounding, you focus your attention on things you can touch, smell, taste, hear, or see (in this order) to remind yourself you are present and safe.
If panic attacks are a persistent concern, therapy or medication may be helpful. Some medications can adjust brain chemistry and electrical activity in a way that makes panic attacks less likely. To learn more, contact Complete Neurological Care to book an appointment today.