Panic attacks are an absolutely terrifying ordeal. Some people experience them, have no idea what’s happening to them, and start to think that they’re going to die. On the other hand, some people get them, know what they are, but don’t know how to cope with them.
When you’re in the middle of one of these attacks, it can be almost impossible to pull yourself out of it. There are ways that you can help yourself though. Knowledge is power, and understanding panic attacks is the key to surviving them.
What is it?
A panic attack is exactly what it sounds like – quite literally, an attack of panic. It’s an intense feeling of anxiety mixed with horrible physical symptoms such as shallow breath, dizziness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat.
When you’re under an intense amount of psychological stress, you can experience a panic attack. Sometimes the triggers can be obvious, but sometimes you can have no idea what caused them in the first.
What it Feels Like
There is a wealth of nasty physical feelings that come along with a panic attack. As well as the ones listed before, you can also feel pain, tingling hands, brain fog, intense fear, and the urge to run and hide.
The first time I experienced a panic attack (and admittedly, a few more times after that) I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. The way that I felt was so severe that I really thought that I was going to die. During one particularly bad one, I was even rushed to the hospital.
Many people who suffer from panic attacks feel the exact same way. While they’re experiencing it, they can feel like they’re dying. Sometimes, they can be completely convinced that they are having a heart attack or something just as deadly.
The Science-y Bit
Panic and stress are evolutionary defense systems. They let us know when we’re in a dangerous situation that we need to get out of immediately.
Back when humans were hunter-gatherers, this mechanism was actually quite useful. Stress would help hunters stay alert and focused, giving them the best chance of catching their prey and staying away from danger.
Unfortunately, we no longer need to hunt to survive but many people still struggle with panic. The reason that this happens is that our brains can’t tell the difference between real danger and perceived danger. If the brain thinks that it’s in danger, even if it’s not, it will send stress signals to the body.
So, What Can You Do?
When you find yourself in the midst of a panic attack, the first thing that you need to do is to focus on your breathing. Take controlled, slow breaths in for several seconds, hold it for several more, and slowly exhale. This action calms the body and allows it to relax.
Don’t try to force your feelings of anxiety away. Allow them to come and wash over you. Although you’re not trying to stop them, don’t feed into them either. Remember that this is your body’s reaction to stress and that you are safe.
Another tactic that you can employ is to focus on your senses. Figure out what you can feel, smell, see, hear, and taste. This helps you to focus your energy externally, letting the negative emotions fade away.
Having a panic attack is a scary experience, but you will survive it. If you understand where it’s coming from, allow it to fade naturally, and remember that you are safe, it will pass much quicker. With time, these attacks will get less severe and eventually, they could disappear from your life completely.
If you know someone who suffers from panic attacks, please share this article with them. These tips can help them to cope with them far easier.