A panic attack is a sudden period of excessive fear and apprehension. Individuals who suffer from panic attacks experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness and heart palpitations. In fact, some patients find it extremely hard to breathe when suffering from an attack. Patients perceive everything around them as surreal during a panic attack. A panic attack is also referred to as an anxiety attack. The nature of panic attacks is abrupt and the peak of attacks is reached after 10 to 20 minutes. It has been observed that in some cases panic attacks last for several hours. Despite the duration of panic attacks physical harm has not been observed. These attacks are not considered dangerous, still several individuals who suffer frequently, often question how to stop panic attacks. After an attack numerous patients suffer from impaired psychological functioning for a period of time. Symptoms of impaired psychological functioning subside quite soon.
A majority of the individuals who experience a panic attack for the first time mistake it for a heart attack or in some cases even a nervous breakdown. Most sufferers fear two instances the most. The first scenario that causes panic attacks among patients is impending death, while the second is losing one’s sanity. These two instances are said be part of the most prevalent psychological theme that has been observed in patients. Individuals who suffer from attacks are advised to seek medical attention at the earliest since; if these attacks are neglected and left untreated individuals may develop disorders related to panic. Frequently occurring panic attacks may lead to panic disorders. Individuals suffering from this disorder are compelled to abstain from daily activities as fear and apprehension take over every aspect of their lives. Tools for the efficient screening of panic disorders are used to assess severity and to suggest further diagnostic assessment.
A panic attack is distinguished from other forms of anxiety disorders on the basis of the abrupt and episodic nature. Panic attacks are often experienced along with some other psychological conditions.
An overview of symptoms
To learn how to stop panic attacks one needs to comprehend the symptoms of an attack. Hence, these symptoms have been listed below:
- Flashing vision
- Tunnel vision
- Numbness in the entire body
- Heavy breathing
- Loss of control over one’s body
- Chest tightness or pain
- Burning sensations in facial and neck regions
- Cold flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Hot flashes
- Tingling sensations
- Difficulty in moving or partial loss of mobility
- Smothering or choking sensations
Basic steps to stop these attacks
- Acknowledge and accept: The first step is to acknowledge an oncoming or ongoing panic attack. When you have an attack acknowledge the fact that an attack is or will soon be taking place. Learn to gradually acknowledge the fact that you are afraid. Abstain from thinking that you are in danger as that will trigger your brain to associate this attack with danger. Focus on accepting that a panic attack will cause suffering for some time and that it should not greatly affect you. Accept a panic attack as if it was a headache and you will soon be adept at how to stop panic attacks
- Wait & watch: Waiting for a panic attack to take its toll is a smarter choice when compared to choices like struggling or fleeing. When you experience a panic attack its symptoms temporarily overpower you. The best thing to do in this case is to wait; followed by watching your symptoms, their effects and the time they take to subside. You can stop your future panic attacks by observing and recording what your panic attack does to you and what you do to end it. Remember to not struggle and let things run their course.
- Focus on actions: This step includes the vital actions that you need to perform during an attack.
- Your first action should be to engage in diaphragmatic breathing. Long and deep breaths that expand your diaphragm help you ease symptoms and discomfort.
- Next, communicate with yourself and stay focused on relaxing. Encourage and support yourself throughout the attack. Understand and remember that you are facing discomfort and that discomfort does not mean you are in danger.
- The next action will help you stop the attack almost instantaneously. Focus on what you were doing before the attack. No matter what you were doing continue it and overcome the attack. Learning this step does take time but work on it diligently and soon you will be able master it.
- Next, concentrate on relaxing the body parts that are most tense. First tense the muscles in your neck, jaw, shoulders, legs and your back and then relax these muscles. Do not hold your breath or stay rigid. Focus simply on gaining full control over your body. Start small if you are unable to tense several muscles simultaneously.
- Repeat if needed: If your first attempt failed to stop the attack entirely, repeat the aforementioned steps as many times as needed. Following these steps does stop the attack however, if you are unable to continue them seek medical attention right away.
- End: It is likely that by repeating these steps you will be able to put an end to your attack. Concentrate solely on your end goal, which is to stop the attack.
Medication to stop panic attacks
The two types of medication that are commonly used for treating panic attacks are:
Antidepressants require time to show noticeable effects. They cannot be consumed when one is having a panic attack as they will do nothing to provide relief. Antidepressants require at least 5 to 6 weeks to start showing effects hence, they should be taken daily and continuously.
Benzodiazepines are a form of antidepressants. However, their action and benefits are quicker. To provide relief Benzodiazepines require 30 minutes to an hour. They can be consumed during an attack and symptoms are overcome within an hour.