What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

Posted By: on August 18, 2016


For someone who has never experienced it, a panic attack is downright terrifying. Many people think they’re having a heart attack or dying. Even for those who have experienced them before, the symptoms of a panic attack can make you even more anxious. Your heart races and pounds in your chest. You feel warm and sweaty, no matter how cold it is. You may feel lightheaded, nauseous and short of breath. Your body is responding as if you are terribly afraid, even if there’s nothing to be scared of.

Ideally, you would be able to avoid panic attacks entirely by recognizing your triggers and stopping an attack before it starts. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. There are ways to address panic attacks when you have one to help manage and minimize them.

First, recognize the symptoms. Even people who’ve been having panic attacks for years struggle to realize the onset of an attack. If you can get a hold on what’s happening right from the start, you may be able to calm down enough to end the attack. 

Once you realize you’re having a panic attack, take some steps to calm yourself down. If you’re in a situation that’s giving you anxiety, remove yourself from it if at all possible. Since dizziness is often an attack symptom, try to sit or lie down until you’ve calmed down.

Take slow, deep breaths. When you have a panic attack, your heart rate quickens, and deep breathing can slow it down and help end the attack. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, filling your stomach and chest. Exhale for a count of eight through your nose, as well. This type of breathing exercise lowers your heart rate and helps calm you down.

If you can, try writing while you’re having an attack. Write how you’re feeling, which might give you some distance and perspective on your own thoughts.

After you have a panic attack, it might be helpful to talk to a professional about why it happened, and to get more a more personalized plan for how to prevent and cope with anxiety. Visit our website and give us a call today.

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