July 18

How To Stop Panic Attacks


About 2% of the population of Europe is believed to suffer from panic disorder, and this number is similar in The United States. For those with panic disorder, their biggest concern is often how to stop panic attacks.

During these episodes, the sufferer may experience any combination of many symptoms. These include shivering, a pounding heart, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. They may also feel queasy or dizzy.

During a panic attack, the fear is often so intense that people fear they might be dying. The good news is that they're short-lived. Panic attacks may last up to an hour, but most are only half that long.

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Still, a half-hour feels like an agonising length of time when you're dealing with intense fear. 

Though our knowledge of panic disorder is still somewhat limited, doctors have discovered a few ways to help manage it. We'll discuss some of those methods in this article.

1. Recognise It

This probably sounds like very dumb advice. Not realising that you're having a panic attack is like not realising you've been hit by a car. However, it goes deeper than that.

Oftentimes, a person's first instinct during a panic attack is to distract themselves in hopes that it goes away. This isn't always advisable.

When having a panic attack, it's important to accept that it's happening. Distraction may be necessary later, but you shouldn't deny or ignore what's going on.

As counterproductive as this may seem, acknowledging a panic attack means acknowledging that they're temporary. More importantly, they're purely a mental and emotional occurrence, so they cause no physical harm. If you want to know how to stop panic attacks, the first step is to accept what they are and how they affect you.

That being said, if you've never had a panic attack before you should go see a doctor. Panic disorder is always best managed with the help of a doctor.

More importantly, panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of other serious issues, such as a heart attack or a stroke. It's best to see a doctor to make sure you are having a panic attack and not something more serious.

Once it's confirmed that you are having a panic attack, you may want to get help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a type of counselling that's been known to help with anxiety and related disorders.

2. Breathe Deeply

One of the best ways people have found for managing panic attacks and even other kinds of anxiety is deep breathing. There are several deep breathing exercises to help those dealing with anxiety.

The common denominator they all share is an emphasis on slow, deep breaths. It's a small way of taking control of your own body, which is a nice change of pace when you suffer from anxiety.

Our brains and bodies, not surprisingly, have a very close relationship. Usually, the brain's job is to give orders to the body about what we're experiencing and how we should react. However, this isn't always true.

Research has shown that just as the body reacts to signals from the brain, the brain can react to cues from the body. For instance, people who smile more tend to be happier.

The reason for this is because our brains associate smiling with happiness, so if we're smiling, we must be happy. The same thing works with deep breathing. Slow deep breaths are usually the result of being calm, so if we're breathing slowly and deeply the brain assumes we are calm.

One important thing to keep in mind is that you may have to practise this a few times. Mental exercises, much like physical ones, can be tough and may take a while to master.

3. Stay Grounded

One of the worst things about a panic attack is that it makes us think about intangible things. We often focus on the future or the past.

What if I end up being a failure? What if she hates me for what I said yesterday? This type of thinking is counter-productive, because these questions are open-ended and unknowable.

Instead, you need to shift your focus to reality. What do you know? What can you prove? Learning how to stop panic attacks means learning to focus on objective truths.

We can't predict what our future holds and there's no point in trying. We also can't change the past, nor can we control how other people act.

Plus, we can't control what other people think about us. The best thing we can do is apologise for whatever we did, or think we did, when we get the chance. Whether they accept it and forgive us is their decision, not ours.

Instead of getting lost in 'what-ifs' and other nightmare scenarios, we need to focus on what we do know for sure. There's ground or floor beneath our feet. Above our head is a roof or a sky. 

This method is also useful if you happen to have other types of anxiety or depression. Most types of anxiety and depression can trigger negative thoughts.

4. Smell Lavender

As strange as it might sound, lavender may help during a panic attack. While there is no definitive proof of this yet, studies have suggested that the smell of linalool, a chemical found in lavender, seems to reduce anxiety in mice.

If this is true, lavender could be a medical breakthrough in anxiety treatment. It seems to work on the same receptors as benzodiazepines, which are the current medications used to treat anxiety and panic attack symptoms.

Not only that, but lavender doesn't seem to have the same side effects as benzodiazepines. This means that it might be much safer in the long run.

5. How to Stop Panic Attacks Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

We've mentioned cognitive behavioural therapy, also known as talk therapy, but we need to examine it in more detail. This type of therapy was originally developed to treat anxiety, but it's also proven successful at treating panic disorders.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is built around the idea of mindset and self-control. We can't change the way the world works or how our day unfolds, but we can change how we think about it and respond to it.

When people are asked to examine their fears on the most basic level, they're forced to acknowledge that those fears may not make sense. However, it's not enough to just be aware that you may be perceiving things in a harmful and unrealistic way. You also need to know what to do when you can't stop yourself from panicking.

The truth is that many mental health issues flare up in response to triggers, or situations that we've taught ourselves to be afraid of. When exposed to these triggers, we may react so quickly that we don't have time to stop ourselves from getting a panic attack.

What we can do is slowly take control of our body, and cognitive behavioural  therapy can help. Therapists will often teach you breathing strategies that help you slow down your body and return to a calmer state.

This is known as relaxed breathing, and it's one of several strategies that can help you relax when confronted with anxiety. Among the most well-known of these breathing exercises is the 4-7-8 technique. 4-7-8 refers to the breathing pattern: four second inhale, hold for seven seconds, exhale for eight.

The ultimate goal of these calming exercisesWith this newfound confidence, we can stop avoiding the people and situations that we used to find so troublesome. 

Panic disorder and other forms of anxiety can't always be cured, but cognitive behavioural therapy does the next best thing. It helps us manage it. Thus, what was once a crippling condition is now more of a tolerable annoyance.

7. Muscle Relaxation

Trying to calm down all at once can seem next to impossible, but you don't have to do it all at once. Many professionals advise progressive muscle relaxation, and will even teach you how to do it during therapy.

To start, simply choose a muscle. Many people start with the muscles in their feet and work their way up, but there isn't one right way to do it. 

Once you have chosen a muscle, the next step is to clench it, and then relax it. Do it slowly. Clench for fifteen or twenty seconds before releasing again. Take some time, no more than a minute, to enjoy the relaxation.

Keep doing this with each muscle or muscle group until you feel fully relaxed. You may have to clench and relax each muscle a few times. This is a great way to manage panic attacks or anxiety. 

This practice will help you recognise the difference between how stress and relaxation feel.

8. Positive Self-Talk

Self-talk is a part of our everyday lives, but we don't notice it much when things are going well. On those days, it's mostly used to organise our thoughts. We may have a short pep-talk here or there, but it's usually about living our lives.

With panic disorder, anxiety, and depression, these talks tend to become negative. Our minds are caught up in our flaws rather than our strengths, so everything seems much more difficult.

There's never a bad time to start focussing on positive self-talk, though panic attacks are a good time to practise. After all, that's when we need it most.

Positive talk doesn't need to be anything major, especially during a panic attack. It's often good enough just to state the facts. Remind yourself that panic attacks are temporary and that you've been thru this before.

Some people have a mantra they repeat, which can be helpful. In addition to being positive, it gives you something to focus on while you wait for the fear to subside.

You don't even have to say it. Internal mantras work just as well as external ones. The purpose is to get yourself in the habit of thinking and reacting positively to situations rather than being triggered by them.

9. Exercise

We gain a lot by exercising. It helps control our weight, grow muscles, and generally feel better about ourselves.

It can also help manage anxiety and panic disorder. This is because the body releases endorphins when we exercise. Endorphins are chemicals within our bodies that are designed to work as natural painkillers and help to heighten pleasure.

If you're struggling with an anxiety or mood disorder, it might help to become more active. It may even be a good idea during an active panic attack. It's best to keep to activities that aren't too strenuous, such as walking.

Breathing is an important thing to think about when choosing which exercise to do. Rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath are noted symptoms of panic disorder, so it's best to wait them out. Once these symptoms have passed the exercise can begin.

10. Have a 'Happy Place'

Even though it's often mocked on TV, finding a 'happy place' can be a very effective technique. It's a way to take yourself out of the place where your stress and panic is occurring, and put yourself in a more calming situation.

It may be best to start this when you're calm. How to stop panic attacks this way without any practice is a much harder to figure out.

Think of a place you go to where things are often pleasant. It doesn't even have to be a place you go to a lot. Perhaps it's a place you've been to or dream of visiting.

Try to picture everything you can. What does this place look like, smell like, sound like, and feel like? What's there, and what isn't?

Does this place have any features in particular that calm you down? Maybe the great thing about it is the absence of things that stress you out. Figure it out so you have it ready the next time you need it.

How to Stop Panic Attacks: A Guide

Hopefully, this article provided useful insight into how to stop panic attacks. Even if you've found some methods that work for you, that doesn't necessarily mean you're thru yet.

Mental health is a complex topic with a lot of theories and more questions than answers. It may be best to look into as many methods as you can before ending your search.

For more on cognitive behavioural therapy and the conditions it treats, please visit our website. Perhaps you suffer from social anxiety and need some help. We're here for you.

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Anxiety attack, Panic Attack, Panic Attacks

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