A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear or anxiety that causes a physical response in the sufferer. Panic attacks often occur without warning and may be triggered by any number of factors. Because of the sudden physical reaction, some panic attack sufferers may believe that they are having a heart attack or some other life-threatening condition.
In light of the potential dangers that panic attacks can create, seeking treatment is absolutely imperative. Some treatments that can reduce the effects of panic, include the following…
Medication may not completely stop panic attacks, but it can reduce the severity and frequency that an individual suffers from them. Medication helps control and treat panic attacks by reducing physiological responses that trigger attacks.
A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is one option and will decrease the anticipatory anxiety that often accompanies panic attacks. The most commonly prescribed SSRIs in the United States include:
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
Expect to wait a few weeks after starting any medication to see dramatic results.
Oftentimes, medication works well with the following treatment option…
Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that is specifically designed to help with mental illnesses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), depression and panic. During psychotherapy, a licensed mental health professional will talk through some of the signs of an impending panic attack and help name triggers and develop coping mechanisms.
While this treatment may take more time, it has a high rate of success and will help you deal with the root issues underlying your anxiety.
Psychotherapy can help because, as mentioned above, it addresses the root of the issue rather than just treating the symptoms. And, it can be paired with the following treatment option…
3. Aerobic Exercise
Moving into more “at-home” treatments, regular aerobic exercises, like swimming and walking, can significantly reduce the severity of panic attacks and make them far more manageable.
Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and the lungs, which directly relates to an individual’s ability to control their breathing. Most of the fear and helplessness associated with panic attacks comes from the breathlessness and lack of oxygen that flows to the brain. By boosting your ability to control your breathing, you’re removing one of the variables that can make panic attacks so frightening to experience.
The following can also treat panic attacks…
4. Relaxation Techniques
Practicing muscle relaxation techniques can help prepare you for the sudden onset of a panic attack.
There are plenty of sources online that can walk you through relaxing individual muscle groups one at a time. Using these sources daily can help you form habits of relaxation and maintain a greater level of control over the different muscle groups in your body.
By learning to control your muscles, you are giving yourself the tools you need to take back control of your body. This control will give you a greater sense of security and safety.
Relaxation often pairs well with the following…
5. Self Care
Self care may sound like just another trendy buzzword, but it usually refers to deliberate actions taken to restore an internal feeling of peace or security. Self care can be highly personalized and include the following:
- Practicing gratitude
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Eating a healthy meal and drinking plenty of water
Additionally, take note of places where you feel safe and secure, and know that the panic attacks and anxiety that you suffer are absolutely not an indication of your strength of mind or security. Panic attacks can hurt an individual’s self-perception, so it’s critical to spend time with safe, supportive people as part of a self-care routine.
While self care can be practiced anywhere, the following technique is best used under the guidance of a licensed professional…
Desensitization refers to the deliberate exposure of an individual to a situation that causes them physical or mental distress.
Desensitization is basically exposure therapy. The main reasoning behind the process is that if an individual is repeatedly exposed to a situation that causes them mental distress, the power that that situation holds will eventually be reduced.
Do not attempt this without a licensed mental health professional unless you are confident in your ability to handle the situation.
If you find yourself growing anxious any time you have to go grocery shopping, for example, take a loved one with you and go to the grocery store repeatedly until you start to reduce your level of anxiety.
Again, this treatment may not work for everyone, so please be careful with your mental health, and approach this particular treatment only if you have the support system in place to deal with it.
The following treatment is much easier to do, and you can practice it anywhere…
7. Focus Objects
A focus object is any object that you can carry with you that helps you focus. To practice this technique, find something small and portable to carry with you. This can help you find something to focus on during a panic attack rather than giving into the fear and the physiological response. Look for something that feels personal to you and brings you comfort when you see it!
The following treatment isn’t portable like this one, although it can be just as effective for some people…
8. Social Therapy
Similar to psychotherapy, social therapy is a treatment that allows an individual to talk through the anxieties that are troubling them. It may not be as specifically GAD-focused as psychotherapy is, but it provides a good starting point that can still reduce anxiety.
Group therapy allows people to work through some of their issues in a safe and nonthreatening environment. This safe environment can help shore up mental health and reduce the severity of a future panic attack.
The following treatment? You can practice it anywhere…
Meditation isn’t always a religious practice, but rather another form of breathing or calming exercises that can help you strengthen your core muscles and slow your heart rate.
In addition, meditation promotes mindfulness and relaxation, which will not completely prevent panic attacks, but may help the individual stave off some of the fear and helplessness associated with an attack. If you are spiritual or religious, a more spiritually minded form of meditation can also help affirm and reinforce your relationship with yourself and with others.
The following technique should only be used after consulting a licensed professional…
10. Intentional Dissociation
Dissociation is basically any form of “checking out” that can range from mild daydreaming to a complete lack of awareness and total separation from the outside world. In the context of panic attacks, dissociation often takes the form of “picturing a happy place” or a different surrounding in order to reduce anxiety and stress.
Why Intentional Dissociation May Help
By blocking out your surroundings, you may be able to reduce the amount of stress you have to deal with during an attack. This action will help to ease your body out of “panic mode” and give you enough space to breathe. Then, you can get your emotional state back under control until the panic attack has passed and normal function is restored.
What’s most important for people suffering from panic attacks to know?…
If you are struggling with panic attacks and anxiety, first know that you are not alone. Millions of other individuals around the world suffer from the same thing that you’re going through, and there is help available for those who seek it out.
Your friends and loved ones will be willing to support you as you seek treatment for General Anxiety Disorder, and they will be with you every step of the way as you fight for the freedom and safety that you deserve to enjoy.