Panic attacks can strike anyone like a bolt from the blue. They are the overwhelming sense of danger, or a feeling of impending death that overrides rationality. Panic attacks are common to those living with anxiety disorders and depression, but there are ways to prevent them from happening. Here you will find out how to stop a panic attack.
What is a panic attack and how do I stop it?
A panic attack is a sudden and overwhelming episode of fear accompanied by intense physical reactions. A panic attack is not typically triggered by any consistent threat. They begin without warning and are debilitating. A panic attack can happen anywhere and do not require a particular context to wreck your day.
Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at any time — when you’re driving a car, at the mall, at home, or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occasional panic attacks, or they may occur frequently. If you’re having frequent panic attacks, you should seek treatment because the condition is quite treatable.
Signs and symptoms include the following:
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Shakes, all over body shakes or trembling
- Feeling a thickness or tightness in the throat
- Chills or hot flashes
- Chest pain (panic attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks)
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
- Feeling of unreality or detachment from one’s self.
Stopping a Panic Attack
Controlling your breathing is the first, most crucial step to stopping a panic attack. Panic attacks engage the fight-or-flight response, ramping it from 0 to 100 in seconds. As there’s no real threat in your environment, your body won’t de-escalate the survival response on its own, because there are no cues to tell you the threat has passed. You have to take direct control by slowing your breathing and quickly acting to stop a panic attack. To that end:
- Take slow, deep breaths. Use your stomach muscles to contract your diaphragm. To make sure you’re using your diaphragm, place your hand on your upper abdomen. Let your hand lie there with no pressure and allow it to rise up and fall down as you breathe. Inhale for 5 seconds, pause for 1 or 2 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds. Do not hold your breath for more than a few seconds.
- Ground yourself in your surroundings by using your senses. Look around. What do you see? Where are you? What can you hear? Do you smell anything? What can you touch? A panic attack usually leads to racing thoughts. By switching your focus from your internal state of fear to that of an observer, you can de-escalate a panic attack.
- Reassure yourself that you are safe. Use self-talk to comfort yourself. Remind yourself that this is a panic attack. It’s ok to be scared but you are safe, you are in no danger, and you’re going to be just fine.
- Keep up that deep breathing until your heart rate returns to a normal beat.
What are Anxiety Attacks?
Anxiety attacks are somewhat similar to panic attacks, except anxiety attacks lack the fear of imminent death and the fear of a loss of control. They also don’t involve a sense of unreality or depersonalization. Unlike a panic attack, anxiety attacks can last off and on for days.
Treating Depression-Linked Anxiety With No Side Effects
If you have depression and have also been having anxiety because of it, consider treatment via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This is an FDA cleared non-invasive treatment that uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that affect mood, which helps you get back to your best life quickly and with no side effects. Among the many treatment options out there, TMS therapy is an excellent, pain-free solution that is covered by most major insurance companies. The best part is there are no side effects from TMS therapy, making it an excellent solution for those who fear the side effects of certain medication.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.
How to stop a panic attack. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-a-panic-attack
Panic disorder: When fear overwhelms. (n.d) Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml
Panic attacks and panic disorder. (2018, May 4). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021