Panic attacks are not exclusive to someone with a diagnosis of panic disorder. An incredibly small percentage of adults experience panic disorder. However, millions more will experience a panic attack in their lifetime.
Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are different due to one primary characterization: when the brain panics it is convinced it is going to die and/or in the process of dying. An anxiety attack will include more fear of dying. Panic attacks can seem sudden and spontaneous but are highly linked to stress.
Problematically, while anxiety attacks can be expected due to certain triggers, panic attacks are not. The experience of a panic attack are so severe that one feels ongoing anxiety about having another panic attack.
Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists some of these as symptoms for a panic attack. Generally, panic attacks are sudden and strong. A panic attack will start with subtle anxiety then continue through a cycle of escalation for about twenty minutes until it de-escalates.
- Thoughts or fears of dying
- Paranoid thoughts about losing control of one’s mind or having a nervous/mental breakdown
- Tightening of the chest
- Feeling as though one might pass out
- Experiences of detaching from reality or one’s own identity; not knowing who one is or what one’s place is in the world
- End of a panic attack can include: chills, shivers, tingling, and diarrhea
Tips For Handling A Panic Attack
Mindfulness based practices in addition to cognitive behavioral practices have been shown to effectively help manage panic attacks. Some therapists encourage the practice of mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a hybrid. Mindful.org lists these tips for curbing a panic attack through mindfulness based practice.
- Investigate the thoughts by asking yourself how accurate the thoughts are and if you are okay right now in the present moment. Panic attacks include fear about the future and are characterized by an impending sense of death. Check in with your thoughts and try to observe them objectively. If you can separate fact from fiction, you can help your brain calm down.
- Focus on your breathing. Anxiety and panic tends to cause hyperventilation or short, rapid breathing. Put as much energy as you can into taking long, slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing will help bring oxygen to your brain and muscles which will aid in relaxation. The natural rhythm of your breath will help you feel safe and centered in your body.
- Tune into your senses as a way to move your focus away from your mind. Try to notice what you feel on your skin, smell in your nose, even what kind of taste is in your mouth. Look for things to touch around you to help you realize exactly where you are at this point in time.
Aurora Recovery Centre offers treatment for co-occurring disorders of panic disorder and substance use disorders. Our facility provides the safe and tranquil environment necessary for healing. Aurora serves to light the way toward lifelong recovery. For more information, call 844-515-STOP.