Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear, that can grip a person from a few minutes to a few hours. They are frequent in people who are enduring stress or anxiety and can cause a range of things to happen such as intense breathing, sweating, dizziness, shaking and numbness.
Panic attacks can be very visible however can also be undetectable if a certain person has gone silent or numb from this fear that something bad is going to happen.
Panic attacks are extremely scary for someone undergoing them, however there are a few things you can do if you feel a panic attack coming or if you want to help someone who is suffering from one.
If YOU are having a panic attack…
1. Try to recognise the symptoms
If you can catch a panic attack early on, you can try to prevent it or even control it and lessen the blow of the attack.
Physical signs that a panic attack is coming on include: increasing heart rate, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, feeling lightheaded, shaking or trembling, dry mouth, weak legs or feeling like you may fall.
Mental symptoms can include, feeling like a loss of control over yourself, feeling detached from your surroundings or feeling numb.
If you can identify these symptoms early before the panic attack has taken full hold you can prevent it by calming yourself down.
2. Don’t move about too much
Staying where you are can help allow anxiety to pass through you easier, instead of moving about and making yourself more anxious. If you are already moving about or doing physical exercise, try to find somewhere to sit or lay down so that you can stay still while the panic attack happens.
Controlling your breathing will help you stay in control of your body and slowing your breathing down, will allow your heartbeat to follow. When your breathing is in control, you’ll feel in control over the rest of your body helping subside the panic attack.
Trying some breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 rule, can be one of the best ways to control your breathing. You breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the air in for seven seconds and then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds and repeat until you don’t have to think about your breath anymore.
Panic attacks are brought on by excessive anxiety that something bad is about to occur. So, trying to bring logic and rational into the situation can help remind you that there is no immediate danger around. Trying to rationalise the situation will help the anxiety subside. Reminding yourself about the mundane things such as where you are, what you were doing, or repeating logical snitches to yourself such as ‘This is just my anxiety’ or ‘This feeling will pass through’ will help the panic attack subside.
If SOMEONE ELSE is having a panic attack.
1. Get them somewhere safe
If someone is suffering from a panic attack, having too many people around or being in an overly crowded area can add to the suffocating feeling that a panic attack can bring on. Try to get the person somewhere a little more private so they can focus on getting rid of the anxiety and do so without the added stress of an audience. Also bringing the person somewhere were they can sit down and relax is best thing for them during this time.
2. Help them control their breathing
Breathing during a panic attack is one of the most important and helpful things. Helping a person to slow their breathing back to a normal rate will help them relax easier. Try to synchronise your own breathing rate with theirs so they have something to follow. Again the the 4-7-8 rule is one of the absolute best. Breathing with them and counting their breaths along with them will help them get their breathing back to normal.
3. Ground them
Panic attacks feel like massive losses of control and a person can lose sense of their own surroundings. To help pull a person from a panic attack, getting them to remember their physical surroundings can be a great way to get them to ground themselves. Get them to hold onto something physical, the ground, a chair or even yourself and remind them where they are, what they are doing and how they are in no immediate danger.
4. Stay with them
Do not leave a person who is suffering from a panic attack as they can slip back into the intense fear without someone grounding them. Stay with the person until they fully assure you that the panic attack has fully passed on. Someone suffering from a panic attack is likely feeling very disoriented and they can easily put themselves in psychical danger.
5. Assess the situation
If a panic attack lasts longer than an hour, or if the person is still dizzy or faint, it may be best to call 999 at this point as they could end up physically injuring themselves.
Panic Attacks can be debilitating. Not only are the scary when they’re happening, the fear of one occurring can cause a lot of upset and anxiety and hold you back.
If you are suffering from Panic Attacks you should speak to your GP as they can recommend some options available to try get your Panic Attacks under control. Panic Attacks are a lot more common that you think, but it’s important to not let them impact your life.