Our bodies are hard-wired to survive. That is why we have the “fight-or-flight” response: it keeps us from entering into dangerous situations or, in the event that we experience something dangerous, heightens our senses, so we can respond appropriately and survive the threat.
For those with an anxiety disorder, however, the response can be an overwhelming experience causing them to have a panic attack: a sudden, overwhelming sense of fear that can include symptoms such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Tingling/numbness in hands or fingers
- Sense of doom
- Fear of dying
- Feelings of loss of control
Panic attacks generally do not last for long – usually around 10 minutes or less – although the symptoms can carry on for quite some time afterwards.
How To Help During A Panic Attack
If you’re with someone who is experiencing a panic attack, it’s important to stay calm as you help them through it. Staying calm will not only help you in the situation, but also the person having the panic attack.
- Don’t touch them unless they request it, or they’re in physical danger and need to be moved.
- Gently remind them to breathe and breathe with them.
- Assure them they are safe.
- Stay with them.
- Ask questions about what caused the attack (this can help them to regain control over whatever it was that frightened them).
- Be encouraging, gentle, and non-judgemental. Minimizing and/or judging someone for panicking can make the situation worse.
What To Do If You Have a Panic Attack
There are a few things you can do to calm yourself if you experience a panic attack.
- Breathe. In the throes of a panic attack, often individuals hyperventilate. Remind yourself to breathe, focusing on deep breaths.
- Be gentle with yourself. Realize you are having a panic attack and it’s okay.
- Find an object to focus your attention on.
- Close your eyes and imagine someplace that brings you comfort such as a garden or beach.
When someone experiences a panic attack, it can be truly exhaustive. Be sure you take time after a panic attack to rest yourself and think about what may have caused it so you can speak with a professional who can help you work through it to prevent it from happening again.
Dr. Alex Anastasiou is an expert in helping people work through anxiety- and depression-related issues. As a board-certified physician, he can determine which medications – if any – would best serve you and then work with you to establish coping mechanisms that help you move through the things that are creating your anxiety.
If you or someone you love is experiencing panic attacks, contact Dr. Alex today for help.