How To Realistically Handle a Panic Attack

During a panic attack, the strange physical reactions that are experienced are a result of your body’s response to the overwhelming fear and feelings of dread. 

To effectively control a panic attack, you need to identify the major catalysts or causes. Some of the common causes are

1. Chronic stress

2. Intense physical exercise

3. Trauma 

4. A sudden change of environment 

5. Illness

6. Life changes ( marriage, having a baby, going to college, a new job, etc)

7. Genetics

Usually, a panic attack is harmless and peaks after about 10-15 minutes but if left untreated, complications like depression, suicide ideations, substance use disorder, and panic disorder can come in. People with panic disorder may be extremely nervous and fearful as a result of not being able to predict when the next episode can occur. It’s therefore important to know how to effectively manage a panic attack episode in order to avoid complications.

Here are five Major ways to handle a panic attack

1. Close your eyes: to reduce the external stimuli, close your eyes and remind yourself that this will only last for a few minutes. Assertively recognizing the onset of a panic attack and assuring yourself of the shortness of the episode gives you a slight sense of control and puts you in a better position to focus on the remaining tasks.

2. Take Deep Breaths: Panic attacks can cause rapid breathing and the tightness in your chest will only make your breathing even shorter, which leads to more panic. The key is to try to breathe slowly. Breathe deeply from your abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to four on both the inhale and the exhale. There are different breathing techniques that work effectively. 

It is also important to note that it’s okay to stop trying if you notice that the deep breathing exercise is not working for you. Just try some other things on this list that work instead.

3. Repeat a Mantra: it could a word or phrase that keeps you mindful and grounded. Internally repeating a mantra or saying it out loud can help a person come out of a panic attack. 

Phrases like “it will soon be over” can be very soothing, reassuring and boosts your chances or feeling less detached and more in control.

4. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique: it’s very simple. All you have to do is identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. As your mind starts to focus on these things, it would be less focused on the physical reactions created by the panic attack. 

5. Call Your Therapist: Sometimes, having a professional guide us through a panic attack episode has a way of soothing frayed nerves and calming us down. After a panic episode, you can also write down everything that happened during the attack. Noting down what you ate, drank or did before the attack would be helpful in order for you and your therapist to work through your specific triggers.

If you haven’t reached out to a therapist about your panic attacks, make an app or with one of our seasoned mental health professionals here. 

About the Author(s)

Dedoyin Ajayi is a Therapist with a specialty in Emotional Health. She has a diploma in Professional Counselling and is a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming practitioner from the Academy of Modern and Applied Psychology. She has an MSc in Psychology (in view) from Liverpool John Moore University, UK.

She presently has a thriving private counseling practice with an average of twenty-six hours per week, vested into both virtual and physical sessions.

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