To my mind, the expressionist artist Edvard Munch suitably captured the agonising expression of what a panic attack might feel like in his infamous 1930’s composition known as `The Scream’.
Panic attacks can be very scary, not surprising as when you are experiencing one, a rush of intensely frightening psychological and physical symptoms occur.
They can last anywhere between five and twenty minutes, and although it may feel as though you are in grave trouble, they are not as dangerous as you might think and shouldn’t cause you any physical harm.
A panic attack can make you feel like you’re about to keel over, but it’s usually harmless once the symptoms pass. However, in some cases, you may need medical advice to rule out an underlying physical cause.
In the midst of an attack you may feel an overwhelming sense of distress, fear and a sense of oddness, as if you’re detached from the world around you.
As well as psychological symptoms, you may also experience physical symptoms, such as the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Sensations of irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- A choking sensation
- Feel like passing out
These physical symptoms are caused by your body going into “fight or flight” mode in response to something that is an immediate threat or what you `think’ is a threat, and as a result, your body tries to take in more oxygen to help you gear-up to respond, this is why your breathing quickens.
At the same time your body also releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up.
HAVE A PLAN B
It’s a good idea to get to know what you are dealing with and to have a plan B as a short term solution for when a panic attack comes along, below are a number of well-established things to try when you feel one coming on;
- Try cupping your hands together over your mouth and nose (You can use a paper bag instead , never use plastic)
- Take deep breaths in through your nose
- Purse your lips and Breathe out slowly through your mouth
- Focus your thinking and repeat the word “calm” with every out-breathYou should start to feel better as the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood returns to normal, expect to feel tired afterwards.
GOING FORWARD – FINDING A MORE PERMANENT SOLUTION
The following therapeutic approaches can help towards preventing and even put a stop to them returning:
- Cognitive Hypnotherapy – to uncover the triggers that cause the attacks & break the cycle of increased physical & psychological states.
- Meditation – a focused attention on the breath bringing with it moment to moment awareness which puts you in control of your mind.
- Learning relaxation techniques – deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to induce the relaxation response.
To find out more about how I can help you, please get in touch with me by email or telephone: 07773 687278
Important! WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE
Your panic attack continues after following these breathing techniques for 20 minutes
You still feel unwell after your breathing returns to normal
You still have a rapid or irregular heartbeat or chest pains after your panic attack
You regularly have panic attacks, as this could be a sign that you have panic disorder.