How to deal with panic attacks
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety
These episodes can also have physical symp toms, including shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness.
The symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous but can be very frightening. They can make you feel as though you are having a heart attack or that you are going to collapse or even die.
Most panic attacks last somewhere from five minutes to half an hour.
How to handle a panic attack
Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, says it’s important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.
“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety.”
He says don’t look for distractions. “Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, don’t leave the situation until the anxiety has subsided.”
“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.
“If you’re having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Breathing exercise for panic attacks
If you’re breathing quickly during a panic attack, doing a breathing exercise can ease your other symptoms. Try this:
Breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose.
Breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth.
Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5 on each in-breath and each out-breath.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards.