Panic Attack Information Strategies and Tips to Adjust
Last week I had my first Panic Attack in years. I don’t remember when the last one was. My panic attacks are brought on by Stress Tension Sinus Cluster Migraine Headaches and I have been mostly free of those for about 15 years. I had neglected to keep my medication and the natural herb I use, add in some extra stress and the headaches started up again.
I felt the beginnings of the headache and started my particular routine; dark room, no noise, sitting on floor with knees drawn up to my chest, using a breathing technique, applying pressure to a point just below my left ear.. More and more pain so I knew I was in for a bad one. It faded…and came back even worse. I got myself back into even breathing and cleared my mind (even thoughts hurt) and it faded again. But not all the way and then was back even worse. After a bit I lost track of the cycles and when it was low-level, I was preparing myself for the next cycle.
I freaked out. What if it would not stop? What if it kept going? The headache fed the panic and the panic fed the headache. I got stuck in a cycle and could not break free. I know that panic attacks themselves cannot hurt me. I know that it will pass. I know that I am havinga panic attack and a migraine headache and that they are feeding each other. Made no difference what I knew, I could not break myself free. So, I took the one course of action that was left open to me.
What are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are intense fear that may include heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something bad is going to happen.There may be a fear of losing control or chest pain. Sudden onslaugfht of symptoms occurs within minutes, typically lasting for about 30 minutes. Panic attacks are distinguished from other forms of anxiety by their intensity and their sudden, episodic nature. They are often experienced with other types of anxiety disorders,
In Europe about 3% of the population has a panic attack in a given year while in the United States they affect about 11%.They are more common in females than males. They often begin during puberty or early adulthood. Children and older people are less commonly affected.
People with panic attacks often report:
- a fear of dying or heart attack,
- flashing vision,
- faintness or nausea,
- numbness throughout the body,
- heavy breathing and hyperventilation,
- or loss of body control.
- tunnel vision
This results in increased anxiety and forms a feedback loop.These feelings may provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack began (a consequence of the “fight-or-flight response”),
The predominant symptoms are shortness of breath and chest pain. Because chest pain and shortness of breath are hallmark symptoms of cardiovascular illnesses, a diagnosis of exclusion (ruling out other conditions) must be performed before diagnosing a panic attack. This can be done using an electrocardiogram and mental health assesment.
Increased aerobic exercise such as running have been shown to have a positive effect in combating panic anxiety.This effect may be related to the release of exercise-induced endorphins and the subsequent reduction of the stress hormone cortisol. There is a chance of panic symptoms becoming triggered or being made worse due to the increased respiration rate that occurs during exercise, leading to hyperventilation, causing a panic attack.
Muscle relaxation techniques are useful for some. These can be learned using recordings, videos, or books. While muscle relaxation has proved to be less effective than cognitive behavioral therapies in controlled trials, many people still find at least temporary relief from muscle relaxation.
According to the American Psychological Association, “most specialists agree that a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies are the best treatment for panic disorder. Medication might also be appropriate in some cases.” The first part of therapy is focused on information; many people are helped by simply understanding exactly what panic disorder is and how many others suffer from it. Cognitive restructuring helps people replace those thoughts with more realistic, positive ways of viewing the attacks.
Meditation may also be helpful in the treatment of panic disorders. Being motivated to practice new techniques can change the way your brain responds. The strategies you have will become stronger and the panic will lose some of its power over you; the classic Knowledge is Power.
Mindfulnes meditation (process of bringing your attention to experiences occurring in the present moment) has five key areas. I’ve described them in other articles, feel free to check them out. Meditation cannot prevent panic attacks but can provide some tools to use to help bring you back to balance and may help you to recoginize the signs of a pending attack.
David D. Burns recommends breathing exercises for those suffering from anxiety. One such breathing exercise is a 5-2-5 count. Using the stomach (or diaphragm)—and not the chest—inhale (feel the stomach come out, as opposed to the chest expanding) for 5 seconds. As the maximal point at inhalation is reached, hold the breath for 2 seconds. Then slowly exhale, over 5 seconds. Repeat this cycle twice and then breathe ‘normally’ for 5 cycles (1 cycle = 1 inhale + 1 exhale). The point is to focus on the breathing and relax the heart rate. Regular diaphragmatic breathing may be achieved by extending the outbreath by counting or humming.
Medication options for panic attacks typically include benzodiazepines and antidepressants.
While the use of drugs in treating panic attacks can be very successful, it is generally recommended that people also be in some form of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Drug treatments are usually used throughout the duration of panic attack symptoms, and discontinued after the patient has been free of symptoms for at least six months. It is usually safest to withdraw from these drugs gradually while undergoing therapy.
Panic attacks can strike at any time, for any and for no reason. Generally speaking, the attacks last for about 30 minutes, but can last for longer periods; I can speak directly for that. The symptoms mimic a wide range, including heart attack, but itself poses little threat to your health. Panic attacks are usually found when other forms of Anxiety disorders are present. The attacks are frightening if you are having one or just observing one.
Even knowing and understanding what was happening to me made no difference. None of my coping strategies had any affect and I new I only had a few minutes before I would curl up in a fetal position and just hurt. I went to the local ER and got the help I needed for the headache.
If you suffer panic attacks, get your medical doctor involved in fing if you have any underlying medical conditions. Get mental evaluations, but find the root cause of the attacks. Unless you can get the correct treatment, the panic attacks will alwasys be hanging around.
Do you have any panic attack information you would like to share? Any personal experiences? If you have any questions or suggestions on other alternative options, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment below. I will reply as soon as I can!
Walking the Path of Peace,