Lots of us can suffer from sudden feelings of being overwhelmed and episodes of feeling panicked. Some of us can let these feelings go easily and deal with the situations that have caused them. For others, those feelings of panic can become too much and too hard to deal with and social anxiety can have physical effects on our body, such as panic attacks, and our mental health. So why is it different for some people? What are the signs to look for that these feelings of panic are becoming too much? And how do we deal with these?
What Is A Panic Attack?
Panic attacks are your body’s response to fear, danger or stress but they are an exaggerated response. It can feel like a wave of fear that comes over your body. It causes many reactions in your body including:
– Racing or pounding heartbeat
– Feeling faint/dizzy/lightheaded
– Feeling sick
– Pain in your chest
– Struggle to breathe
– Feeling disconnected from your body
– Weak legs
A panic attack can happen out of the blue and be unexpected due to having no trigger. They can occur as a one-time occurrence but people tend to experience more than one episode. For some people, it can be a repeat situation (such as public speaking, or being in a busy environment) that can bring on a panic attack. It is normally a situation that brings on the body’s fight or flight reaction.
Most panic attacks last between 5 to 20 minutes and your symptoms will be worse at about 10 minutes. Occasionally, if it is lasting longer than 20 minutes you may be having another panic attack, or suffering from other symptoms of anxiety.
Panic Disorders, What Are They
Some people that experience more than one panic attack and experience them frequently are suffering from something called a panic disorder. A panic disorder is recognised by frequent panic attacks, change in behaviour and persistent anxiety.
After experiencing one panic attack it can leave a lasting effect. If you experience frequent panic attacks then it can take a toll on your emotions. The memory of the intense feeling and the way your body reacted at the time stays with you and then starts to negatively impact your self-esteem and confidence and disrupt your daily life. This can lead to different types of panic disorders:
– Anticipatory anxiety = instead of feeling relaxed and like yourself in between your panic attacks you are constantly worried and fearful about when the next panic attack will come.
– Phobic avoidance = this is where you begin to avoid certain situations or even places that have brought on your panic attacks in the past. Phobic avoidance at its extreme can be known as agoraphobia.
– Agoraphobia = a fear of being in a place and having a panic attack and not being able to escape therefore feeling embarrassed or a fear of being somewhere where you were unable to get help. This leads to you avoiding certain places or situations or social gatherings and you may only feel safe when you are in your own home.
How Can I Help?
Living with anxiety and suffering from panic attacks can be very difficult but there are ways that you can help yourself, or a loved one, feel better.
– Learn about anxiety
Knowing more about panic and anxiety can help to relieve some stress that you may be feeling. You will see that the reactions that your body has during a panic attack are perfectly normal and you won’t feel like there is something wrong with you.
– Breath control
When you have a panic attack, one of the symptoms is hyperventilating. By learning to control your breathing when you are feeling anxious can help prevent this and you can start to calm yourself down.
– Talk to someone
Talking is one of the best therapies. Talk about what is making you feel anxious and the situations that panic you. Tell them about what help you need to help you calm down when you are having an attack.
– Look after your physical health
Ensure you get enough physical exercise as this helps with your mental well-being. Think about your diet as eating regularly affects your blood sugar levels which in turn affects your mood and energy levels. Try to get enough sleep so that you feel able to cope more with your feelings.
– Practice relaxation techniques
These can include mindfulness and yoga as these promote breathing exercises as well as create a feeling of joy and relaxation. They also help you to become more aware of your body and your surroundings.
In some extreme cases, you may feel that you need more than these self-help tips. Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on behaviours and thinking patterns that trigger your anxiety and panic attacks and helps you look at your fears in a more realistic way.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT are Cognitive Behavioural Therapists or Psychologists, offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.