panic

Panic Attacks: Symptoms and the way out

Out of the blue, I could feel a huge wave of fear tugging at my heartstrings. I broke out in a sweat, with a crushing ache in my chest and was barely able to breath”. “I was frozen and numb. I couldn’t move. With the uncontrollably uneasy feeling in the gut and my heart thudding at the speed of light, it almost seemed like the end of the world”.

Do these experiences strike a chord with you or someone you know? Have you too been or have known someone who has been at the receiving end of a panic attack? If yes, do read this piece till the very end.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is deemed as a sudden and intense feeling of terror, fear, or apprehension, oftentimes without actual danger. While the symptoms of a panic attack peak within 10 minutes and gradually subside, several attacks may last much longer or may occur in succession, making it all the more difficult to figure out when one attack ends and another kick-starts.

Any person can undergo a panic attack. Sometimes, an attack is triggered by a specific disturbing event, but these attacks can also be one of the symptoms of anxiety disorders like panic disorder or agoraphobia

Symptoms of a panic attack

More often than not, panic attacks knock on the door without warning. They can hit anytime, anywhere — while you’re driving a car, at the mall, hanging out with a friend, amidst a business meeting or even sound asleep. Some people have occasional panic attacks and for some, they may occur frequently. Panic attacks can have a number of variations, however, the symptoms usually peak within minutes. Every time a panic attack subsides, it leaves you feeling fatigued and worn out. Here are some of the common signs or symptoms that help detect a panic attack:
  • A sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or dying
  • A racing or pounding heart rate (heart palpitations)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • An upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath/ smothering
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment
  • Dry mouth
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions that signify a feeling of detachment

How to battle against panic attacks: Things you should know

While you may find a panic attack a never ending experience that can only be waited out, here are a couple of tips that shall help alleviate the symptoms and offer you some relief:

Be prepared with a plan:

Regardless of what your plan is, having one is beyond essential. The plan is your bible, remember to follow it whenever you notice a panic attack coming on. Right from taking yourself out of your current environment and

sitting down to calling a loved one, do whatever floats your boat and stick to it every time you find yourself stuck.

Practice Deep Breathing

The easiest, most-spoken-about solution you’ll ever come across!

Shortness of breath is often seen as a common symptom of panic attacks that can leave you feeling frantic and out of control. Hence, it’s pertinent to sit back and acknowledge the fact that the difficulty in breathing is simply a symptom of the attack and that this is only temporary. Thereafter, sit upright, take a deep breath in for about four seconds, hold for a second, and gradually release it for another four seconds. Repeat this over and over again until your breath is controlled and steady. The process of concentrating on the count of four not only prevents you from hyperventilating, but also helps cease any other symptoms that may take a toll on you.

Try Muscle Relaxation Techniques

Amidst a panic attack, it’s natural to feel as though you’ve lost control of your body. That’s when muscle relaxation techniques come to your rescue. These techniques help you gain some of that lost control back. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is considered to be simple yet effective technique for panic and anxiety disorders. You can begin by clenching your fist and holding it for a count of 10. Gradually release the clench on reaching the count of 10 and allow your hand to relax. Practise the same technique in your feet, slowly working your way up your body clenching and relaxing every single muscle group

Repeat a Mantra

We’ve heard stories of how positive mantras do wonders innumerable times. It’s no surprise that they serve as a coping mechanism amidst panic attacks as well. Try repeating an affirmation as simple as “This is temporary. I will make it through this,” or “This feeling will pass” and see the magic for yourself.

Look for an Object and Focus on It

Choose any object that lies before you and jot down everything you notice about that object—right from its colour and size to any patterns it may have, its similarities and differences with any other object, so on and so forth. Do it in your head or say it aloud, either way it’s sure to help!

Visualization

Imagine something that you find calming and relaxing. Simply by picturing this scene in your mind, you’ll be able to build a relaxation response to combat your feelings of fear.

In case of aggravated symptoms, prescribe your doctor. Based on the intensity of your symptoms, your doctor might also suggest you to try some form of medication as part of your treatment path. These medications can prove to be immensely helpful in managing panic attack symptoms, as well as anxiety and depression. 

Panic attacks can feel debilitating, but they mustn’t be seen as an embarrassing condition. So, if you or someone you know has been suffering from panic attacks, don’t hesitate to seek diagnosis and treatment from a trusted doctor or a mental health professional. Remember that you aren’t alone. Prioritise your mental health, prioritise yourself and don’t shy away from seeking help.

We at Heal with Nav always have our arms wide open if you ever need any assistance.

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