How Can I Stop My Panic Attacks?
Panic Attacks - What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder, Anxiety and Stress
Do the above words bring panic thoughts to your brain (or stomach)?
You are standing in line at the department store you start to feel your heart beating faster and faster. You then start to feel a bit uncomfortable, but you can't quite place your finger on why.
Within moments your hands are sweating, your breathing becomes short, rapid and shallow, you feel hot, dizzy and overwhelmed with a sense of fear.
What is this sensation? Where is it coming from?
If you have experienced similar sensations in the past and especially if you have begun changing your life and routine in the fear of experiencing it again, you may be suffering from Panic Attacks.
What are Panic Attacks? How Can I Stop My Panic Attacks?
Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic is a physical reaction that is a response to stress. Often called the 'fight or flight' response, panic is a normal response to danger and is actually your body's cue to get out of harm's way.
However, when panic sets in when there is no source of danger it can be linked to two causes - stress or possibly, a panic disorder.
The following symptoms are common during a panic attack. You may have just 1 or 2 symptoms or you may have several:
- upset stomach & nausea
- rapid heartbeat
- shortness of breath or inability to breath
- sweating, shaking or trembling
- a sense of fear
- cold, sometimes clammy skin
- tingling sensation in the fingers or toes
- chest pain
- hot flashes or chills
- thinking you are going to die or go crazy
- a feeling that you are detached from your surroundings
If you have ever had a panic attack then you can fully understand how terrible they really are.
Sure the above symptoms sound bad, but when they are happening to your body, they are so much worse then they sound.
As someone who has had many, many attacks ( more than I care to remember) I understand how you feel when you are having one.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
Some doctors still disagree as to what brings on the first panic attack but it is usually related to stress. Whether your stress is considered "good" stress like planning a Hawaiian vacation, getting ready for the Holidays or "bad" stress like losing a job or getting divorced, your body just sees stress as stress and can not differentiate between the two.
Stress in our lives is not usually caused by a physical danger; in fact most stress is caused by completely normal daily activities and is not harmful to us.
Too much stress, however, is dangerous to our body and in some cases it can cause panic attacks, particularly if we have experienced an additional trauma or burden such as the loss of a loved one or big change such as a new job, moving into a new home or getting married.
While normal stress can cause anxiety, when panic attacks become regular a panic disorder may be the cause.
Panic disorder may or may not be directly related to over stress. Some researchers are linking the panic attacks caused by panic disorder to a physical cause. If this is the case you need to seek professional help in dealing with the symptoms.
Sadly most individuals suffering from panic disorder do not get properly diagnosed. Many begin to suffer the physical and psychological effects of changing their lives, their jobs and their recreational activities to accommodate their panic attacks before finding a physician that can properly diagnose their condition.
If the first panic attack occurred in a particular store, they will start avoiding that store. Little by little they start avoiding certain places that once gave them pleasure.
The symptoms of panic attacks may also lead a person to believe they have a dangerous physical condition and seek treatment for various unrelated diseases and conditions.
Can a Panic Disorder Be Treated?
Can you stop panic attacks?
If you think you have been experiencing panic attacks you will need to be diagnosed by your physician and possibly referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist (no, it's not due to them thinking you are crazy but psychiatrists are more tuned in to the medications that may bring relief).
While the physical symptoms may not be connected to a mental condition, often the fear of having panic attacks in public leads to phobias that may need to be treated as well.
A combination of medication and therapy may be used to combat the panic attacks and help a person to overcome related phobias.
The good news is that panic disorder responds very well to treatment and those who receive treatment can lead healthy, normal lives.
How do I know? I for many years suffered, yes, suffered- if you have ever had an attack you'll understand- it is the absolute worst feeling in the world.
Panic Attacks - My Personal Story
For years I hid the fact that I was having panic attacks because I was afraid that people that I knew would think that I was either going crazy or trying to get attention.
I had gone from doctor to doctor and I was constantly being told that it was just a woman thing and that it will go away, and they do often go away but then they will often return again.
But all changed when I moved to Hawaii in 1983.
Now you would think that living in such a nice peaceful place such as Hawaii would eliminate all stress, however I started again to get panic attacks but this time they would only happen in my sleep.
Yep, they would wake me up out of a sound sleep and I would sweat, shake and puke my guts out for what appeared to be hours with each attack. I'd actually wake up with a bruised stomach from the violent muscle reaction.
I then found a doctor who was not only aware of panic attacks but had just got back from the mainland from a panic attack seminar.
Although both the doctor and I both knew that I was having panic attacks, he gave me a barrage of tests to rule out an underlying conditions. He also sent me to a psychologist, again to rule out any other conditions that I might have had.
To hold me until my test results came back (I was having my panic attacks almost every night) he gave me a few books to read about panic attacks, medication and best of all he understood and let me know that panic attacks are a physical condition and like someone who may wear glasses or have had a gallbladder removed, it is just a weakness that my body has.
Luckily all my results came back normal even though deep inside I wanted a physical ailment that could easily be fixed to be found. Although the medication that I was given should have taken 4-6 weeks to start working it started to work within a few days.
Weird thing is that the medication (Imiprame) is mainly used for children and bed wetting, yet it also helped to stop my attacks.
The medication did have several side effects like a craving for sweets, weight gain, a bit of dizziness when I stood up from a crouched position and dry mouth but to me they were all worth it, just to have the attacks stop.
No, they didn't stop right away but they did begin to get less severe and came less often.
Just being able to admit to myself that my body wasn't perfect, but neither is anyone else and that I shouldn't be ashamed of having panic attacks greatly reduced the attacks themselves.
Reading, learning and understanding how to cope with a panic attack is your best defense. Read all you can about stopping a panic attack once it starts will help you begin to over come them.
I am happy to say that I have not had a panic attack in quite a while and I am no longer on any type of medication for it.
Panic Attack Tip - It Can Really Help!
So you're starting to feel uncomfortable and you know a panic attack is on it's way and your not sure what to do. The experts say to relax and it will go away but usually that does not work.
Try this instead:
Start counting from 100 backwards by 9's. Then by 8, then 7, by 6 etc. When you are struggling to do the calculations your brain will be focused on the math and not on how your body is feeling.
If you find that counting backwards from 100 is easy for you, try something harder like starting from 300.
Although this appears to be very simple, the idea behind it is to keep your mind engaged so that it can't focus on your panic.
Seriously - try it. If counting backwards is very easy for you try other math tests like division. If you have to think hard to get the answers you will often find that you've made it though an attack.
L-Theanine the Amino Acid For Soothing Nerves
L-Theanine is a cortisol balancing amino acid and is derived from green tea.
L-Theanine starts to work in about 30 minutes and unlike prescription medications, L-Theanine does not make you tired, sleepy or have that dopey feeling. I have found that for me, if I take 400 mgs I feel calm and relaxed for about 7- 9 hours. While L-Theanine does not make you tired so it really doesn't help with sleeping some people find that if their mind is racing at night L-Theanine may help calm it
While L-Theanine is a supplement that is purchased over the counter you should always read the label and use as directed and you should always discuss it's use with your doctor as you may be on a medication or have a medical condition that would prohibit its use and never use any over the counter supplements if you are pregnant or nursing.
Panic Attack High Cholesterol Connection
Researchers have found a connection between having high cholesterol and having panic attacks.
Not everyone who has high cholesterol will have panic attacks but it has been noticed that a good percentage of those who do get panic attacks have high cholesterol.
In addition, researchers have found that a big meal, heavy in fat may also set off a panic attack. We all know that high fat meals are not good for us and now there is another reason to watch your fat intake.
Relaxation Techniques - Relaxtion tips to help stop panic attacks
1) Deep Breathing With Your Diaphragm:
When we feel nervous or anxious we often start to hyperventilate - that is breathing very quickly and very shallow and can make you very dizzy due to too much oxygen getting in to your system. And yes, if you find that you are hyperventilating and can not slow down your breathing try breathing into a paper bag. When you breathe this way you will also be breathing in your own carbon dioxide which will help with the dizziness.
This why one of the best relaxation techniques for anxiety or the onset of a panic attack is to breathe using the full capacity of your lungs - as full as you feel comfortable.
To do this deep breathing you should imagine that you're breathing down into your stomach instead of your chest. Your stomach should rise and fall each time you breathe in and out. With shallower breathing it is your chest that normally expands when you breathe
Slow and very controlled breathing can help you refocus your mind and you will find yourself beginning to relax. You may not notice it immediately but you will very shortly.
Visualization is a very popular and effective way of taking your mind away from whatever it is that's making you feel anxious.
Picture in your mind in very vivid detail the sights, sounds, smells and emotions that you would feel if you were in a that location or situation that made you feel relaxed and comfortable.
This may take a few times to really be able to get yourself involved with your "safe place" and the more that you practice the better you will become.
When are you the most relaxed or when or where in your life were you the happiest? Try to focus on that particular time and place.
Go into as much detail as possible. If you are visualizing being on a beach - feel the heat from the sun, smell the ocean air, do you feel a slight gentle breeze or is the wind more brisk? If you are thinking about sitting down under a palm tree, try to feel the sun peak in and out of the branches, listen to the rustling of the bird in the tree. Are the birds singing or only flapping their wings?
This is your story, so choose one that relates to you. Some people prefer a more active situation so they may visualize snow boarding, skiing or even sky diving ( although sky diving would freak me out it just may be perfect for you)
There many hypnosis relaxation audios available as MP3's or CD's. These types of audios will help to steer your mind away from your anxious thoughts and can help take you through certain methods to help your body relax. I personally like such as progressive muscle relaxation where you relax each muscle of your body one by one.
Just focusing on your muscles instead of your problems starts to relieve your tension.
You can find many of these for free or low cost on the internet or as an app for your smartphone.
Look for a hypnoses guide or audio that has good reviews from previous users and remember too, that hypnosis can only work if you believe that it can work. If you are not a believer then use one of the other methods.
If you prefer to see a hypnotist to help relieve your stress, ask your doctor for a few names and see which type of hypnosis techniques they use. Also if money is an issue check with your health insurance to see if they cover hypnosis for stress reduction or panic attacks as some do and some don't
4) Timed Breathing:
If you're stressed and try to breathe deeply you may find it difficult and actually start to hyperventilate or find that you can't relax enough to breathe deeply. Instead of trying to breathe deeply, try timing your breathing instead. For example, try breathing in for a count of 4, and out for a count of 6. Extending your out-breath is shown to help relax your body's nervous system, and the counting gives you something else to focus your mind on. The examples are just that -examples. Your times may be different but normally your breathing in should be about 4-6 seconds and your breathing out would be 5 -8 seconds. If you have respiratory issues your times may vary greatly from those shown and if you are not sure if this technique is right for you be sure to check with your doctor or specialist before attempting it.
5) Improve Your Sleep:
Although it's not a relaxation technique that you would putt in the same category as those above, a good sound and restful sleep is import.ant. When your mind and body does not get enough deep sleep you may start to feel anxious or tense. Ans then many times when we are tense, we can't get a good night's sleep.
So how can we get a better and more sound sleep?
* Always avoid tons of caffeine during the day and stop having any caffeine at all at mid-afternoon
* Try not to drink too many liquids within 3 hours of going to bed - otherwise you might have to wake up to use the bathroom and then your mind will start racing again.
* Try to add a bit more exercise into your day. Exercise can help you relax and also burn off nervous energy.
* Even if you normally shower in the morning, try taking one about 30 minutes before bed. A warm shower will relax your muscles and the warmth will soothe your mind. You just don't want to wash your hair at this time as you will find it hard going to sleep with a wet head.
* If you snack at night have some yogurt or tuna. Both are said to relax.
6) Grab a glass of water:
Yes, something as simple as getting and slowly drinking a glass of water can start to relax.
Have you noticed that in many "police or emergency" type shows they ask a person who may have been attacked or had a loved one rushed to the hospital if they want a glass of water? The water is used as a diversion. While the person is picking up the glass and drinking they are concentrating on drinking and not their stressful situation. It's simple - but it can help.
Become A Panic Attack Success Story
Overcoming your anxiety attacks
Stop letting panic attacks keep you away from what you love doing - don't let them rule your life.
Stop the avoidance of certain places due to the fear of another attack - the more you avoid the stronger the connection.
Stop being afraid to travel -whether it be by car, bus, airplane.
Stop being afraid to leave your house for fear of another attack.
Stop feeling uncomfortable in your own skin - if you get panic & anxiety attacks you know how this feels.
Stop from having to always look for an escape route or a bathroom, just in case.
Become a panic attack success story - you really can!
If you believe that you have any health condition including panic attacks, it's important that you seek medical care for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
You may not realize it now --but you can get your panic attacks under control.
Yes, it may take a while & yes, you may have to try several different methods but there is help available.