When you have a panic attack, you suddenly feel terror, with no imminent or real danger. In this situation, you may even think and feel that you might lose control. This is what we call in clinical psychology an episode of acute anxiety, or panic attack..
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks happen in any situation, anywhere and without warning. A person who has had a panic attack will be afraid that it will happen again and this may cause them to avoid places or situations where they have had a panic attack before.
Being overwhelmed with anxiety can happen at different times in life and for different causes, but if you have symptoms that suddenly appear for a few seconds and go away, it may be related to panic attacks.
The most common symptoms of a panic attack are tachycardia, shortness of breath, pulmonary hyperventilation, tremors, or dizziness. It happens when you find yourself in a desperate situation, the discomfort arises unexpectedly and produces hopelessness or fear. It is possible that the affectation caused by this intense anxiety is caused by something that threatens the person or their environment.
Physical signs during a panic episode increase rapidlyThey are usually short-lived, the intensity of the symptoms making the person feel that it is taking longer than it really takes for the seizure. It is a difficult situation that advises to be treated by specialists to prevent it from worsening in the future or becoming chronic with the appearance of a clinical picture such as panic disorder.
Panic attacks are more common in women than in men. They appear more frequently in young adults. Its occurrence is more common when the person is under excessive stress in their life.
How can you act during a panic attack?
Usually, people who suffer from panic attacks perceive the threatening situation at a more serious level, which causes the body to be alert and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated which prepares us for dangerous situations.
When we have identified what causes us anxiety, the process of tension in the face of this event does not necessarily begin when we are exposed to what is causing us anxiety.. Sometimes we already know that we are going to face it and unconsciously our brain prepares itself for the moment of tension, so we are in the presence of an anticipated anxiety that we can work on in advance to decrease the perception of danger and the attacks. of panic.
Step-by-step guide to relieving an anxiety attack
If you have not yet had a consultation with a psychologist (which is recommended), and knowing that each case must be treated individually, I can recommend that you combine two exercises: mindfulness on the outside and deep breathing. which will help you cope better at the time of the panic attack.
1. Watch out for the exterior
This visualization technique involves shifting attention to the stimulus that you perceive as a threat. If you are mentally connected to the stressor, it will be more difficult to regulate the anxiety situation.
You should try to imagine something that you like and enjoy: a meal, a sport, your favorite song or anything else that appeals to you, that way you will distract from the stressful situation and your brain will focus on these positive stimuli.
2. Deep breathing
You can do this practice which will help you reduce the level of activation through three phases: Inhalation, Retention and Expiration. It involves taking air through the nose for a few seconds, holding the air for a few seconds, and then expelling the air in the same number of seconds it was taken. For example: Inhale (mentally count to five), Hold (mentally count to five) and exhale (mentally count to five), and repeat the exercise. Maybe the first time it is performed you cannot hold the five seconds in the three phases, don’t worry, the important thing is to do the exercise several times and you will gradually feel a slowing down of the speed. cardiac frequency.
Remember that it is important to consult a professional psychologist because deep breathing techniques and outside attention are only emergency tools that can be useful during a panic attack, but do not ‘do not completely eliminate these episodes or identify the causes. The vast majority of those affected improve with psychotherapy. A psychologist can work with you to provide you with strategies and tools to learn how to regulate anxiety and keep it from overwhelming you in the future.