Panic Attacks

A panic attack is one way stress can manifest itself. It can be very frightening, particuarly the first time that it happens. Within the context of a stress reaction, there can be a number of reasons why we experience panic attacks. For example : feelings of anxiety; re-living an unpleasant experience or re-experiencing feelings associated with something unpleasant; not feeling in control; experiencing something new that has taken us/forced us out of our 'comfort zone' (e.g. a new job, or a stressful upcoming event); we want to flee from a situation - being in an enclosed space or whatever - but can't. These are just a few examples, and you may well know of or have experienced something different.

A panic attack engenders the body's natural 'fight or flight' reaction. When there's no real external threat, the adrenaline pumping around the body is experienced as a panic attack : the heart beats fast and hard, and we may sweat, feel faint or nauseous. If you experience a panic atttack, it's important to remind yourself that none of these feelings can harm you - you are not going to have a heart attack, faint or be sick. Although you may feel very strange, no-one else is likely to notice that anything is wrong. There are some things you can try if you feel a panic attack coming on

  • Try to deepen your breathing and relax
  • Distract yourself by thinking about something else or focusing on an item in the room
  • Try to block any panicky or worrying thoughts
  • Remind yourself that the feelings will pass and you can get through it

As you manage your panic in this way, your brain and body begin to recognise that there is no real danger, the supply of adrenaline to the bloodstream is cut off, and the symptoms will subside.

You might want to try a breathing exercise like the one elsewhere on this site - just click here to try the Benson Relaxation Method.

Recommended reading: Panic Attacks, by Christine Ingham 

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