Out of the blue, you feel anxious. Your breathing quickens, your heart races, you begin to sweat, you feel faint. You feel like you are dying and don’t know why.
This is a description of a panic attack, and not only can the symptoms be debilitating, they can be self-perpetuating. Your intense reaction to the attack creates the fear that generates another attack (which can lead to full-blown Panic Disorder). This can lead to avoidance of situations like being out in public. But this cycle can be broken.
A very simple solution is learning to become aware of your breathing just before a panic attack strikes. Much like the “aura” or odd smell that migraine sufferers describe, becoming self-aware is key. One exercise to try when you first feel symptoms of anxiety and fear is to take very deep, calming breaths while feeling grounded to the earth. This practice can help you avoid the “fight or flight” adrenaline reaction that leads to the physical symptoms of panic.
Regular practice of relaxation techniques can also retrain the body and mind. As your body, mind and soul become accustomed to this feeling of relaxation, the panic reaction retreats. Learning imagery and visualization techniques can aid with this process.
When self-care does not help, there are a variety of therapeutic treatments for panic attacks and Panic Disorder.
Hypnosis can interrupt the autonomic nervous system
Cognitive therapies help you “talk through” your feelings and fears. When you have a “worst case” plan to deal with a potential attack, the fear becomes less debilitating.
Somatic therapies allow you to experience the physical sensations of a panic attack in a controlled, safe environment. Through different exercises and movements, you learn that you have control over your symptoms.
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a very helpful mind-body therapy technique. You can read about it on our website or by going to EMDRIA.org.
- Exposure therapies are also very valuable. With these, your therapist helps prepare you to gradually expose yourself to situations that bring up your fear.
- Finally, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is also very useful for anxiety, panic and phobias.
If you suffer from anxiety or panic disorders, know that there is help. Take responsibility for self-care by learning some of the solutions offered here, and never hesitate to ask for support. We are here for you.