Many of us are familiar with the phrase “panic attack.” At the same time, many of us are not entirely sure what they are and what causes them. In the event you’re dealing with a panic-related issue, the good news is you’re certainly not alone. Panic attacks are probably much more common than people realize.
It isn’t unusual for individuals to suffer a one-time panic attack as a result of stress or a stressful situation. Additionally, over two million Americans between 18 and 54 experience some type of panic disorder each year. This means that they suffer from panic attacks on a regular basis. Read on to learn more about these attacks, panic disorder, and what causes each.
What Is a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks are sudden, intense feelings of fear and anxiety. They can occur at any time, even when a person is otherwise feeling relaxed. They tend to last between 10 and 20 minutes, but the effects can linger for several hours. While panic attacks can be very uncomfortable and lead to emotional complications if they resurface frequently, typically they aren’t physically dangerous.
The actual physical effects of a panic attack differ from person to person and even from case to case. Symptoms that people commonly experience include chest pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for those of a heart attack, especially if the person is suffering a panic attack for the first time. Other physical symptoms include faintness, nausea, hot flashes, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
While there are a number of factors that can contribute to a panic attack, the exact causes are unknown. Panic attacks can sometimes be caused by major changes or stressful situations in life, such as a new job or the loss of a family member.
Certain people with phobias also experience panic attacks when they are exposed to whatever it is they are phobic to. Having a panic attack in a certain situation can also lead a person to think that that situation has the potential to bring on another attack. These cases are known as situationally-bound panic attacks.
Other factors can be more long term and lead to the person being more prone to future panic attacks. People who experience psychological conditions such as anxiety disorders tend to experience panic attacks as well. These long-term, recurring cases are known as panic disorder. Panic disorders can affect anyone, but typically they affect young adults and they tend to occur more frequently in women than in men. They are usually treated through either psychological therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Panic attacks can be confusing and scary, especially while they are occurring. But, knowing a bit about them is the first step to helping yourself to get through them. Other things that you can do are to work on breathing techniques and cut down on caffeine and smoking.
Here’s one last tip. Hyperventilating can make many of the symptoms of a panic attack worse, while controlled, deep breathing can help to relieve the symptoms.
How to Stop Panic Attacks before They Start
Panic attacks are typically described as sudden and extreme bouts of fear and apprehension. While these attacks can happen at any time, stressful or traumatic situations can make you more prone to experiencing them. That being said, one major thing you can do to help fend off future panic attacks is to learn how to manage stress properly. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Count to Ten
Unfortunately, you don’t always make the best decisions in the face of stress or a crisis. When a stressful situation comes your way, step away from the problem and count to ten. Use this time to collect yourself and think about the decision that’s right for you.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep or abdominal breathing is the way your body naturally breathes when you are relaxed. Deep breathing comes from movement in the abdomen, rather than the chest movement that accompanies shallow breathing. When an individual gets stressed, he or she generally tends to take rapid (shallow) breaths. This, in turn, elevates stress and can easily trigger a panic attack.
Watch Out for Stressors
Make a list of the things in your life that frequently cause you stress. Then try to come up with a plan to deal with (or get through) these situations the next time they come up. Having a plan will make uncomfortable issues much less stressful to deal with.
Start an Exercise Routine
Exercising a bit each day goes a long way toward improving both your physical and mental health. You don’t need to adopt an intense, rigorous routine. Even 30 minutes of walking, jogging, swimming, or a similar activity every day will give you a workout and also establish a daily routine. This well-structured routine makes life feel more ordered and controlled, keeping stressful chaos to a minimum.
Turn to Friends
Panic attacks are very difficult to deal with alone. If you have a friend or family member who you trust to share your feelings with, ask if he or she is willing to lend you a hand. Chances are the answer will be yes.
Whether this person helps you deal with your stressors or simply gives you someone to talk to, having support is a great comfort. Just make sure that the person you confide in isn’t connected to the things that generally stress you out. For example, if your co-workers are causing your stress, talk to a friend outside of work.
Avoid Stressful Situations
When you feel that something is causing you stress, each time you find yourself dealing with it, it’s best to do everything you can to avoid the issue. If you’re getting stressed out at work, this might mean saying “no” when people try to pile additional responsibilities on you.
The bad news is this, though: you can’t avoid an unpleasant situation forever. You still need to deal with the problems you’ve avoided once you feel more up to it.
There isn’t anything you can do to guarantee you’ll be free of panic attacks. But, taking control of the stressors in your life will keep you from feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Just remember to take it one day at a time, and breathe.
How to Stop Panic Attacks Naturally
Panic attacks are typically the result of high levels of anxiety or stress. Unfortunately, no one is immune to the possibility of a panic attack. The uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating experience can strike at any time. On a brighter note, should the problem occur, there are several things you can try to ward of panic attacks naturally – by way of reducing your anxiety. Here are some anxiety busters to consider.
Chamomile is a herb containing anti-anxiety properties, and it is commonly brewed into tea. Some of the calming compounds found in chamomile work by binding to receptors in the brain. These same receptors are the ones that respond to drugs such as Xanax and Valium.
Chamomile, with its mildly sedating attributes, has been utilized for centuries as a natural aid as well. The herb is often included in anxiety-related medical studies. Results are promising when compared to placebos. Part of the ragweed family, chamomile can also be found in pill or powdered substance form.
Lavender scent has been used for centuries to calm nerves and fight anxiety. As with chamomile, clinical studies indicate that lavender aromatherapy is a suitable non-drug alternative to combating feelings of nervousness.
One such study, published in Phytomedicine, revealed that lavender oil was equally or almost as effective as Lorazepam, without the dangerous side effects. It’s also considerably less expensive than pharmaceutical products.
When the body doesn’t get enough vitamin B12, some say you are more susceptible to panic attacks and depression in general. Reversing a B12 deficiency is quite simple. You can use a doctor-prescribed nasal spray or get an injection.
If you’re not fond of needles, why not consume your vitamin B12? It’s found in a variety of foods such as grass-fed beef liver, yogurt, shrimp, venison, eggs, wild salmon and lamb. Let the dinner bell ring!
Valerian is a sweet-scented flowering herb that grows in the summer. It’s been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. Today, it’s often taken in the form of a dietary capsule, as a sedative and sleep aid. Valerian is frequently combined with lemon balm or hops in effort to increase the effects of the herbs.
Kava kava is a Polynesian plant that is commonly used to ease one’s worried mind. The roots are brewed to create a drink that is sedative in nature. This beverage often replaces alcohol as a treatment for social anxiety. Why? The answer is simple. Kava kava calms but does not alter mental cognition.
Dietary omega-3 supplements are popular as part of almost any supplement routine. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it good for heart health. It’s also been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. So, it’s a suitable way to help in the fight against panic attacks.
Now that you’re armed with several ways you can attempt to stop panic attacks naturally, it’s time to begin making progress. If one suggestion doesn’t work, simply move on to the next one. It won’t happen overnight. But, with patience you should start to notice a difference.