Tips to Cope with a Panic Attack

By Steve Bressert, Ph.D.

A panic attack is a sudden rush of physical symptoms — like shortness of breath, muscle spasms, and nausea — coupled with uncontrollable anxiety and sometimes a sense of impending doom. Visits to the emergency room and desperate late night phone calls to doctors often result, as do test results that often reveal nothing. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you can probably empathize with the frustration and hopelessness of not knowing exactly what happened.

By educating yourself about panic attacks, you can begin to gain control of the problem. You don’t have to live in fear and uncertainty any longer. We’ll get you started on your journey toward well-being.

Accepting a panic attack for what it is can help to lessen its effect. To start feeling in control of your anxiety, make an appointment with your doctor and get a full physical exam. This will help you focus your approach, as you’ll find out for certain that you’re coping with panic attacks and not some other ailment. A clean bill of health can also help alleviate irrational fears of dying and doom, which can surface during a panic attack.

Also, your doctor can differentiate between occasional panic attacks and a more serious panic disorder, which may require professional treatment and possibly medication. Working with your doctor, you can also determine if you have a genetic susceptibility to panic attacks, and if your episodes are triggered in part by other conditions, such as a thyroid disorder or lactose sensitivity.

Recognize the Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Familiarizing yourself with panic attack symptoms can help you feel more in control while one’s happening. Once you realize you’re experiencing a panic attack and not a heart attack, allergic reaction, or some other serious ailment, you can focus on techniques for calming yourself.

Being able to recognize it for what it is will help you decide what action to take to overcome it. Although symptoms differ from person to person, and only a trained professional can provide a definite diagnosis, some common ones include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hot flashes or sudden chills
  • Tingling sensations in your extremities
  • A fear that you’re going crazy
  • A fear that you might die or be seriously ill

 

APA Reference
Bressert, S. (2007). Tips to Cope with a Panic Attack. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/tips-to-cope-with-a-panic-attack/000971
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.