It has happened to almost everyone at some time in their lives. You start feeling lightheaded, you can actually feel your heart pounding, you may be short of breath or have chest pain. It feels like you may be having a heart attack!
However, chances are pretty good that you are having a panic attack unless you are someone with heart disease or a history of cardiovascular problems.
How Do You Know You Are Having a Panic Attack?
Of course, you should have it checked out by a doctor if you have never experienced this before. Panic attacks can certainly feel like heart attacks if you have never had one before. Sometimes they occur out of nowhere and for no obvious reason. Other times, you are in the middle of a crowded store or at work dealing with too many things at once. People with panic disorders can have several panic attacks per week and every time they have one, they actually believe they are going to die. The symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Shaking or trembling
- Fear that you are going crazy
- Abdominal or digestive issues such as diarrhea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling like you are going to die
Getting Through a Panic Attack
When you are having a panic attack, it is really difficult to get it under control. However, it is not impossible. It is best if you talk to a therapist to learn the best techniques to help your individual symptoms of panic attacks. However, in the meantime, there are some things you can do.
Getting a grasp on your breathing is the most important way to get your panic attack under control. Most people who are in the middle of an attack are breathing fast, which is what causes the rapid heartrate, dizziness, and can even cause you to faint. You may have seen people on television suffering from a panic attack and someone always gives them a paper bag or something to breathe into. You do not need the bag. That is just a way to trick your mind into thinking about your breathing rather than thinking about panicking. To do deep breathing, all you have to do is take a slow breath in through your nose, hold it for a couple of seconds, and then exhale and repeat. Make sure you pause for about three seconds between each breath so you do not end up hyperventilating. You can do this while standing, sitting, or laying down.
Relax Your Muscles
Getting yourself to relax is done by relaxing your body, one muscle at a time. Progressive muscle relaxation is done in two steps. The first step is to tense your muscle groups one at a time. Then, release the tension of these muscle groups one at a time. Pay attention to each individual muscle as you tense and relax it. It also helps if you do your deep breathing during this exercise.
Face Your Fears
The experts claim that the best way to get control of your panic disorder is to face your fears. To do this, you have to allow yourself to have panic attacks voluntarily so you can desensitize yourself from the symptoms. By bringing the symptoms on yourself, you will have a sense of control over the panic attacks and the feelings that occur during the attack. Eventually, you will get so used to these situations that set off the panic attacks that your body will not respond with these symptoms anymore.
If you are having panic attacks more than once a month, you should talk to a therapist or counselor about it. You can talk to someone online without even needing an appointment.
About the author
Natalie Engel graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2017, and is now a member of the Community and Support team at BetterHelp. Her daily work includes supporting the counselors, clients and any potential clients on the BetterHelp platform. One of her favorite aspects of her position is getting to interview and onboard counselors to expand the platform, and allow every member to be matched with a counselor who best fits their needs.