Treating Panic Attacks

An anxiety or panic attack is accompanied by a chemical reaction in the brain. Something triggers a process by which neurotransmitters within the brain shift to a fight or flight setting. Panic and anxiety attacks can be debilitating. Sufferers may choose to live alone and are prone to experiencing depression. Early and effective treatment can head off a chronic, extremely troubling condition.

Symptoms

The chemical reactions associated with anxiety produce physical symptoms. When your brain perceives a threat, whether real or imagined, your body also shifts into a state of high alert. The severity of an attack varies depending on the situation and how much anxiety it generates. Some common physical symptoms are an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, and even passing out.

Panic attacks typically last between 10 and 15 minutes. This is the period when a person might experience extreme physical stress. While physical pain is not one of the symptoms, the body is pushed into a state of fight or flight because of a rush of adrenaline.

The trigger of a panic attack may be innocuous or vague. However, the perception of a threat can lead to a state of extreme mental and physical distress nonetheless. The negative experience of panic attacks can set up a negative cycle in which the fear of an attack makes a sufferer prone to further attacks.

Panic attacks lower confidence and emotional and physical well-being. Following a panic attack, a person may be tired and unable to focus on relatively simple tasks. It may also be difficult to follow good eating habits and feelings of nausea can persist.

Treatment

Drugs

There are many different kinds of medicine available to help people who suffer from panic attacks. However, all have side effects of some description. They also tend to be addictive, potentially worsening your overall mental health. Medicines for panic and anxiety attacks should normally be prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy is useful for addressing the root causes of panic attacks. How you mentally process past events and present circumstances, and how you think about the future are all important for establishing a strong mental outlook. A trained and certified psychiatrist can help you change your thinking patterns for the better. But cognitive development is also something you can work on yourself on an ongoing basis.

Physical techniques

A quick, practical method to help prevent or stop a panic attack is to use breathing techniques, such as breathing in a deliberate, thoughtful way. Other physical methods, such as going for a walk, may help shift your attention away from the negative thoughts that bring on a state of anxiety and panic.

A medium-term solution is to apply relaxation techniques — things such as music and sounds, Tai Chi, and progressive muscle relaxation. They make you feel calm during the session and contribute to an overall state of tranquility.