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How To Recognize And Slow Down A Panic Attack


Panic attacks are caused by an increased flow of adrenaline into the blood stream, which sends fear to the brain. They can be triggered by many things, one of which anxiety when in bad surroundings. The various anxiety disorders affect eighteen percent of the population. This makes them the most common mental illness in the United States.

Symptoms of a panic attack

The severity of panic attacks can vary from episode to episode. Symptoms typically include any combination of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dizziness
  • Choking sensations
  • Shaking
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Detachment from your surroundings

If the panic attack is at its most severe, it can resemble a heart attack, which triggers just more fear and anxiety.

How to slow a panic attack

The first aspect of slowing or stopping a heart attack is to breathe. There are several proven breathing techniques that work to calm a person down.

  • Concentrate on deep breathing. Deep breathing comes from the lower portion of the lungs upwards. Hyperventilation is caused by breathing shallow breaths from the upper portion of the lungs. It is even good to do this all day long because you will be used to it, and oxygen will flow steadily throughout the day while it controls the exhale of carbon dioxide.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair. Take ten deep breaths. Between those breaths, exhale slowly while calmly saying the word “relax”. If you feel your jaw, stomach or forehead get tense, visualize them loosening up.

Panic attack treatment

If you suffer from chronic panic attacks, it is important for you to seek treatment before they destabilize your life.

One such plan of action is cognitive behavioral therapy. Studies have shown that in just a short time, this type of therapy has helped up to eighty-five percent of patients become panic free. The two parts of this type of therapy are the therapist helping the patient recognizes the triggers that cause warped thinking processes which heighten anxiety, and desensitize emotions through exposure to sensitive events, such as phobias.

Used in some treatments of PTSD, an anxiety disorder that is diagnosed after severe, psychological trauma, exposure therapy puts patients back into the traumatic situation. When done by a trained professional specializing in PTSD, the environment is safe because the purpose of exposure therapy is not to re-traumatize the patient. Its resolve is to help the patient gain control of the fear that was devastating during the initial trauma.

Panic attacks can be scary, but they can be overcome and dealt with. It is important for you to know your yourself: any triggers and what works for you in dealing with them in the moment. As a long term solution, a therapist is a good option to help you understand why you are triggered into a panic attack in the first place. If you’re in the Honolulu area, contact us at East West Therapy to help manage your panic attacks.