How to Manage Debilitating Anxiety and Panic Attacks
It can happen right out of the blue. Suddenly you are beset with an overwhelming sense of fear rising right through your body. Your heart races, you begin feeling wobbly, unsteady on your feet. It feels like you might be choking, with your throat closing in. You think you are having a heart attack, shaking and sweating, barely catching your breath.
Debilitating anxiety and panic attacks originate when the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, overreacts to some stimulus, causing cortisol levels to spike. The sudden surge of adrenaline, the hormone involved in the fight-or-flight response in a given situation, causes many of these physical symptoms. The panic attack usually lasts 10-15 minutes, at which time your body will slowly return to normal. Because these debilitating anxiety and panic attacks are unpredictable and distressful, it is good to have some tips on how to manage them when they occur.
About Panic Disorder
While panic attacks are not life threatening they can sure make you feel like you are dying. Panic disorder is in the anxiety spectrum of mental health disorders, and is fairly uncommon, with an estimated 2-3% of Americans suffering from it, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. About twice as many women than men experience panic disorder.
It is difficult to live with panic disorder because it is so unpredictable and the attacks so random. In some cases there is no obvious reason for the panic attack, but in others it is a direct result of anticipating an anxiety-provoking situation like public speaking. The most important thing to realize is that you really won’t die from a panic attack. The next thing to know is how to effectively manage debilitating anxiety and panic attacks.
Mindfulness training teaches the mind to center itself on the moment at hand. Because much anxiety is caused by the anticipation of things to come, mindfulness is an effective tool during a panic attack. By remaining in the present, you can observe the symptoms as a transient event that will soon pass. Focus on your natural surroundings, what you can see, smell, and touch, to help ground yourself until the attack subsides.
Deep Breathing Exercises
One of the fastest ways to quell debilitating anxiety is through deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can almost instantly work to slow the racing heart rate and regularize the respiratory system. Find a place to sit comfortably. Repeat this pattern for ten breath cycles:
- Inhale deeply, slowly taking in as much air as possible, expanding the diaphragm, taking about 5 full seconds.
- Next, hold the breath for 7 seconds.
- Finally, exhale slowly for 7 seconds until the lungs are totally empty
By consciously relaxing the muscles in the body, cortisol levels will begin to decline, helping to end the symptoms of a panic attack. Muscles will tense up during a panic attack, so progressive muscle relaxation will be beneficial. Start by sitting or lying down comfortably and closing your eyes. Focus on your feet first, flexing and pointing the feet and toes, releasing stress. Tighten and hold, then release the calf muscles, repeat for the glutes. Then life the shoulders for a count of ten, and release, repeating a few times. Next, clench your fists and count to ten, then release.
The Treatment Specialist Can Locate Treatment for Panic Disorder
The Treatment Specialist is a team with a decade of experience helping individuals find appropriate treatment for mental health conditions, including panic disorder. Debilitating anxiety and panic attacks can have a devastating impact on daily life. The Treatment Specialist will assess your specific needs and then guide you toward the best anxiety treatment program, whether inpatient or outpatient. Receiving treatment can help you learn how to manage debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. The specialists will provide this free locator service, as well as a free insurance benefit review to help smooth the way toward treatment. For more information, contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.