Table of Contents
Am I Having a Panic Attack and Heart Palpitations
Panic attacks often come out of nowhere, striking when you least expect it and leaving you feeling utterly powerless as the symptoms run their course. Most experiencing their first panic attack believe they are having a heart attack, and it’s no wonder. The symptoms of a panic attack closely mimic those of a heart attack, so it makes perfect sense to go to the local emergency room to have it checked out.
Thankfully, in most cases the symptoms being experienced, while frightening, are not life-threatening. Panic attacks, also referred to as panic disorder, and anxiety in general are an increasingly common mental health condition in the U.S. According to statistics provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 6 million adults will be affected by panic disorder in a given year. Fear and anticipation of the next attack can consume the thoughts of someone who has experienced a panic attack. For those who are among this group, the number one query they have is what to do when you’re having a panic attack.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is one of the mental health disorders within the anxiety disorder spectrum. Panic disorder is more prevalent in women, with twice as many women experiencing it than men. When not treated, panic disorder can be highly disruptive in daily life, with the constant dread or fear of the next attack. This is because it is very hard to know when a panic attack might be forthcoming, which inhibits sufferers from leaving a place where they feel safe and in control. This can have devastating impact on the individual’s quality of life.
Signs and symptoms of panic disorder may stem from past traumatic events, a family history of anxiety disorders, a major life event, such as divorce or sudden loss of a loved one, and major life stressors. Regardless of the cause, knowing what to do when you’re having a panic attack is key to getting through one. Symptoms of a panic attack include some of these:
- Racy heart
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling very weak or faint
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- A sense of terror or doom
- Tingling in the hands and fingers
- Feelings of detachment
- Hot flashes
- Fear of death
- Abdominal cramping
What to Do When Your Having a Panic Attack
When a panic attack strikes it is very helpful to have a toolbox of coping skills in place. This means that, in advance of a future attack, to have become familiar with the strategies by practicing them. Also, you can also help someone having a panic attack with these same tips. Here are some tips on what to do for managing a panic attack:
- Remind yourself that it is temporary, not life threatening, and try to ground yourself at the outset of the event. A grounding technique involves observing your surroundings and finding 5 things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
- Concentrate on slow, deep breathing. Deep breathing technique should be practiced on a regular basis so it becomes second nature when needed during an attack. It involves breathing in through the nose slowly for 4 or 5 seconds, filling your lower lungs and upper lungs, expanding the chest. Hold for 7 seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth for 8 seconds, pushing the air out entirely. Repeat this for a few minutes or as long as needed.
- Try not to fight the panic attack, but instead accept you are having one and reassure yourself it will soon pass. It helps to do some positive self-talk, such as telling yourself, “I have survived these before and they always pass,” or “I am going to be fine, everything will be okay.” Replace negative thoughts with affirming thoughts, telling yourself you are in control.
- Don’t be afraid to get help if you feel you need it, even if it is just to get outside in the fresh air. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes or taking a short walk, alone or with a friend, can help you get through the panic attack. If you are afraid the panic attack is entirely out of control, ask someone to get you to the hospital for evaluation.
How to Help Yourself or Someone Else Having a Panic Attack
The Treatment Specialist will connect you with a treatment center for anxiety and depression who will provide a free assessment and insurance review. Call to connect with a treatment center for panic disorder, connect with a Treatment Specialist at (866) 644-7911.