How to Stop Panic attacks?
This guide will help you to stop panic attacks. I am an Anxiety Disorder therapist, and this guide is built on Cognitive Behavioral principles that have helped millions of people overcome their panic, and it can help you too.
If you have ever felt a panic attack, I know for sure that you won´t want to feel one again.
For some people, this is the case. One panic attack or two, and then nothing, they are gone for good, and thanks God for it.
For a lot of people, this is not the case. They have one attack after another, and even if they are sleeping, they might awake in the middle of the night having cold sweats and feeling dizzy, or having to go to the bathroom all of a sudden, as if they where sick.
If you are having this kind of panic attack, and you have been having it for quite a while (more than 1 month), then you might have what is called Panic Disorder.
This post will explain the intricacies of a panic attack, and is not meant for treatment of Panic Disorder, so if you think you have Panic Disorder, you must look for experienced help (Psychiatrist or Psychologist specialized in Anxiety Disorder treatment).
As an Anxiety therapist, I help a lot of people get their freedom back.
Usually, when they get to me, they have been having panic attacks for some time, and they are desperate. The problem is that Panic Attacks are misunderstood, or there is lack of information and knowledge as to why they happen, and how to stop them from happening for good.
How to stop panic attacks? has been a BIG question for psychology and psychiatry.
You as a person being affected by it, also may have trouble understanding it, and knowing why, when and where you will have one.
Most of the time, when you get a panic attack you don´t know what to do, so this guide is meant to help you.
With it you will learn:
There are three major parts to panic and anxiety: physical symptoms, thoughts, and behavior. This is also called the Panic Cycle (Discussed later.)
Symptoms and Criteria
First of all, lets talk about the symptoms you may have, and the Criteria for Panic Disorder, so you get an idea if you may have Panic Disorder.
The following symptoms and criteria are taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision, also known as DSM-IV-TR, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
According to DSM-IV-TR, a panic attack is characterized by four or more of the following symptoms:
palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
trembling or shaking
sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
feeling of choking
chest pain or discomfort
nausea or abdominal distress
feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
feelings of unreality (derealization) or being detached from oneself (depersonalization)
fear of losing control or going crazy
fear of dying
numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias)
chills or hot flushes
The presence of fewer than four of the above symptoms may be considered a limited-symptom panic attack.
The diagnostic criteria for panic disorder is defined in the DSM-IV-TR as follows:
Recurrent unexpected panic attacks and at least one of the attacks have been followed by 1 month (or more) of one (or more) of the following:
The attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (such as drug of abuse or a medication), or a general medical condition.
The attacks are not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as social phobia (such as occurring on exposure to feared social situations), specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or separation anxiety disorder
If the above criteria are met, the diagnosis is further clarified by the presence or absence of agoraphobia (such as Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia or Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia).
Only a Professional Can Diagnose Panic Disorder
The thoughts are beliefs, or images that we think during the episode, that usually have to do with impending doom, or that something terrible will happen. These thoughts are negative in nature, and during the panic attack usually they have to do with immediate doom.
Some mistaken beliefs you might be having are:
The behaviors are actions that we take that are in response to the physical symptoms or thoughts. For rexample, we might leave a supermarket line, or we could stop going to the supermarket because whenever we go there we get a panic attack.
Why the Panic Attack happens the way it happens?
Please watch the following video. In it, I explain how panic works and why you get the symptoms. In order for you to get better, you need to understand this.
The Panic Cycle
The Panic Cycle, is also know as the Panic negative cycle.
The panic cycle states that physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and behaviors interact with each other as catalysts with oneanother. What this means is that if you are fealing an increase in your pulse, or heart rate, you may think that something pretty bad is happening to your heart, like maybe you are having a heart attack. You may get a behavior like fidgeting or start shaking your legs. The negative thought increases even further your heart beat as more adrenaline gets pumped to your body. The loop is endless.
How to stop Panic
In order to stop your panic attacks you need to divide your panic attack into its three major parts:
Since most of the symptoms of a panic attack come from breathing badly, you need to learn how to breath during the panic episode. You already learned with the video that if you over-breathe, you will have a lot of the panic symptoms. (If you haven´t seen the video above, look at it now.)
Anxiety and fear situations cause you to increase your breathing so you have more oxygen to Fight or Flight from the dangerous situation. If your body doesn´t use the extra oxygen, then you will hyperventilate, and cause yourself major symptoms of panic.
Note: Sometimes hyperventilation is not obvious, so you might have trouble to observe yourself over-breathing. You need to pay extra attention, specially to the muscles of your chest area, or your shoulders. You might see them moving faster or to have longer movements than usual.
You need to understand that for stopping the panic attack you need to remember to breathe normally. Do not breathe deeper, as you will have even more symptoms. Some people use to breathe into a bag, in order to increase carbon dioxide intake and to make your blood less alkaline. This is not needed. You only need to breathe NORMALLY.
You may want to use Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic Breathing has to be learned in order to regulate your breathing, and to help you STOP the Fight or Flight response.
The University of Texas with its CMHC Unit of Counseling and Mental Health, has made an excellent free training, check it out so you learn Diaphragmatic Breathing.
It would be beneficial if you learn a relaxation technique. They also have a great relaxation technique, that you may learn here.
First you need to understand that Thoughts influence emotions. If you learn how to control your thinking, then you will be controlling also your emotions.
Get a piece of paper and write all your negative thoughts that you have when having a panic attack. For example, you might think that you are going to die. Write it down. You may also think that you will faint.
Once you have written down all your negative thoughts, then you have to ask yourself what is the worse that could happen. If the answer is obvious like dying, or fainting, then ask yourself WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME IT REALLY HAPPENED TO YOU? You will learn with this that your panic mind, usually blows things OUT of proportion.
You may also try to put an answer to that question, but using a percentage. Using percentages (%) makes your brain to work more analytically during the episode, thus ending the blown out proportion of what you THINK will happen, and what really happens during the episodes. This is called Evidence Based Thinking.
If instead of having the thoughts as your reality, you treat them as a question, as if you where asking every thought you will get a more evidenced based thinking. For example, instead of thinking I am having a heart attack… (and then panic), you think: Am I really having a heart attack? Then you use a percentage as an answer, then you will have dealt with the negative thought.
3. Negative Emotions
I would personally treat also negative emotions that you have. I would use definitely an Energy Psychology Method for that.
If you don´t know what it is:
The term energy psychology describes a new field of innovative interventions that balance, restore, and enhance human functioning by stimulating the human subtle energy system. These techniques have catalyzed rapid, dramatic, and lasting changes in feelings, beliefs, mental states, and behaviors.
If you want to learn an Energy Psychology method, you may want to try HandLink Technique. It is fast, and effective. You just have to sign up at the optin down here, or at the sidebar, and you´ll get my HandLink Technique FREE manual.
You may also want to check in my resources page, the links to EFT, Emotrance, etc.
One of the guides I use for working with my patients is the Treatment´s that Work guide, Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic Workbook, by David H. Barlow, and Michelle G. Craske. The workbook is great, and you may want to go deeper into the panic triad, and also it shows you how to stop Agoraphobia.
If you have a question, or want to tell me your experience with panic or anxiety, please comment, or write to my email in my contacts page.