Panic attacks are intensely stressful. They're the types of events that can be so draining that those that experience them may end up with temporary or long term depression as a result. Thousands of people are hospitalized mistaking their panic attacks for heart attacks, and thousands more experience profound health anxiety as a result of regular, persistent attacks.
So there is no denying that panic attacks are a very real problem. The question then is what can be done to prevent panic attacks from occurring. Below are ten effective strategies for panic attack prevention.
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Important Information For Overcoming Panic
Before describing some of the more effective panic prevention strategies, it's important to discuss some of the issues that stand in the way of recovery. You need to be aware of these issues before you can expect your panic attacks to stop.
Start by taking my anxiety test. You'll need for your free anxiety profile in order to understand your anxiety further. Also, make sure you're aware of the following:
- Hypersensitivity A major problem in decreasing panic attacks is hypersensitivity. It's actually a symptom of panic attacks, and it comes from becoming overly aware of how your body feels. The body experiences weird sensations, aches, and pains, that otherwise are meaningless. Most people ignore them or don't even notice them. But those with panic attacks notice every single sensation, and their brain translates that sensation into something much worse - like another panic attack, or the symptom of a health condition. Hypersensitivity is one of the reasons panic attack patterns are hard to break.
- Hyperventilation It's also important to understand what causes many of the symptoms of panic attacks, and that's hyperventilation. Hyperventilation usually occurs when you breathe too quickly, but may also occur because you take deeper breaths than you need to - something that's actually a symptom of hyperventilation. Hyperventilation causes rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, tingling in the hands and feet, trouble thinking, chest pains, and more. Anxiety changes breathing habits to lead to constant hyperventilation, so how you breathe needs to change to stop panic.
- Fear of Panic Attacks Fear of panic attacks is also something contributes to future panic attacks. In fact, it's actually a symptom of panic disorder. So if you find yourself fearing your panic attacks often, or you allow yourself to fall victim to that fear, the chances of your panic attacks returning becomes more likely.
Keep these in mind as you learn to control your panic. They're some of the issues that can lead to setbacks, because they're some of the problems that often trigger panic attacks even after you've controlled some of your anxiety.
Also, make sure that you're forgiving of panic attacks that occur in the future. Even if you perfectly control your panic you may find that something triggers one. It's natural, and you need to be okay with a panic attack happening or you're going to give yourself future stress.
Finally, be excited my modest gains. It's not just about stopping panic attacks right away. It's also about reducing the severity of the attacks you do have. The weaker your panic attacks, the less you'll fear them, and the less you fear them the more likely they will stop making an impact on your life.
Panic Attack Prevention Tips
- Control Your Breathing Start by learning how to control your breathing when you're hyperventilating. The key to controlling your breathing is slow deliberate breaths and fighting the urge to breathe too fast or too full. Try to take 14 to 15 seconds total, with 5 breathing in, holding for 2 or 3, and then breathing out for 7. Do this any time you feel like you might be "panicky" and while you may not be able to stop the attack, you should be able to reduce its severity.
- Visit the Doctor Even though panic attacks are rarely caused by any type of health issue, visiting a doctor is an important part of getting the reassurance you need to move forward with your panic attack treatments. When health problems are ruled out, you'll have an easier time maintaining that your panic attacks are the problem. But be warned: Rarely does hearing from a doctor cure that little voice in the back of your mind that worries about your health. So don't think visiting a doctor will stop you from being concerned.
- Start Talking About It There is a tendency to feel embarrassed about your panic attacks and try to fight them. When you're out in public - or even sitting there alone - and you start to feel like something is wrong, the tendency is to try to push it away and fix it yourself. But those with anxiety struggle within being too much "in their own head." You need to get out of your own thoughts as much as possible. So be okay talking to those around you about it, or calling someone you trust and letting them know how you're feeling.
- Exercise Exercise can actually cause panic attacks in some people because of the way they interpret heart rate and fatigue. But exercise is also a powerful anxiety reduction tool, one that mimics the mental health benefits of several anxiety medications. Talk to your doctor about exercising more, because it is an important addition to any anxiety reduction plan.
- Healthy Lifestyles Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also a crucial part of overcoming your anxiety. Diet plays a big role, and you need to make sure you're getting enough vitamins since vitamin deficiencies can cause some discomforts that may trigger panic attacks. But sleep is perhaps most important. Sleep debt causes a host of problems that tend to trigger panic attacks, like headaches, weak muscles, and trouble focusing. Healthy living really is an important part of overcoming panic.
- Adapt to Triggers You can also try something known as desensitization. While this is best done in the presence of a therapist or trained expert, desensitization is the act of getting used to your triggers until they no longer cause anxiety. For example, if you find that dizziness tends to trigger your attacks, you can try to get used to dizziness on purpose by spinning around in a chair or circle. You can hyperventilate on purpose, you can get your heartbeat up by running in place - there are many different strategies you can use to get used to each physical trigger of your panic attacks so they cause less fear when they occur.
- Let Yourself Have the Attack One of the toughest things you can do is also one of the most important. You need to be okay with having panic attacks. That means if you find that you get panic attacks when you go to the mall, for example, then you have to still go to the mall when you need to without avoiding it just because you get panic attacks there. Be okay with the idea that a panic attack will happen. When/if it does, wait it out, and then immediately go on with your day.
Learning to prevent panic attacks is something that takes time and commitment. You need to make sure that you're committed to it, and never hoping that it will go away.
Take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to learn more about how to cure your panic attacks and prevent them from occurring. I've used this test to help countless people learn more about their anxiety and panic and what it takes to prevent it.
Clark, David M., Paul M. Salkovskis, and A. J. Chalkley. Respiratory control as a treatment for panic attacks. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 16.1 (1985): 23-30.
Broocks, Andreas, et al. Comparison of aerobic exercise, clomipramine, and placebo in the treatment of panic disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 155.5 (1998): 603-609.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.