Panic attacks are a major source of distress for those who experience them. They can be so draining, both physically and mentally, that those that experience them may feel depressed following a panic attack. Often people are hospitalized mistaking their panic attacks for heart attacks, while others experience 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 seven effective strategies for panic attack prevention.
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 stopping panic attacks before they escalate. You need to be aware of these issues before you can expect your panic attacks to stop.
Make sure you're aware of the following:
- Hypersensitivity One concern associated with panic attacks is hypersensitivity. This is a common symptom of panic attacks, and it comes from becoming overly aware of how your body feels. The body is hyper-aware of sensations of most likely normal bodily processes. Most people ignore these sensations or don't even notice them. However, some people with anxiety may notice every sensation, and then assume that the sensation is the sign of a health condition or possibly another panic attack. This is one of the biggest challenges to stopping recurring panic attacks.
- Hyperventilation Hyperventilation can cause other panic attack symptoms to develop. Hyperventilation usually occurs when you breathe too quickly but in some cases may occur for other reasons. Hyperventilation may cause rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, tingling in the hands and feet, trouble thinking, chest pains, and more. People with anxiety are more prone to hyperventilation. If you find this applies to you, you may wish to practice breathing exercises to improve your breathing habits.
- Fear of Panic Attacks Many times after a person has experienced their first panic attack, they develop a fear of recurring panic attacks. This fear and worry over the potential of a panic attack can actually cause the body to react in a way that ends up causing a panic attack.
Keep these factors of panic attacks in mind as you learn to control your panic attacks. These are a few of the most likely setbacks.
Remember, even if you are able to implement all of the panic attack prevention tips below, you may still have occasional situations in which a panic attack is triggered. Have realistic goals for yourself and do not beat yourself up if you do not immediately experience relief. Finally, be excited by 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 is to practice healthy breathing habits when you are not hyperventilating so that it will be easier to implement these skills when a problem arises. A health breath flow consists of 14 seconds—5 seconds breathing in through your nose, pausing for 2 seconds, and finally exhaling for 7 seconds. Do not be discouraged if you are not able to follow this breathing pattern immediately. Practice often and you will likely see improvements. There are numerous apps and websites that provide paced breathing coaching..
- 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 any possible 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 In addition to speaking with your doctor about possible health conditions, you should get medical clearance to participate in any exercise program. In most cases, exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety while improving mood. However, be careful of over-doing it as your begin your new routine, for some people escalating their heart rate too high when they begin escalating can feel like the onset of a panic attack. Usually this leads to panic and subsequently a panic attack.
- Healthy Lifestyles Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also a crucial part of overcoming your anxiety. Diet plays a big role. It is important to make sure you're meeting your daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals. Sleep is also very important. Sleep debt causes a host of problems that tend to trigger panic attacks, like headaches, weak muscles, and trouble focusing.
- 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. Remember, this technique is best used with the guidance and monitoring of a mental health professional.
- Let Yourself Have the Attack One of the toughest things you can do is also one of the most important—accepting your 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 could 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.