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The How-To Lounge: Coping With a Panic Attack

Earlier this week I brought up anxiety disorders and noted their major symptoms. One of the most life-altering one on the list is panic attacks, which many of you deal with or have in the past. A panic attack can be a terrible ordeal and is not just limited to people with anxiety disorders. Once you've had one, it's likely you'll forever dread another, but it’s better to learn how to cope with them than fear another attack. To see my tips, just


  • Try to stop it before it even starts. If you feel your stress level flare and your heart start to work overtime, take five or ten minutes to clear your head.
  • Remind yourself that you are safe. Your mind is playing a trick on your body by convincing it that there’s something to be fearful of, so you have to talk your body out of it.
  • Realize that it will pass. A panic attack has the tendency to feel unending, but in reality, they usually last only a few minutes. No matter how scared you might feel, don't let yourself forget that those feelings will soon disappear.
  • One of the most distinct sensations a panic attack causes is a sudden loss of control. As this sensation washes over you, ground yourself by reaching out and touching the things around you. It sounds strange but using the sensations of touch can help bring you out of your head.
  • Fear of embarrassing yourself in an episode can often make one worse, so if you’re in a public situation, remove yourself. Go somewhere quiet where you can catch your breath without worry of being noticed. That said don’t be afraid to tell someone what’s going on with you. Sometimes being around another person can be a comfort.
  • Finally, focus on your breathing. Panicked breathing typically takes place in the chest, so move it to your stomach. Place your hand on your stomach and consciously take deep breaths in until your belly is extended. Exhale slowly and repeat.

Panic attacks are terrifying but the more you learn to get through them, the easier they will be to manage.


Join The Conversation
Jacinthe Jacinthe 8 years
Also, if your around other people, make sure they know what's going on so THEY don't freak out. Last year I was having a lot of little anxiety episodes and when I had my first full-on panic attack it scared the crap out of my friends, who had no idea what was going on.
missluckygenes missluckygenes 8 years
i think people affected w severe anxiety of a wide array of things should work on recognizing whats going on before a full panic attack sets in. a good therapist can really help a person coping with the discomfort to do so in a way in which the affected person is able to avoid a full scale panic attack. Recognition of pre symptoms and knowing that you react a certain way when put in a certain place, or are around certain people, that your body reacts a certain way that you don't feel you can control, and fear flows through you, there are certain methods and mental ways to deal with a panic trigger, to where when there, your panic attack is not running the show. certain meds can be very helpful as well, as long as the meds are not misused or over used. Also, since docs seem to write out rx's for just about anything, patients have the right to disagree about what meds work for them. for years i had doctors who kept writing me super massive doses of SSRI's to treat my anxiety problems, but they never helped, and i spent more time dealing w unwanted side effects of these meds. Now, Ive found a place to where im learning how to deal w the issue as effectively and logical as possible; however, my current doc. put me on an appropriate med that i only take as needed, and it works so very well. anxiety/panic disorders are real, terrifying, and very disabling to someone afflicted, so it is SOOOOOO important to manage the problem from several angles.....a doctor or therapist you trust, who listens to you and takes your opinion into account , and doesn't waste time prescribing med after med that's not working. find a doctor who listens to you, the patient, on what proves to be helpful, therapy and med wise, and stick with what is helping. always keep an open mind to amend treatment if needed, but stand up for what really helps, so you aren't ruled by anxiety and panic disorder. management via great therapy and proper medicine regiment can improve your life greatly, for the better, and anxiety/fear don't rule your every moment of being, so you can enjoy being. it took me some time, and now my severe anxiety and panic disorder are under control to the point where i am able to function normally most all of the time, instead of spending too much time in dysfunction mode from unmanaged or improperly managed panic disorder.
AujahAcorn AujahAcorn 8 years
oh gesh... yes, panic attacks. I tried everything. Meds, Yoga, calming myself and so on. what worked for me sounds crazy but don't knock it before you try it. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar I take 1 table spoon two times a day in water. Its really refreshing. I also got a hole bunch of wonderful perks that came a long with taking it. I could get into it... instead, if you are interested, look it up on that my 2 cents :)
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 8 years
By the way my "diagnosis" was a crock... they just wanted me to take something that would "calm me down". I didn't know it at the time though. I don't have a single problem now.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 8 years
There was a time in my life when panic attacks consumed me. The physical pain and terrifying symptoms of heart palpitations and breathing difficulties. I was prescribed Zoloft, Seroquel, and Trazadone for manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia. After walking around like a drooling zombie for more than two years. I had a revelation. This was something I had to work through. I went off the medications and suffered through several debilitating attacks. Once I learned how to control my stress levels, weather it be by attacking a problem head on or seeking assistance. Once I know I can start to take control of the situation even in a small way, the attack starts to fade and the effects are so much less painful and terrifying.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
I have been suffering major episodes of panic attacks since I was very young, maybe the age of 7 or younger? They come and go as they please really but tend to be when I am going through a period of stress. Like right now it's because my grandfather is pretty much on his death bed and it's really not helping that I cannot cope with what is happening. The only thing that seems to JUST ABOUT work for me is going for a long walk. Like 1.5 hours of walking. I'll be panicking most of the way around the walk but then calm down as we get to the front door. My wonderful boyfriend has taken me out at 5am a couple of times when the anxiety has gotten really bad for such a walk. :/ I refuse to use medications though, they generally don't do me any good.
Advah Advah 8 years
Jup, been there too, and I don't think anyone can really understand how bad it is unless they've had one. The best advice I've been given is not to be afraid of them. In a way, you end up being just as scared of having a panic attack as when you're having it, so just accept the fact that you're scared and about to panic. It weirdly helps. :) Also, don't be ashamed of telling people about it. When you can feel you're about to have one, go talk to your parents/friends and tell them, and go for a brisk walk. It's stupid but distraction is all you need.
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
Causes of panic disorder What causes panic disorder? Although the exact causes of panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. If someone in your family has panic disorder, you are at an increased risk for developing it. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, and having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger a panic attack.
Marci Marci 8 years
What causes them and/or what triggers them???
Marci Marci 8 years
Panic attacks are just awful. So scary and I feel so vulnerable. I've gotten better over time at recognizing them for what they are, doing the breathing and talking myself down from the ledge, and I haven't had one in awhile. I have the same question as g1amourpuss. What causes them?? Does anyone know?
g1amourpuss g1amourpuss 8 years
But how do panic attacks even start? Sometimes I'll be completely fine and then I'm freaking-the-fk-out! It can be so embarrassing. I had one at work one time and later found out they were saying I was on drugs, wtf. (I was very straight-edge when I worked for that place, so that pissed me off.) I usually call my Momma up and have her talk me back down to reality. It makes me feel like such a kid.
carolinel carolinel 8 years
collenb: Same thing for me, I just feel my heartbeat more when I focuse and I get worse. Distracting is the best, if I'm in the bus, I try to call my friends or just look around my handbag to try to find something interesting...
SusanTeufel SusanTeufel 8 years
I have Panic Disorder. I used to have panic attack 1-2 times a day.... up to 20 times a week. Then I went on Zoloft and it seemed to get better for me a bit.... It majorly sucks having panic attacks. The only thing that helps me is to have my husband tell me it's alright and hold me....and when he isn't home it's horrible... My panic attacks tend to last like 20-30 minutes.
carolinel carolinel 8 years
Oh My! Unfortunately, I do have panic attack and to make things even more difficult, I have them in public places (class room, buses, etc). I started to have them at around 13, my first one was in a class room in high school and I didn’t know what it was. It got better for some reason but when I started college they came back (it was a very stressful time and I even had to quit). I consulted a doctor and he prescribed me an SSRI (Zoloft was the one I took the longest). I tried a lot but couldn’t deal with the side effects, specially the weight gain and the ‘’zombie’’ like feeling. The only thing it was good for was the treatment of the attacks ( I didn’t have any while on it). I got very depressed because of the weight gain (about 30 pounds), I was not going out anymore and eating was my only joy in life. After 3 years as a zombie, one day I woke up and stop taking SSRI. I consulted an other doctor and talked to him about it. We both decide I should take something that treats the anxiety when I have it. I’m now on Ativan and it works well. I can’t control when a panic attack is going to happen but I usually know that they come when I’m anxious. I take it about 2-3 times a month. It took a long time but I’m back to my regular self (even lost the weight). I was seeing a therapist and she really helped me. Also, people with anxiety/panic disorder should be very careful with stimulant (caffeine even chocolate, for me at least) may prompt unwanted things, such as anxiety, restlessness and irritability. I can’t even handle one can of coca-cola… Anyway, this post is getting too long and on top of that English is my second language so sorry guys. The condition is really a shame and I wish I could talk about it more with people I know, a lot of my friends just don’t understand… Good luck to all of us that have to deal with this…
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 8 years
I've never had a major panic attack but I've had all the symptoms and they really suck. The thing that works for me to calm down is to think about what is stressing me out and come up with some kind of solution. I know for some people that would be impossible but for me it really works to calm me down.
gemsera gemsera 8 years
I have these sometimes, mostly whilst driving lately (everyone drives SO fast here and getting on the motorway is heaps scary) but I usually just pull over and think about other things, my beau, my car, the pretty sunset, whatever it is around me other than whats scaring me and I'm ok :)
valancyjane valancyjane 8 years
Ugh, I used to have these. I haven't had one in quite a while, thankfully. They were pretty mild -- just a squeezing in my chest -- but the first few, when I didn't know what they were, I was terrified. These days I freak out a tiny bit on planes when there's turbulence. (Not quite a panic attack because there really IS something to be scared of!) For some reason turning the cold-air vent on high helps; I guess it makes me focus on "wow, that's cold" instead of "wow, this is scary."
Jeny Jeny 8 years
omg the worst panic attack I had was one when I really didn't have control of what happened to me. I was taking a flight home from Miami and as we were ascending, the plane suddenly descended BIG TIME and as soon as that happened, I dropped my magazine and started panicking.. because at that very instance I realized that what happened to me was completely out of my hands, out of my control. I sat there and teared up, my palms got very sweaty, I was breathing erratically and couldn't control it.. After about 5 minutes of heart palpitations, the plane was in the air and flying the way I was use to it flying and I calmed down. But I was pretty freaked out for the rest of the trip.. panic attacks suck!
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I think taking your self out of and not even putting yourself in certain situations is key and something that you have to learn. Knowing your limits.
LuvLeoDiCaprio LuvLeoDiCaprio 8 years
Been there and they are awful, unfortunately I didn't have these great tips, but I eventually learned how to handle them and stop them before they start. Music works well for me in a way it lets me know things are ok and under control.
colleenb colleenb 8 years
I've had many a panic attack and I've always found focusing on breathing to make things worse. Because the whole problem is you can't breathe! Or can't get a satisfying breath because obviously you're breathing. No matter how hard I try to tell myself it's just anxiety, at some point I become convinced there's something physically wrong (usually around the time the heart palpitations start), which only makes things worse. I think it's a lot like the hiccups, you just need to get distracted and then all of the sudden you realize you're breathing normally.
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