Having a panic attack is extremely scary, especially if you don’t know that it’s a panic attack while it’s happening and while they can’t cause you any harm as such, it really does feel like your body is under “attack” and can leave you feeling weak and exhausted afterwards.
Some signs of a panic attack can be physical and can include the following symptoms:
- Faster heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling hot/blushing
- Chest pain
- Tense muscles
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in your ears
- Need the toilet more often
The physical symptoms are usually joined by fear, dread and sometimes feeling completely detached from reality. When I have a panic attack, I tend to feel as if everything has slowed down and is spinning around me.
Not everyone can pinpoint the cause of a panic attack because they can sometimes come along unexpectedly but they can be caused by all sorts of stuff, such as:
- Social situations
- Drugs & Alcohol
What to do during a panic attack
If you’ve noticed the signs of a panic attack coming on, you can try some of the following things:
- Realising what you’re going through – Recognise that you’re experiencing a panic attack and remind yourself that it will pass in time. Try and remember a previous time when you managed to get through it.
- Breathing – Focus on taking long, deep breaths and count as you inhale and exhale.
- Relax your muscles – Panic attacks can have you tensing up your muscles, so try and focus on relaxing one muscle at a time. Clench your fist up tight for several seconds and then slowly release, then try another part of your body.
- Use grounding techniques – If your panic attack makes you feel detached from reality, try grounding yourself by finding things you can see, touch, feel, taste and smell. I personally use the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique.
How to prevent more attacks from happening
You don’t have to experience panic attacks for the rest of your life, they can be treated. If you notice the signs of a panic attack happening frequently, then it’s best to go and see your GP, tell them how often you get panic attacks and how long they last and whether you’re aware of the possible cause. They can help you by referring you to a therapist or recommend medication. There may be a long waiting list to see a therapist if you’re going through the NHS, so it’s really important to go to your GP right as soon as you can.
In the mean time, here are some of my favourite resources:
NoPanic.Org.Uk – They have both an adult & youth helpline.
Counselling Directory – A UK directory connecting you to local counsellors and psychotherapists.
7 Cups Of Tea – Free online and confidential chat with therapists and trained listeners.
The Anxiety Lounge – This is my anxiety group. I wanted a more positive and friendly space to talk about anxiety and a place we could uplift each other and help each other achieve our goals.