The phenomenon of a panic attack has been known for a long time, but the causes of panic attacks are not fully understood. It has been established that more than 30% of people at least once in their lives become victims of a very unpleasant phenomenon: for no reason at all, they experience a feeling of horror, accompanied by rapid heartbeat, trembling and chills, or sudden fever, increased sweating, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and nausea. The attack is characterized by a partial loss of connection with reality: the person experiences fear of death, although in reality there is no danger to his life.
These symptoms appear suddenly and last for 15–20 minutes. For some people, such attacks occur repeatedly, worsening their overall health, complicating the course of chronic illnesses and seriously reducing their quality of life.
However, experts have developed techniques to help control the state of a panic attack and minimize its unpleasant manifestations.
1. Calm breathing
A rapid breathing rhythm during a panic attack appears instinctively – as a reaction to fear and signs of suffocation. In this case, hyperventilation of the lungs occurs. Combined with high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, it aggravates the discomfort and increases the severity of painful symptoms.
To stabilize the situation, you must consistently do the following:
- Inhale air through your nose for 5 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 1–2 seconds.
- Exhale through your half-open mouth for 4 seconds.
- Wait 2 seconds before inhaling again.
- Repeat the cycle until slow breathing becomes automatic.
2. Muscle relaxation
During a panic attack, it is very important to relieve muscle hypertonicity. To do this, they recommend a technique of alternate relaxation and tension of various muscle groups. Usually, exercises begin with the lower extremities, gradually moving upward. Muscle tension should be done while inhaling, and relaxation should be done while exhaling.
3. Thought control
People who have panic attacks regularly note that an attack can be triggered even by thoughts that it is possible and by the fear of its occurrence. For such people, it is very important to control their mood so as not to allow the process to become an avalanche.
Establishing a calm system of thoughts with an adequate assessment of the danger of a real situation is called attention technique or cognitive behavioral therapy. People suffering from panic attacks cannot always learn to control their thoughts on their own. Many of them need individual consultation with a psychotherapist or group sessions. This is especially true for people with the so-called catastrophic type of thinking: they, as a rule, are not able to adequately assess the situation without the help of a specialist.
4. Physical activity
People prone to panic attacks, out of fear of another attack, often strive to make as few unnecessary movements as possible and leave the house less often. This lifestyle is very harmful. Such people should not give up physical activity. For example, walking in the fresh air, light exercise, and swimming not only do not provoke the appearance of painful symptoms, but also activate the production of endorphins, which help cope with stress, improve mood and overall well-being.
Factors that cause a panic attack are often standard stressful situations: for example, attacks occur in students who are overly worried about exams, in people who are afraid of flying. These people are usually aware of the specifics of their reactions, but in the absence of a competent approach, such knowledge only aggravates the problem.
The most correct thing is to try to prepare for an unpleasant event (if there is no way to avoid it). You can prevent a panic attack by thinking about the situation sensibly and adequately assessing the existing risks. It is also useful to ask for help from relatives or friends, informing them in advance about your characteristics, warning them about possible painful manifestations and ways to minimize their consequences.
6. Balanced diet
For people suffering from panic attacks, maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is very important. Therefore, they are advised to eat regularly with breaks between meals of no more than 4 hours.
The diet should be balanced in the content of essential nutrients and maximally rich in vitamins. You should not drink alcohol. It is also necessary to limit the consumption of black coffee and strong tea – the caffeine in which these drinks are rich tones the body, which can provoke an attack.
A panic attack in itself is not life-threatening, but if repeated regularly, it can cause the development of pathologies of the cardiovascular system or serious neurological disorders. If such conditions occur repeatedly, the patient should consult a specialist in order to begin treatment in a timely manner and not to cause the disease to worsen.