Dhanashree-profile-picture
By Dhanashree Padhye

MA (Psychology)

10 October 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Steps to follow during an Anxiety Induced Panic attack
Table of Contents

Panic is “A sudden overpowering terror, often affecting many people at once. Panic Attack, as defined by the American Heritage college dictionary, is the sudden onset of intense Anxiety, characterized by intense fear and apprehension accompanied by palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, or other related symptoms. 

Also called an Anxiety Attack. When people are shown to be triggered by a deficient level of oxygen and somatic symptoms related to that, such as breathlessness, dizziness, headache, and lack of sleep, these symptoms are similar to those reported with severe Anxiety or panic attacks.

Panic was used as a descriptive term for human behaviour; while working with babies and small children, William Emerson found that birth represents the most intense experience of Anxiety in most human lives. According to him, we don’t consciously remember our prenatal and perinatal experiences; we are likely to repeat them every time in our life. 

Parents of newborn babies can suppress hurtful feelings, anxieties, and traumatic events since they are adults. But newborn babies can’t do so; hence, they tend to repeat the experiences of fear and other traumatic events.

The Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) is identical to panic disorder and substance Abuse and is strongly associated with worry/threat. A hypothesis supports that Anxiety sensitivity is a risk factor for panic disorder. Anxiety and fear are distinct phenomena, according to future research. Panic attacks are intense states of fear (not fierce forms of Anxiety), meaning panic attacks differ from Anxiety attacks. (S Reiss 1991)

Signs & symptoms of a Panic Attack

Generally, panic attacks begin suddenly and without any warning. They can knock while walking on the street, driving a scooter, while we are sleeping, or working in the office. 

Panic attacks can be frequent as well as occasional. Symptoms of a panic attack will peak within a few minutes. You might feel frustrated and exhausted after having a panic attack.

  • You can feel imminent or dreadful
  • Scared of losing control or being afraid of death
  • Increased and fast heartbeats
  • Being covered with sweat 
  • Being nervous or disturbed
  • Feeling choked or tightness throat
  • Having fever
  • Vomiting, belly ache 

Causes of Panic Attack

Experts are not able to understand the specific reason why some people experience panic attacks. Our brain and nervous system are essential in perceiving and dealing with fear or worry. 

  • Family history: It is observed that Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, often run in families. A study conducted with 223 panic patients showed that the prevalence of certain situations in life before the onset of panic disorder and its relationship with childhood history, family history of Anxiety difficulty, and comorbid adulthood depression indicated stressful life events. 
  • Mental health issues: A twin study shows that genetic elements exist in panic disorders and attacks. For example, there is a high similarity between monozygotic twins as compared to dizygotic twins. There is a diversity in gender and ethnicity when discussing panic disorder. A piece of increasing evidence suggests that genes that are necessary for panic disorder go beyond the current diagnosis. Genes and environmental factors play a significant role in the person's anxious mood and personality.
  • Substance Abuse problems: There is a high association between the tendency to engage in Substance Abuse and the diagnosis of mental health disorder. In most cases, individuals develop the panic disorder before developing a substance use disorder. Many individuals will self-medicate to avoid the discomfort associated with their panic attacks. Since they believe using substances may control their panic attacks, they will use specific substances like alcohol.

How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

Time Management

Panic attacks usually last 10 minutes but may last longer than usual in more severe cases. While having a panic attack, the adrenaline levels in the body fasten by 2 1/2 times or more. An isolated panic attack, while highly unpleasant, is typical and not very serious.

Panic attacks may become a symptom of Anxiety disorders, and people who've had one panic attack are at greater risk for another. Panic attacks and panic disorders are different. When you have a medical condition of panic disorder, you start worrying about having more panic attacks.

Treatment Options

As we understand the triggers of our panic attacks, those triggers will have less power to control us. Therapy helps you understand the situations, thoughts, or feelings that cause panic attacks.

As we understand the triggers of our panic attacks, those triggers will have less power to control us. Therapy helps you understand the situations, thoughts, or feelings that cause panic attacks. Counseling will show that the physical effects of a panic attack do not hurt you. Your therapist will help you gradually cope with your symptoms, which will also help your attack disappear.

Medication

To reduce the physical symptoms of an Anxiety induced panic attack, your therapist will prescribe certain medications.

An antidepressant is prescribed to prevent the future risk of panic attacks.

Some of the most common SSRIs include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) also affect norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter linked to alertness and the fight-or-flight stress response.

Some common TCAs include:

  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Asendin (amoxapine)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Adapin, Sinequan (doxepin)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)

Benzodiazepines will help with Anxiety but have risks of addiction or dependence. Medications, including alprazolam (Xanax®) and Lorazepam (Ativan®), help treat Panic and Anxiety attacks.

Ways to Handle panic attack

Use deep breathing

Breathe in and exhale slowly and deeply through your nose as you can. Some people find it very difficult to sit and practice breathing exercises. Breathing provides a cleansing effect and helps you feel more relaxed, refreshed, and energetic. Deep breathing will play a vital role in managing the symptoms of panic disorder.

H.A.L.T. for a moment

Meditation

It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These feelings will bring out the worst in everyone. When someone is prone to a panic attack, these four feelings may turn into triggers. Hence it will be better to check on yourself and ask questions like, Am I hungry? Am I feeling alone? When we do so, we can better understand our feelings and deal with them effectively.

Close your eyes

When surrounded by a fast-paced environment and many stimuli, you may have a panic attack, putting additional pressure on your body. If that happens, you can close your eyes for some time during a panic attack. Doing so will block the extra or unnecessary stimuli and help you calm down and focus on breathing.

Practice Mindfulness

In Mindful meditation, we will learn to deal with unpleasant and negative thoughts related to judgment, blame, and worry. It will help you bring back your awareness to the present moment. We also learn to let go of uncomfortable thoughts as they pass by without reacting. Practicing mindful meditation can create inner peace, clarity, and harmony. Regular practice will help you to lower Anxiety and bring you a sense of inner peace.

Rate Your Fear

Whenever you feel fearful or anxious, try to rate it on a scale of one to 10. It will be good to know that you can acknowledge that you are not constantly worried. This technique will help you understand that you are not on a ten the whole time. 

Find a focus object

Many people find it satisfying and relaxing to focus on something while having a panic attack. Be it any color, shape, pattern, or size. Concentrating on any object will help to divert attention from panic attack symptoms. While focusing on something, you should notice all the details of that object, and you can describe them in your mind. Putting your energy into focusing will be beneficial and satisfying at the same time. 

Picture your happy place

The therapist will use Guided Imagery techniques for people with Anxiety disorder. We can use this technique during a panic attack to reduce Anxiety symptoms. Guided imagery involves picturing a calming, relaxing, happy place, such as a cabin in the mountains or a sandy beach with swaying palm trees. When we focus on the details of this place, including the sights, sounds, and smells, we enter into a happy place and feel relaxed. 

Takeaway

Handling a panic attack is challenging as there can be different causes of Anxiety induced panic attacks. Some therapies like CBT, Exposure therapies, and medications can be used for severe cases. Certain antidepressants may lead to substance Abuse. 

Hence it will be better if we take them with the doctor’s advice.

Deep breathing, guided imagery, and mindful meditation are some of the techniques which can be beneficial when having a panic attack. Rating your fears can be a helpful technique. 

What's on your mind?

Start a conversation, Post with kindness.