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5. Coping with Panic Attacks


The next blog in the series for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 is highlighting the anguish of panic attacks.

A panic attack is an intense reaction to fear. While an attack can be a one-off occurrence, in most cases the initial attack is the first of many. There are many physical symptoms of panic attacks and these include sweating and trembling, anxiety, nausea, rapid pulse, lack of air & trouble breathing and a rapidly beating heart.

Not everyone who suffers with panic attacks will share the same symptoms. However, the certainty of a panic attack is that you will know you are having one — even if you do not understand what is happening to you.

Panic disorder is the term used for someone who sufferers regular or frequent panic attacks. A panic attack can occur out of the blue without warning, even when there is no apparent reason. As with other mental health disorders, there are ways to treat and manage panic attacks.

It is important to address any underlying anxiety which causes an individual to suffer from panic attacks. For example, is there a root cause which triggers a panic attack in a sufferer? Excessive stress and anxiety may be an underlying factor, but panic attacks can also be triggered by phobias. Having experienced a panic attack, an individual can develop a fear of experiencing further attacks. The anxiety attached to this fear can in turn lead to the development of agoraphobia.

There are a number of ways of coping with panic attacks:

  1. Discuss your anxiety or stress with your GP. Depending on the severity of the attacks, you may require medication or some other remedy. Medication is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as therapy and lifestyle changes.
  2. Being mindful and in control of your breathing can relieve some of the symptoms of panic. Seek out mindfulness classes in your area.
  3. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is probably the most effective form of therapy for tackling panic attacks. Your GP can refer you to a CBT practitioner.
  4. Exercise can help alleviate stress as it is a natural anxiety reliever.
  5. Avoid smoking, alcohol and caffeine if a dependency on them could be a trigger.

As with other mental health disorders, panic attacks can be very debilitating and frightening, but there are things you can do to help you cope and overcome panic. Anxiety can be managed, and dealing with the underlying anxiety will in turn reduce the risk of panic disorder.

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Related: Mental Health Awareness Week