A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely last more than an hour. Some of the typical symptoms include – palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
Panic attacks can happen all of a sudden and unlike typical anxiety or chronic stress, you might have a hard time understanding what is triggering the panic attack. This feeling of not being in control of your own body can give you anticipatory anxiety, as you fear the next panic attack. It can also make you phobic or fearful of places and situations where you had those previous panic attacks, such as crowded places, trains, elevators, etc. You then start to limit your normal range of activity and that makes you more anxious or depressed.
In my work with clients suffering from panic attacks, I focus on calming and relaxation skills, such as diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness. We also work on reducing the fear of dying at the onset of a panic attack. We work on stopping or reprogramming the thoughts that are associated with the anticipatory anxiety. Exposure techniques such as EMDR can be used to make you gain more control of yourself, when you are experiencing the sensations of a panic attack and increase your capability of stopping a panic attack in its tracks, when you feel that it is starting.
Write down these statements on a piece of paper, or on a card and keep it in your wallet/purse. Read them when you are experiencing a panic attack –
- I have experienced a panic attack before and I am still alive. So this is not life threatening. I can get through it
- These symptoms cannot increase forever. Once they max out in a few minutes, they have to come down
- I accept my emotions and I am in control of my body. This too shall pass
Contact me for a free 30-min phone consultation and we can talk about how we can work with panic attacks.