What to do if you or a loved one is having a panic attack

A panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences intense fear. This feeling of fear is uncontrollable and has no obvious triggers.

Myupchar August 27, 2019 12:16:11 IST
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What to do if you or a loved one is having a panic attack
  • A panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences intense fear - this feeling of fear is uncontrollable and has no obvious triggers

  • People having a panic attack often feel like they’re suffocating or having a heart attack

  • Although the exact cause for why some people get panic attacks is unclear, evidence points to genes, stress and past experiences as potential factors

Way back in 1954, Dr George Brock Chisholm, the first director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), famously said that without mental health, there can be no true physical health.

Today, greater awareness of mental health issues is helping medical practitioners and healthcare professionals develop better care protocols.

What to do if you or a loved one is having a panic attack

Representative image. Image Source: Pixabay

A panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences intense fear - this feeling of fear is uncontrollable and has no obvious triggers. People having a panic attack often feel like they’re suffocating or having a heart attack. Although the exact cause for why some people get panic attacks is unclear, evidence points to genes, stress and past experiences as potential factors.

Though a panic attack only lasts for a few minutes to a half-hour, longer-term effects can include social isolation and depression.

The frequency of panic attacks can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms should act as a red flag for you. These include sweating, shaking hands, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and muscle tension.

Thanks to our deeper understanding of anxiety disorders, in addition to medication and psychotherapies, we now know some simple things to do to deal with a panic attack. Read on for four of the easiest and most effective tips to follow, if you feel the panic rising:

  • Breathing techniques: Sit in a calm place and take deep breaths. Hold your breath for 5-6 seconds, say the word “exhale” as you breathe out - saying it out loud relaxes you. Try it. You may need to do this a few times until you feel the panic subside.
  • Meditation: Choose any meditation technique and perform it to relax your mind. Practising a meditation technique such as mindfulness meditation that involves a breathing technique is a good idea.
  • Cognitive diversion: In this technique, you need to play with your mind. This involves two steps. First, tell yourself that you are safe and there is no need to panic. Make yourself aware of your current situation. Once this is done, take your mind on a different journey. Focus on the good things in your life and relax.
  • Distract yourself: Pick an activity that grabs your attention and distracts you from the attack. Anything that absorbs you completely — from counting backwards to listening to your favourite music — could work. Do this until you feel calmer.

Looking after loved ones

If it’s a friend or family member who is having a panic attack, stay calm. Talk to them in a soothing voice. Do not assume anything - it is better to directly ask them what they are feeling and what they need. Try using short sentences for better understanding. Try to distract the person and also help them breathe slowly. Be positive and praise them for their efforts towards recovery. If they take anti-anxiety medication, call their doctor or ask someone else to call the doctor to confirm the next steps. Do not leave the patients alone under any circumstances.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please visit https://www.myupchar.com/en/disease/panic-attack-disorder

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