Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear with unpleasant physical symptoms that usually occur without any outside threat being present. You may be short of breath or breathe rapidly (hyperventilate) and suffer from sweating, dizziness, nausea, numbness, chest pains, or palpitations. Attacks may be linked to anxiety, stress, depression, a phobia (such as fear of flying), or to taking stimulants or drugs, but symptoms can develop for no apparent reason. Although the attacks usually pass quickly, fear of having them can interfere with normal life.
See your doctor first
Make an appointment to see your doctor to check that your symptoms aren’t due to a more serious illness such as heart disease.
Re-breathing into a paper bag
Rapid breathing during a panic attack lowers carbon dioxide levels in your blood, making you feel dizzy and faint. Rebreathing from a paper bag, held loosely over your mouth and nose, will help to restore carbon dioxide levels. Cup your hands over your mouth and nose if you don’t have a bag.
Using a paper bag
Breathe in and out into the bag about 10 times, then breathe normally for 15 seconds. Continue until your breathing slows down.
Preventing panic attacks The following lifestyle changes and techniques can help to prevent or at least minimize panic attacks.
* Practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises and use them whenever an attack is about to begin.
* Too much caffeine may trigger attacks, so reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks. Cut down on alcohol and smoking and don’t take recreational drugs.
* Eat regular meals to keep your sugar levels stable and prevent symptoms such as light headiness.
* Exercise regularly to boost your general well being.
What you can do yourself
Take the following steps to calm yourself quickly and help you cope with future attacks.
* If you are hyperventilating, try rebreathing into a bag.
* When you feel symptoms developing, focus steadily on something happening near to you or on what someone else is saying, rather than concentrating on your own feelings. Remind yourself that, although your symptoms are unpleasant, they cannot harm you and will pass.
* Try not to avoid situations in which you are prone to attacks. If you start to confront them, your symptoms should begin to fade and you will begin to regain your confidence.
Arrange to see your doctor if :
* The above measures do not help
* Your panic attacks are becoming more frequent and/or are interfering with your life