Panic attacks can be extremely frightening, when one occurs, often completely out of the blue, you might think you’re losing control or having a heart attack. During a panic attack you get a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. One can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason.
If you have never experienced one, they can be difficult to comprehend, but they can lead to intense immobilisation and overwhelming fear. A panic attack usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes and they vary in intensity and severity. They are very frightening, but they should not harm you and it will pass as quickly as it came on. The main symptoms include:
- a racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling that you’re losing control
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- shortness of breath or breathing very quickly
- a tingling in your fingers or lips
- feeling sick (nausea)
What can you do to help with anxiety, fear and panic?
- talk to a trusted friend, relative or professional – it is important to share what you are experiencing
- use a calming breathing routine that helps you focus and stay grounded during the attack
- set small targets and slowly lean in to places or situations that make you anxious
- identify potential causes or triggers – is it work, family, partner, health, money or past experiences? When you have clarity on the causes, you will be able to seek specific help and support
- seek out peer support – speaking to someone who has experienced what you are going through will help you to not feel alone
- plan ahead – is there a first symptom that alerts you to your panic attack – create a calming routine for yourself
- research techniques such as 5,4,3,2,1 or smell, hear, see, touch to switch your focus and get you through
- ensure you prioritise a healthy diet and sleep routine
- focus on what you can change and how you can get better
- spend time in nature
If you need more support, you can get free psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS.
You can refer yourself directly to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) without a referral from a GP
You can call the samaritans on 116 123, or visit https://www.mind.org.uk