There is nothing quite terrifying as a panic attack which can catch you by surprise. Its intensity can numb your senses, shoot up your anxiety to dangerous levels and at times make you feel your life is going to end. However, thankfully, panic attacks do not cause real harm, and last only for 5 minutes to 30 minutes. They do make you low in energy and can be highly uncomfortable. People may feel palpitations, breathlessness, feeling of doom and dizziness during a panic attack, all the signs that are similar to a cardiac arrest. Anxiety or panic attacks can be managed and there are effective techniques to deal with them. Focussing on your breath, muscle relaxation, grounding techniques and support of another person can help immensely. (Also read: 9 tips on how to fight anxiety or panic attacks)
Dr Ruhi Satija, Consultant Psychiatrist, Therapist, Mind transformation mentor, Cloudnine Hospital, Mumbai shares tips to get panic attack under control.
"Panic attack is a sudden episode of anxiety or intense fear along with physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, palpitations, breathlessness, nausea, sweating, dizziness, sometimes so intense as though they feel like a cardiac arrest.
Panic attacks cause severe discomfort and can last for anywhere between 5 minutes- 30 minutes followed by tiredness.
As severe as they might feel, panic attacks are not life threatening or do not cause any harm to the patient," says Dr Satija.
How to prevent panic attacks
Dr Satija says few steps that one can take to prevent an anxiety attack are:
- Avoid caffeine
- Practice deep breathing exercises regularly
- Practice aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week to manage stress level
- Eat meals at regular intervals to avoid imbalance of sugar levels
- Consider counselling therapy. CBT i.e., cognitive behavioural therapy is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
How to manage a panic attack
Dr Satija shares tips to follow during a panic attack.
1. Be aware that it will pass: It is important to have awareness and understanding of what a panic attack might feel like and knowing that it is an uncomfortable experience, but it shall pass in a few minutes. It helps keep the patient in some control of the situation and gives them mental strength to cope with it.
2. Focus on breath: Start focusing on your breath and slowly start breathing deeply in from the nose and out from the mouth.
3. Breathing techniques: One can also practice specific breathing techniques such as box breathing, and 2-7-8 breathing techniques which might be helpful during a panic attack.
4. Grounding techniques: 54321 technique where one focuses on one sensory input like naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 that you can taste.
5. Progressive muscle relaxation: This can be used frequently to help keep stress levels down.
6. Medication: Benzodiazepines help a lot and should be used as soon as you start experiencing anxiety symptoms.
7. Support: Supportive presence of a caretaker helps patients calm down.
"If panic attacks are occurring frequently, it is important to consult a psychiatrist and seek medical help and delay in treatment can lead to increased severity of symptoms and also might require longer treatment," says Dr Satija.