They come on suddenly for no apparent reason. A panic attack is a deeply frightening experience for those who suffer from them. So powerful can the fear of a future panic attack be that the sufferer can become afraid to leave home for fear of another episode of gripping panic. The symptoms of sweating, temperature changes, rapid heart beat, light-headedness, dizziness, feelings of unreality, and a sense of impending doom can lead the person experiencing an attack to believe they are “going crazy” or about to die.
Although a panic attack is harrowing for the person experiencing it, panic attacks almost never lead to long term harm. The symptoms experienced are due to the effects of the same biochemicals the body releases when faced with a stressful situation, although with a panic attack there is no obvious trigger. What’s the solution? How do you stop having panic attacks?
Although the exact cause of panic attacks isn’t known, they tend to be more common in anxious individuals and can have a hereditary component. If your mom experienced panic attacks, you may be at higher risk for developing them yourself. Certain medical conditions can predispose to panic attacks including mitral valve prolapse, an overactive thyroid, and hypoglycemia. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get a medical evaluation to rule out one of these treatable disorders. If no obvious cause is found, there are some simple steps you can take to stop having panic attacks or at least reduce their frequency:
Stop having panic attacks: Check your medications
Certain medications can activate the nervous system and trigger a panic attack. Review your medication list with your doctor to be sure you’re not taking a medication that could increase your risk of panic episodes. One “medication” that most people don’t consider is the use of caffeine. Some individuals are exquisitely sensitive to the effects of caffeine and may experience anxiety and panic attacks even after a single cup of coffee. If you have a tendency towards panic, eliminate caffeine from your diet.
Stop having panic attacks: Alter your diet
When blood sugar levels drop, the body releases certain hormones to help return the blood sugar to normal. These hormones can cause anxiety and may precipitate a panic attack. To prevent hypoglycemia, keep blood sugar levels steady by increasing your protein intake and eating smaller meals more frequently. Limit your intake of simple carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods. For some people, these changes can greatly decrease the frequency of panic attacks.
Stop having panic attacks: Learn ways to better cope with stress
Panic attacks are usually precipitated by stress. Developing more effective ways to handle stress through meditation, yoga, exercise, and other means can help to reduce the occurrence of panic attacks. Sometimes short term counseling can be helpful for learning creative ways to deal with stressful situations. Assertiveness training may also be effective in reducing panic attacks. Individuals prone to panic disorder tend to have problems asserting themselves in social situations.
Stop having panic attacks: Increase your understanding of panic attacks
Understand that panic attacks are your body’s reaction to a perceived threat or stress and that the symptoms you’re experiencing won’t kill you or cause you to “go crazy” or do something inappropriate. Once you realize the attacks are self limited, you’ll fear them less and will be less likely develop full blown panic attack at the first sign of stress.
Stop having panic attacks: Learn to let go during an attack
This is the key to overcoming panic in many people. Don’t try to fight the symptoms of panic when you feel them coming on. In fact, some people have success aborting an attack by encouraging the feelings of panic. Once you practice complete acceptance, the symptoms lose their hold over you and occur with less frequency. An author by the name of Dr. Claire Weeks has written several books on this topic and has had a high success rate using this method on patients.
If you’re experiencing frequent panic attacks, your doctor may want to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or an anti-depressant medication for short term use. These can be helpful until you learn more effective strategies to cope with panic. Sometimes just knowing you have an anti-anxiety pill in your pocket “just in case” can reduce the likelihood of a panic attack. Don’t let panic attacks destroy your confidence. Take the necessary steps needed to free yourself from the power of panic.