Life is filled with a whirlwind of challenges, from social pressures to everyday stress. For some individuals, panic attacks might be a new reaction to these issues. A panic attack is a sudden and sharp rise in anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or queasy stomach. The visceral symptoms are an adaptive response to the perception of danger. It is critical to understand this anxiety so you can help yourself or someone you love during this experience. Read on to learn about the reactions that accompany a panic attack and how to manage them.
Anxiety is a sense of nervousness, uneasiness, fear or dread of what is about to happen or what might transpire. It can be mild or intense, depending on the person and the situation. For many people having a panic attack for the first time, it can feel strange, scary and confusing. The experience may start with a tightening in the chest, which can make it hard to breathe. In addition, the entire body might begin to shake, and excessive sweating or blurred vision may follow.
Comforting someone during or after an attack could help him or her ward off future episodes, especially as he or she understands more about the physical manifestations of anxiety. Have the person take long, deep breaths by inhaling and exhaling for about four seconds each. Deep breathing techniques can relax the body and should pull attention away from anxious or negative thoughts. You can also encourage the individual to practice regular exercise, such as yoga. Physical activity can decrease stress, boost confidence and encourage the body to release endorphins that are vital to overall well-being.
To learn more about the physical symptoms of and effective coping strategies for panic attacks, see the accompanying infographic.