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  • Writer's pictureCamilla Buchanan

What is a panic attack?

Panic Attacks are sudden episodes of physical symptoms or intense fear or anxiety.  They can be brought on from a triggering event or from a calm state.  That is what can make them so scary, a person can all of a sudden begin having a panic attack.  Sometimes people think they are having a heart attack.  A lot of people who experience panic attacks get diagnosed with them for the first time in emergency rooms because they can feel like heart attacks.  (Side note, please go to the ER or call 911 if you think are having a heart attack.)


Some common symptoms of panic attacks:

-Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerate heart rate


-Trembling or shaking

-Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

-Feeling of choking

-Chest pain or discomfort

-Nausea or abdominal distress

-Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint

-Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

-Fear of losing control or going crazy

-Fear of dying

-Numbness or tingling sensations

-Chills or heat sensations


During a panic attack four or more of those symptoms reach their peak within 10 minutes and are experienced as a feeling of intense fear or discomfort.


Because of the intensity and disruption of a panic attack, I really recommend you seek out professional help if this is something you are going through.  I will offer some information and tips in this blog post, but if you are experiencing panic attacks, I recommend you meet with someone who can personally diagnose and treat your panic attacks.


A few tips for coping with panic attacks:


Long-term treatments:

1.     Talk with a mental health counselor for an individualized treatment plan.  There are lots of counselors and a lot of options when it comes to treating panic attacks.  You don’t have to get through this on your own.  Be humble and vulnerable and ask for help.

2.     Meet with your medical provider to discuss medication treatment.  Some people receive a lot of help from regular medication treatment and your doctor is qualified to discuss all your options.  Please be honest with them.


In-the-moment coping for panic attacks:

1.     Take note of your panic symptoms.  Talk to yourself and tell yourself they will resolve soon.  Tell yourself that you are a strong person who can get through difficult moments. 

2.     Put your hands under cold, running water.  Hold ice cubes in your hands until they melt.  The cold can redirect your thinking to begin to calm down the panic.

3.     Ground yourself to the present moment using your senses.  What can you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?  Some people even use sour or cinnamon candies.

4.     Look at the corners of the room you are in. Where are you, what time is it, what is the date, how old are you?  All these can orient you to the present moment.

5.     Try to focus on your breathing.  Now, depending on your panic symptoms, it can be really difficult to calm down your breathing in order to take deep breaths, but this can help when you feel a panic attack beginning or when it is beginning to resolve.  Taking deep breaths can help you calm down afterwards.

6.     Reach out to your supportive people.  Call a trusted friend or family member, they want to help you.


If this post resonates with you, I am so sorry to hear that you experienced a panic attack(s).  Please know you are not alone and many people struggle with these at some point in their lives.  Please reach out for help in whatever way you think will best help you. 


Call 988 if you are feeling suicidal or having a mental health crisis or go to your nearest emergency room.


If you want to see if I would be a good fit counselor to meet with you, please contact me today. or fill out my website contact form.

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