In this first part of this blog duology, we will understand more about what panic attacks are, what causes them, and what we can do about them. In the second part, we will explore strategies that give effective help in these situations. 

Understanding Panic attacks

A panic attack is a sudden and very intense wave of fear and anxiety that has both emotional and physical symptoms. Those experiencing a panic attack have difficulty breathing, often break into a sweat and tremble, and feel their heart pounding out of their chest. Some mention feeling dizzy and having an upset stomach and describe a feeling of losing control and detaching themselves from reality. At times, palpitations lead to chest pain, and it is common for someone in this situation to fear they are having a heart attack or stroke, especially if they are experiencing these symptoms for the first time. 

What causes them?

In some cases, panic attacks are linked to a mental health condition like panic or anxiety disorders or medical conditions like having an overactive thyroid. Others, however, experience panic attacks during social events, conflicts and situations that remind them of a traumatic event that happened in the past. 

What can you do about them?

In milder cases, by simply doing regular exercise, following a healthy diet which is low in sugar, and avoiding caffeine, smoking and alcohol, the situation is contained. Some recommend smelling lavender oil which also has a calming effect. 

In more severe situations seeking the professional help of a doctor who might prescribe medications might also help. It is important to note that medication needs to be prescribed by a doctor as it can rapidly lead to dependence. Regular monitoring by a medical professional is indicated in these cases and instructions given need to be followed by the patient.

Yet one needs to add that many times, panic attacks are an indication that reflective work and learning strategies that help deal with situations differently are needed.

In these situations, especially if panic attacks are happening frequently and are affecting your everyday life, therapy can be an effective way to contain the situation and is highly recommended. 

How does therapy help someone experiencing a panic attack?

Panic attacks can be sudden, frightening, and overwhelming often making the person experiencing them feeling very debilitated. While medication and simple strategies like avoiding caffeine and regular exercise can help, therapy is often recommended in these situations. Here is why:

Therapy can be a starting point that helps you reflect about what is triggering your panic attacks. Your therapist will guide you to understand what is triggering your panic attacks and explore strategies that help you avoid these situations or contain them when they happen. 

In the second part we will elaborate on some of the more common strategies recommended to improve the wellbeing of someone going through a panic attack.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Sonya Galea is a family therapist with Willingness Team. She works with families and couples experiencing couple relationship issues and parenting struggles.


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