Managing panic attacks
Living with panic disorder can be frightening and isolating. The disorder is characterised by recurring and regular panic attacks. The attacks occur out of the blue and often for no obvious reason. Many people describe them as a ‘wave-like’ feeling with overwhelming sensations of stress and anxiety. Physical symptoms build up and escalate rapidly. They can include:
- Sweating, shivering and feeling shaky
- Feeling unable to breathe or a choking sensation
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Numbness or pins and needles
- Chest pains or chest feels tight
- Needing to go to the toilet urgently
Clearly these symptoms are very unpleasant and they can be frightening in their intensity. It’s common for people to fear that they’re having a heart attack or are going to die as they’re struggling to breathe (although the symptoms cannot actually cause physical harm). Understandably, if you’re living with panic disorder you begin to fear the next panic attack which leads to heightened panic and anxiety symptoms.
A vicious circle
As panic attacks can be so intense and terrifying, many people who experience panic attacks avoid situations where they might occur. This varies from one person to the next but examples include crowded places, public places, open spaces and places far away from home. Staying away from so many situations has a serious debilitating effect on everyday life. It can lead to isolation which can also increase feelings of fear and dread, and may even trigger other mental health conditions such as agoraphobia.
Plan of action
The good news is that there are things you can do to help manage and control panic attacks. The following have been successfully tried, tested and trusted by many people living with panic disorder:
Stay where you are – whenever possible, stay where you during an attack. Pull over and park if you’re driving.
Focus on slow, deep breathing – count to three in-between each breath and try holding your breath for a couple of seconds when you breathe in. This will help you avoid feeling that you can’t breathe while reducing anxiety and panic symptoms.
Think positively – this can be challenging but try to focus on a positive image, perhaps a place where you’ve felt relaxed and happy. It can also be a good idea to have some statements ready in your mind to help reduce symptoms. These could include ‘this panic attack will pass in time’ and ‘I’ve never choked or had a heart attack’.
Fight your fear – try to identify the fear that’s causing the panic attack and remind yourself over and over that it’s not real.
Don’t fight the panic attack – resisting a panic attack can increase anxiety and make the attack worse. Keep reassuring yourself with the fact that the attack will pass and it can’t do you any physical harm.
Expert support for panic disorder in Spain
If left untreated, panic disorder can become worse over time. We understand how devastating this disorder can be at Step One Recovery. Residential recovery may not be the first option that comes to mind when thinking about panic disorder and anxiety. But many of our clients find the focus on real recovery, the understanding of underlying issues, professional expertise and the sanctuary-like setting of the Step One Recovery centre makes it the perfect place for new beginnings.
The centre is discreetly tucked away in Javea – a picturesque town on the Costa Blanca near Alicante, Costa Brava and Costa del Sol. Stunning views of the Costa Blanca mountain ranges and coastline will help you feel a million miles away so you can relax and focus on getting better.
Our team of experts will put together a treatment plan to help you overcome and control panic disorder. It will be tailored just for you, but will include psychotherapy and the practice of relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. Nutrition and exercise will also play an important role in your recovery.