How To Deal With An Anxiety Attack

Having an anxiety attack can be a fightening experience, but there are several things you can do to manage and prevent them.

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are a fight or flight response signified by unpleasant bodily sensations such as a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking, dizziness, and a paralyzing sense of fear. Anxiety attacks are one of the primary reasons for emergency room visits among people who believe they are suffering a heart attack. Most people will have at least one at some point during their lifetime. Usually, they occur after a frightening or startling event, but in some people, they can strike without warning. While having an anxiety attack can be a terrifying experience, there are some things you can do to manage and prevent them.

If you think you are having an anxiety attack, the first thing you should do is remind yourself that everything will be okay. A person experiencing such intense panic is likely to assume the worst by believing they are about to die or that they are in terrible danger, but keep in mind that the attack cannot kill you. Do not try too hard to fight the symptoms because this can worsen your sense of fear. Though during an anxiety attack it may feel like you are about to die or pass out, certainly the worst part of an anxiety attack is worrying about what is going to happen. Worry can escalate and heighten the symptoms that are already occurring. To help calm this escalating sense of terror, focus on what is actually going on rather than what you think might happen to you, because "what if" thoughts tend to be catastrophic and irrational.

Try keeping your mind occupied while the physical symptoms subside by doing a simple activity, such as counting backwards from 100. Many people who take medication for anxiety attacks find they have ended by the time they reach their medication because the idea alone of finding relief is comforting enough to alleviate their symptoms. If you can find a practical "safety action," such as calling someone on the phone or repeating a comforting phrase to yourself, this may help the attack end sooner. Make sure it is something you can do anywhere, even if you are by yourself so that you do not cause yourself more panic when you are unable to perform the action that makes you feel safe.

If you happen to have an attack in public, find a place to sit if you can, and if anyone asks what is wrong, you may choose to briefly explain to them what is going on. If you are embarrassed, however, realize that most people will not be able to tell that you feel there is something terribly wrong with you simply by looking at you. A person having an anxiety attack may look a little dazed or shaky and have trouble explaining exactly what is happening to them, but mostly they will look as they do at any other time. Anxiety attacks are very common, and chances are that someone present will relate to what you are experiencing.

Anxiety attacks also occur in people who have "anxiety sensitivity" and tend to panic when they feel their heart beating faster or feel other bodily sensations they consider to be out of the ordinary. Anything that raises the heartbeat can cause them to have an anxiety attack if they are predisposed to having uncued panic attacks. This includes physical exercise and chemicals such as caffeine. You should avoid elevating your heart rate, but at the same time, do not worry too much if you do feel yourself sweating or happen feel your heart beating faster. This is a normal part of the body's functioning and will not cause you any harm.

Many people with anxiety attacks are embarrassed about their condition to the point that they will not seek help or even go out in public. Whatever you do, do not allow anxiety attacks to interfere with your normal activities. Some people fear having a panic attack in public or while driving, and this leads to a complication of panic attack disorder known as agoraphobia. A person with agoraphobia is often afraid to leave the house at all for fear that something terrible will happen to them from which they cannot escape. This makes it even more difficult for a person to seek help, keep appointments, or even hold a job. Many therapists will begin counseling in the home for people with agoraphobia, so if this condition applies to you, begin by looking for a counselor in the phone book or calling someone you know to discuss seeking help.

If your attacks are recurrent and occur without a preceding event or they are particularly troublesome to you, you should see a physician. A doctor will help rule out any underlying physical conditions that could be causing your panic attacks. There are many highly effective treatment options and medications available, so whatever you do, do not lose hope. There is no reason to let anxiety attacks or the fear of having them control your life.

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