Feeling anxious is normal in most people, especially when you’re under certain stressful situations. But feeling a sudden intense fear or discomfort for no obvious reasons at all may be a condition known as a panic attack. This condition may even turn into a panic disorder, coming from the nagging fear of experiencing a recurring attack in the future.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 2 to 3 percent of Americans get panic disorder in a single year, and women are its most common victims. While this condition may not seem to get in the way of one’s health, it can actually interfere a lot with one’s quality of life, causing individuals to miss work and stop going out, socializing, and basically doing daily activities that they think may cause another attack.
The Indicators of Panic Disorder
A panic attack is a far more intense feeling than being stressed out. You can easily spot an attack happening with a racing heartbeat, an almost-paralyzing feeling of terror, dizziness or light-headedness, sweating and trembling, sudden chills, choking, the feeling of pins and needles, and difficulty in breathing.
While these are common symptoms that people experience during a “fight or flight” situation, they seem to rise out of nowhere, even in harmless settings, in people experiencing a panic attack.
An attack may not pose significant danger to a person, but it is a terrifying experience because of the fact that it seems to be out of their control. But the truth is, a panic attack is actually something that people can definitely manage and rise above from.
Controlling Your Breathing during Panic Attacks
A common symptom of a panic attack is the feeling of being short of breath, so these individuals tend to breathe quickly during an episode. Taking control of your breathing is essential as it greatly helps in easing other symptoms of a panic attack as well. When you feel an attack coming on, you may start by trying to breathe in as slowly and as deeply as you can through your nose and to breathe out in the same manner through your mouth.
If you are finding it difficult to do so, another technique would be to count to five on each gentle inhalation and each exhalation. You can keep your focus by closing your eyes and just concentrating on your breathing. Once you’ve done this simple breathing exercise, you should start feeling a whole lot better after a few minutes.
Deep Breathing versus Slow Breathing
Although deep breathing can help relieve anxiety, some people may have trouble performing it. Focusing on a slow breathing approach may be a lot easier, especially for people experiencing panic attacks.
Breathing slowly also slows the heart rate and calms the body systems naturally. While you are slowly breathing, scan your body for places where you’re holding tension, such as the jaw, lips, and shoulders. Doing so allows the tension to dissipate and be replaced with relaxation.
Diagnosing Panic Disorder
A lot of people who have a panic attack for the first time often think that they are experiencing a heart attack because of its symptoms. Despite this, it is still important to seek professional help when you notice any signs of a panic attack.
You are likely to visit the emergency department, where you will undergo several tests to check if you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. Aside from the routine checking of vital signs, which includes measuring your heart rate, breathing, temperature, and blood oxygen saturation through the use of a Nihon Kohden SpO2 sensor, health-care providers may also run some blood tests as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG) to keep tabs with your heart function.
However, if your symptoms do not require actual emergency intervention, you may be referred to your primary health-care provider or a licensed therapist who can better diagnose your condition.
Keeping Panic Attacks at Bay
As much as a panic disorder is easily treatable, a panic attack is certainly something you can prevent. Something as simple as practicing breathing exercises each day will help you avoid having panic attacks and relieve you of them when they occur.
Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can also help to significantly release stress and improve your mood. But if symptoms persist, don’t worry. There’s no quick fix to panic attacks, and you can always get professional help when you need it.