Have you ever had a panic attack?
If you have then you will know how debilitating it really can be. If you haven’t then it would be useful to know what happens just in case you know someone who does suffer from them.
It is important to remember that as sophisticated as we might like to think that we are the truth is we are animals and when faced with danger, either perceived or real we react just like an animal would.
Here are some of the things that happen to us during a panic attack and why we react as a wild animal would:
- Dry mouth – if we are being chased in the wild by a man eating tiger we want clear airways to breathe properly.
- Rapid breathing – once we can breathe properly we want to oxygenate our blood more effectively.
- Racing heart – we want to send that oxygen rich blood to our muscles so we can either run or fight more effectively.
- Dizziness – all that oxygen in our blood isn’t being expelled through physical exercise so it goes to into our brain making us feel light headed.
- Lack of appetite (short term) if we are being chased by a bear we don’t want to stop and eat some berries because we’re hungry!
- Go as ‘white as a ghost’ – we don’t want to bleed profusely if we’re cut so the blood doesn’t go to our skin surface as much
- Hair standing on end/goosebumps – in the days when we were much hairier it improved our sense of touch.
- Eyes dilate – we want to see what we are facing so our pupils dilate to improve peripheral vision
- Churning stomach – our stomach will shrink and move further up behind the rib-cage for added protection
What to do if experience a panic attack:-
- Face up to it – if you’ve experienced a panic attack before you will generally know what’s going to happen next, so tell yourself something along the lines of “now this will happen….” it won’t make it any nicer when it comes but it takes the panic away and in some cases stops the attack in it’s tracks.
- Breathe – slow regular breathing may be difficult but when we are relaxed our breathing is slow so by deliberately slowing down our breathing we convince our mind into thinking that everything’s OK
- Get some exercise – as we see from above the whole thing about a panic attack is to help the fight or flight response – so use it the way it’s meant to be used by moving.
- Suck on a boiled sweet – when we are relaxed we salivate, when we are tense we get a dry mouth. sucking on a boiled sweet helps the mind think that everything is OK
Prevention is better than cure :-
- Practice breathing techniques such as mindfulness
- Learn self hypnosis
- Practice positive visualisation
- Train yourself to do the things that make you anxious – just a bit at a time
- Learn the basics of REBT and CBT
- Write a daily thought record