It’s Tuesday morning—you drop the kids off at school, hit the highway, and set out on your usual 7:30am routine on the way to work. After hanging up from your 9am conference call, your heart starts to race and you can’t catch your breath. You begin sweating, trembling and thinking you’re having a heart attack, going mad…or even dying. You have your colleague rush you to the nearest urgent care center crippled with anxiety and worry, only for the doctor to tell you, “You had a panic attack.”
A panic attack? Me…having a panic attack? But I wasn’t even panicking!
Though panic attacks are usually linked to stressful situations, sometimes the reason for the onset isn’t quite clear. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, panic attacks generally result from anxiety disorders that develop from a complex set of risk factors including brain chemistry, genetics, personality, and life events. Hyperthyroidism, mitral valve prolapse, stimulant use and other serious medical conditions can also lead to panic attacks.
Before you let shame overcome you, it’s encouraging to know that you are not alone. Reports show that 2.7 million Americans suffer from a one-year prevalence of panic attacks, and over 28% of people who suffer from panic disorders visit the emergency room in a 6-month period.
So now that you have come to terms that you have some form of anxiety, it’s best to prepare yourself for future panic attacks.
Finding Your Balance When an Anxiety or Panic Attack Hits
When in doubt of what’s really happening to you, you should always go to the nearest emergency care center— better to be safe than sorry! However, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety or panic disorder, here are some ways to even yourself out.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven effective for managing panic attacks. By uncovering the thinking patterns and behaviors that lead to the attacks, you can retrain your mind to reason more realistically and effectively through anxious moments.
- Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy exposes you to the things or situations that bring you fear. In a safe environment, you become familiar with your body’s reaction to certain triggers. Over time, you become more and more desensitized to these triggers and ultimately reduce your tendency to fear.
- Breathing, Music, and Exercise: As discussed earlier, sometimes panic attacks come without any real triggers. When one hits you, one of the best things to do is practice controlled deep breathing and other relaxation techniques such as meditation, listening to music, or even exercising. By countering negative sensations with positive ones, you are developing coping mechanisms that promote calmness and relaxation.
→ Like many things, panic and anxiety disorders can be reduced by healthy living. Read here about 3 Healthy Habits for Kids and what kind of foods to add to your diet.
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