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Dealing with panic attacks

First steps

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What can you do about a panic attack?

If you find that the fear of panic attacks starts to play an ever greater role in your life and you avoid more and more situations out of fear of panic, it is important to intervene. One tip is to keep looking up the tough situations. This gives you the chance to realize that your anxious thoughts (I am going to faint …) will not come true, which reduces your fear. 

To call up panic attacks intentionally to practice dealing with them, there are a few exercises you can do: 

  • Take deep breaths for a minute at high pace
  • Breathe through a straw for a minute
  • Spinning around at high speed, for as long as you can
  • Move back and forth with your head at a fast pace
  • Sit on a chair with your head between your legs and wait for a while. Then come back up with your head at rapid speed

These exercises might give you strange feelings. If you suffer from panic attacks, these feelings could frighten you. In this way they are very similar to panic attacks. You can now ask yourself these questions:

  • How long do these feelings of panic last?
  • How bad do they get?
  • How often do I have to do an exercise before I am not afraid anymore
  • What is the pattern of anxiety during a panic attack?

You could find that the feelings of fear never last long and are not that exciting. Then you can slowly start practicing more. You start with things you are a little anxious about and can slowly build up to things that you still think are very scary (doing the breathing exercise in the supermarket for example).

Treatment

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Panic attack symptoms can be treated well. A successful treatment provides insight into how panic attacks take place. You learn to recognize the thoughts that make you anxious and examine how real these are. By taking things step by step and investigating whether anxiety expectations come true, you will gain more and more confidence in the fact that panic attacks are not as harmful as you think and that you do not need to avoid situations out of fear for panic.

In case of more severe symptoms or a combination with agoraphobia, a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy or drug therapy is sometimes successful. For this you need to see a professional.

If you first want to try and take measures yourself, look at some of our ways to deal with panic attacks, or the effective Panic Away program.

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