One of the most terrifying things about a panic attack is the feeling that it can’t be stopped. Leo experienced that one morning, when he had his first panic attack as a teenager. The rush of physical symptoms can be paralyzing, which is why it’s important to understand what panic attacks are and that you have the power to stop them. Read on to learn more about how to stop a panic attack.
What Is a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks are more common than you may think: About 11% of Americans have one each year. They come out of nowhere, for no good reason, with an onslaught of physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack. These can include shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea and chest pain. During his panic attack, Leo was dizzy and breathless, unable to comprehend what he was going through.
The mental and physical symptoms are just as alarming. The one thing Leo understood about his panic attack was that he felt tremendous anxiety, unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. Many people who’ve had panic attacks say they feel like Leo did: out of control and overwhelmed by their thoughts and emotions. A panic attack can seem like an out-of-body experience that leaves people with a tenuous grip on reality. What’s worse, repeated attacks can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder, which is a type of mental health condition. That’s why many people are desperate to learn how to stop having a panic attack.
How Do You Stop a Panic Attack?
Identify Triggers and Risk Factors
The first step towards stopping a panic attack is to identify what triggers it. Panic attacks are frustrating because they don’t start with an actual threat of danger, according to Andrea Bastiani-Archibald. Rather, people perceive harm in a situation where there isn’t any. Panic attacks stem from severe anxiety. The source of anxiety can be different for each person, which means panic attack triggers are also different.
Some people may get anxious about specific situations, such as flying or speaking in front of crowds. Others may be undergoing a major life change that is intensely stressful, such as divorce or the death of a loved one. And there are certain medical conditions that may trigger a panic attack, such as hypoglycemia or anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia, which is a fear of being trapped.
While there’s not one main cause behind panic attacks, there are some risk factors that can make people more susceptible to having one. These include a family history of panic attacks, trauma, a childhood history of abuse or too much caffeine consumption.
Seek Support from a Healthcare Professional
Some people may need help discovering their triggers, which is why it’s also crucial to seek help from a healthcare professional. It’s important to remember that panic attacks are treatable. A trained therapist can help people identify triggers, and also learn how to face their fears.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one commonly used method. A therapist teaches a person with panic attacks how to identify the triggers that cause the anxiety and replace them with more accurate, positive thoughts and feelings. According to Bastiani-Archibald, facing the fear directly, a method that’s known as exposure therapy, is also effective. A person confronts their trigger situation guided by a therapist. By seeing the fear isn’t as dire as they thought, it takes the power away from the trigger and reduces anxiety. Bastiani-Archibald noted that it’s important that Leo found hope in “How We Die,” a book by the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca. Its themes—that perception of an event can influence feelings more than the actual event itself—share common ground with cognitive behavioral therapy.
In addition to therapy, some people learn how to stop a panic attack through medication, such as antidepressants. Medication is often coupled with therapy as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In some cases, when the trigger is a stressful life event, the attacks go away when the situation is resolved. Because anxiety is at the root of panic, it can be helpful to keep up a regular exercise routine and practice relaxation techniques.
It’s critical to seek treatment and learn how to stop having a panic attack. If panic attacks, or even the fear of attacks, continue, it can evolve into a panic disorder, Bastiani-Archibald said. About 2% to 3% of American adults develop panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder.
Leo’s Life After Learning How to Stop a Panic Attack
Leo is someone who understands the importance of dealing with panic attacks before they get out of hand. After a few more panic attacks, Leo decided to take action. One of the most crucial things he did was to tell others about the attacks and the anxiety he experienced. He shared his story instead of hiding it, which allowed him to get the help he needed to move forward.
As Leo’s brave testimonial shows, it’s important to break the stigma surrounding panic attacks and other mental health conditions. TAG’s goal is to do that with an innovation in healing. TAG is a streaming service featuring videos of people sharing their personal mental health journeys. There are also videos of clinicians who offer their professional expertise. Viewers watching these videos can gain a better understanding of their own mental health conditions, or those of loved ones, and discover new healing techniques in a safe space. If you want to learn more about how to stop having a panic attack, or other issues surrounding mental health, explore the videos TAG has to offer. You can also visit TAG to see Leo discuss his own story about dealing with panic attacks.