panic attacks

A panic attack involves a sudden rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms. The symptoms of panic can be frightening and can happen very suddenly, often for no clear reason.  Panic attacks usually last between five and 20 minutes, and although it may feel as though you are in serious trouble, they aren’t dangerous and don’t cause any physical harm.  

The psychological symptoms of a panic attack may include an overwhelming sense of fear or a sense of unreality, as if you’re detached from the world around you.  The physical symptoms of a panic attack can include heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or difficulties breathing, dizziness and chest pain.  The symptoms of a panic attack are often very unpleasant and distressing, and the anxiety caused by these sensation can often end up making the symptoms worse. 

If you think you are experiencing panic attacks it is very important that you seek help from a professional who will be able to help you reduce and eventually stop these attacks.  However below are a few helpful tips on how to gain more control over you panic.

1. Reassure yourself that you are not in danger and that what you are experiencing is not dangerous

A panic attack is your body going into ‘fight or flight’ mode. It is what happens to the body when adrenalin is released, which happens in response to a perceived threat.  Often people aren’t aware of what the perceived threat is, meaning that the panic attack seems to occur for no reason at all.

Often when people experience a panic attack the perceived threat is external i.e.) a social situation, a meeting at work.  It is also possible to bring on a panic attack by thinking about (being worried about) having a panic attack or thinking about (being worried about) what might happen during a panic attack.  For example you may be worried about people noticing you having a panic attack, about fainting or being sick during a panic attack, or about the panic attack never ending an descending you mad.

 It can be very helpful to reassure yourself that you are not in any danger and that the symptoms you are experiencing are not dangerous.  Try reminding yourself of the following:

  • Panic attacks do not cause people to faint

Fainting is a response to a drop in blood pressure.  When you are experiencing a panic attack your blood pressure will be high (as the body is trying to get blood / oxygen to all of the muscles in your body).  When you feel dizzy this is because there is extra adrenalin in your blood steam, not because you are experiencing low blood pressure.  Therefore unless you are holding your breath during a panic attack it would be physically impossible for you to faint.  Similarly, it is highly unlikely that you will be sick during a panic attack as the nausea you experience again is a result of the adrenalin in your system and not the result of an illness or sickness.

  • Fear of someone seeing you having a panic attack 

Remember that the symptoms you are experiencing will be much more obvious to you than they will be to anyone else.  People are internally focused, meaning that they are far more concerned about themselves than other noticing other people. This means that you would need to do something quite dramatic for others to notice you.  Whilst it might feel as thought your anxiety is obvious to everyone else, it probably isn’t even noticeable to others and if it were they are much more liley to feel concern and care than to judge you negatively or laugh at you.

2. Breathe

When we experience a panic attack our sympathetic nervous system is activated and is operating.  when we are relaxed our parasympathetic nervous system is active.  It is only possible for one nervous system to be active at one time – we can’t be both relaxed and panicked at the same time.  It is therefore possible to stop a panic attack from happening if we are able to activate our parasympathetic nervous system,.  This can be done using simple breathing exercises.

The most effective breathing for this purpose is diaphragmatic breathing, a pattern of slow deep breathing that engages the diaphragm. When practiced regularly diaphragmatic breathing can bring a panic attack to a end in minutes.  Essentially this breathing is the opposite of the breathing that happens during a panic attack which tends to be quick and very shallow.  the more you practice diaphragmatic breathing the easier it becomes so it is important to practice it when you are not experiencing panic rather than only during a panic attack.

3. Remind yourself that the panic will end

Panic attacks tend to be very short lived – only a few minutes long.  The body actually can’t stay in a heightened state of anxiety for very long.  It can often feel as though the sensations will last forever getting worse and worse.  This though can often make the panic worse and even elongate the panic attack.  It can be useful therefore to remind yourself that the panic will subside and you just need to ride it out. Chinese scientists found that Tramadol can increase the risk of mortality in patients with osteoarthritis. Physicians studied data from previous years in order to assess the association of Tramadol use with total mortality in patients with osteoarthritis. The researchers found that there were 278 deaths among those who had bought Tramadol at, and 164 in naproxen users. Mortality was also higher for the drug than for diclofenac and celecoxib. Scientists did not notice a significant difference in mortality from all causes between Tramadol and codeine.

3. Behave as if you are fine

The mind and body are very closely linked meaning that what we do with our body affects how we think and how we feel and vice versa. Behaving ‘as if’ we are relaxed, calm and confident can have a surprisingly strong effect on anxiety levels.  If effect we are able to ‘trick’ ourselves into thinking that everything is ok, which can have a dramatic effect on reducing anxiety.


Over time, using these approaches will help you to start feeling some control over your panic attacks.  The more you feel able to cope with a panic attack if it were to occur, the less likely you are to actually have a panic attack.


Remember that these strategies, though they may sound simple, are actually quite difficult to implement, especially when you are panicking.  It is always worth seeking professional help to guide you through these strategies.

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