Dealing with Panic Attacks

While many people understand the concept of panic – a sensation of seemingly uncontrollable fear spreading throughout the body – there are varying degrees to which people may be affected by the phenomenon. A true panic attack is a “sudden surge of mounting physiological arousal,” according to Edmund Bourne’s “Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.”

The physical symptoms of a panic attack may include shortness of breath, tightening of muscles, dizziness, fainting, sweating, and trembling. Meanwhile, there may be psychological symptoms accompanying the attack, such as feeling outside one’s body, an urge to run, and fears of losing one’s mind or dying. For many, the first panic attack creates what Bourne names as “anticipatory anxiety” regarding the potential for another attack.

There are many strategies for coping with panic attacks which may help sufferers reduce their impact and frequency, Bourne explains. Lifestyle changes such as developing a regular relaxation practice and making a commitment to exercise have been helpful. Bourne adds that those able to eliminate stimulants, acknowledge and express feelings, and adopt healthy core beliefs, have a better chance of working through their panic attacks.

In the moment, Bourne suggests that resisting or fighting early panic symptoms may exacerbate them. Rather, those who accept what is happening and “float with the wave of a panic attack” have a better chance of moving through it more quickly. Because panic attacks are time limited, those who allow time to pass so that their bodies may reabsorb the adrenaline rush associated with the attack often report feeling better faster.

Information culled from Edmund Bourne’s “Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.”