Panic attacks are very distressing, and it can feel like you are going to die from a heart attack. Symptoms of panic attacks are shortness of breath, pounding and rapid heartbeat, chest pains, sweating, trembling, numbness, tingling, muscle tension, and headache. Many people who experience a panic attack will think they are having a heart attack and will end up going to the emergency department. Fortunately, panic attacks will not harm you, nor kill you. You just have to tell yourself that this is only a panic attack, and it will eventually go away on its own. Usually, panic attacks only last 5 to 15 minutes. But what is scary is that it can occur at any time, even when you are resting. Indeed, true, bonafide panic attacks occur out of the blue, and does not have to be triggered: it can wake you from sleep; it can happen when you are sitting on the couch watching TV; it can happen anytime, anywhere.
The problem then becomes one of anticipation- you start anticipating when the next panic attack will occur, and you may even avoid places where you had panic attacks. As you can imagine, you may even start avoiding going out altogether, for fear of having a panic attack when you leave home, also known as agoraphobia. So when you have panic attacks, it can lead to isolating yourself at home, and also develop agoraphobia.
So how do you deal with panic attacks? When you are actively having a panic attack, these are ways to help relieve the symptoms:
Tell yourself that this is indeed a panic attack, and will go away in a few minutes
A bonafide panic attack will only last 5 to 10 minutes. If it is a medical condition (i.e. a heart attack), then you need emergency medical care. Click here to find out more.
If you are hyperventilating and having shortness of breath, try breathing into a paper bag
Breathing into a paper bag will help to slow down your rate of breathing, and then you can focus on slow, deep breaths to provide proper oxygen to your body.
Place lorazepam underneath your tongue
You need a doctor’s prescription for lorazepam (Ativan). Place 0.5mg to 1mg of lorazepam underneath your tongue, and let it dissolve. The lorazepam will then travel directly to your brain via the blood vessels underneath your tongue (this is sublingual absorption of drug). Within a matter of a few minutes, your panic attack should go away.
Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than your chest, will help you to breathe deeply and will oxygenate your body adequately, slowing down your respirations and calming your panic attack.
Seeing a relaxing, calm, and restful place in your mind can help to relieve the panic attack symptoms.
If these interventions do not work, then you may need to see a psychiatrist for an evaluation for an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder.