How to deal with panic attacks

DEIDRE SAYS: Up to a third of people have a panic attack or anxiety attack at some point in their life. 

Some people have them regularly.

They usually last between five and 30 minutes and can come out of the blue or may be triggered by a stressful situation. 

They can be very frightening and disabling. They are sometimes linked with agoraphobia and make people scared of going out alone or in public.

WHAT IS A PANIC ATTACK?

They’re a type of exaggerated physical response to fear, which can occur when you’re in danger, under stress or over-excited.

The body has something called a ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, which is important when you are coping with an emergency situation. Panic attacks are triggered when you’re feeling anxious.

Adrenalin floods into your bloodstream, making your heart beat harder and faster and sending more blood to your muscles – readying you for ‘fight or flight’.

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HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE HAVING ONE?

People experience panic attacks in slightly different ways, but common symptoms include:

  • Your heart will beat very fast
  • You’ll feel faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • You might feel sick or your stomach might churn
  • You might shake or sweat
  • Some people get chest pains which make them think they’re having a heart attack
  • You might not be able to breathe normally or properly
  • Your mouth may feel dry 
  • You could feel disconnected from your mind, your body or your environment
  • You might feel terrified that you’re going to die

WHAT TO DO IF YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE HAS A PANIC ATTACK:

Remember, what’s happening is just a physical response – it won’t harm you. 

Don’t blow into a paper bag. This is just an old wives’ tale and won’t help.

Learn self-help techniques such as breathing exercises to help you calm down.

My support packs Coping with Panic Attacks will give you practical tips and show you where to turn for support.

Whatever your worry, you’re not alone. The Dear Deidre team of counsellors will be able to recommend your best next steps to help get your life back on track.

No issue is too big, too small or too embarrassing. 

For a support pack and personalised advice, email us at deardeidre@the-sun.co.uk or for a prompt response, message us on Facebook.

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