What Is Panic?
Panic is something that’s more and more and more an issue with the world as it is today. It’s an anxiety-provoking experience just being in the world. People who are prone to panic generally will have these attacks come that feel largely uncontrolled, and can feel as if you’re going to die or an impending sense of doom as it were. And basically, you feel like you’re drowning, but usually without a precipitant. Now, I think that some panic actually hits or meets clinical criteria that as a precipitant, even though that’s not the classic definition, but a lot of people will tell you that something kind of set it off. And generally, it’s an exaggerated response to normal physiological stressors.
So a classic example is someone who had a relative who had a heart attack or something like that and died. And then as they’re climbing their five-story walk-up in New York City, their heart starts to bound as they’re carrying up the groceries or whatever. And they go into a panic mode. They take a normal physiological stressor and it amplifies. Or a lot of times, people have them as they’re just waking up in the morning and all of a sudden they’re waking up in a panic.
What would you recommend for someone who is experiencing a panic attack?
The first thing is to realize it’s like if you get in trouble swimming, that there is relief, that it will pass. People first say about a panic attack, a lot of times they’ll end up in the emergency room. They think they’re having a heart attack if they haven’t had one before. Oftentimes, even if they’re young, no cardiac history, no family history, they’ll end up in an ER and they’ll be ruled out.And the assessment after ruling everything out is that was in fact a panic attack. So things you can do from there, provided that you get checked out and if you have the time to delve into it, and you’re not in a midst of a panic attack, which would be a different thing, go get checked out somewhere by your doctor. And if you have family history or predisposition or a current illness, you should be adequately, medically worked up.
But if you’re in the midst of a panic attack, I think first, having someone sit down with you and try to assure you that it’s going to be okay. One of the things that you can do is begin to get a hold of your breathing because generally, people will be short of breath during these things. They’ll be diaphoretic or sweaty. They’ll be tremulous, have a bounding heartbeat. So if you’ve had the conversation beforehand and you know what it is, then you can begin to move your mind to a calmer place often by getting into the moment. And so the magic of diaphragmatic breathing or controlling your breathing or pay attention to your breathing is that it forces you into the moment of what’s going on in the immediacy as opposed to fear of the future, or fear of this episode never really ending. It’s in my mind, akin to you’re swimming and you have a cramp or something like that. Don’t panic. Calm yourself and it’ll eventually cease.
If someone is having a panic attack what can I do to help?
When you’re in the moment, four minutes can seem like a long time. It’s rarely hours or days of a panic attack. If that’s going on, then it’s actually something different that probably needs to be worked out properly. But it will pass. But in the moment, you might ask, do you have anything with you? Is there anything I can get? You might give them a glass of water, anything to calm them down and also remove the stimulus.
What professional help is available for Panic Attacks?
So there is technique usually in therapy and in coaching that can help you see what the precipitants are, and make plans to avoid those precipitants if you know what your promontory symptoms are, like premonition things that tip you off that something’s about to happen, so you can avoid them. But once in a panic attack to essentially, be able to work your thoughts and work your way out of it.