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Panic Attacks: 10 Things YOU Can Do To Help Yourself PLUS Our Best Natural Remedies
Real Life Example Number One:
Lorna had to give a speech when she suddenly felt herself being gripped with fear. Her heart started pounding in her chest and she felt sweaty and weak. All she wanted to do was throw up! She walked to the bathroom in a daze and just sat there until she felt better. She has these episodes all the time now and she’s terrified because they happen when she least expects them to. This causes her to avoid public speaking and is hampering her career.
Real Life Example Number Two:
Ursula used to be outgoing and friendly until she witnessed an armed robbery in her local mall. Now she experiences a panic attack every time she leaves the house. This has resulted in her cutting herself off from friends and she now never leaves home – even to do her shopping. She says that she cannot put her foot out of the door without her chest closing up and feeling a sense of terror which keeps her indoors. Her doctor has suggested prescription medication but she is worried about side effects and dependency.
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks strike out of the blue – they happen suddenly and often for no apparent reason which can be very frustrating for the person involved. Some people may only experience a panic attack once while others may have repeat episodes.
In some cases, a panic attack may occur as the result of stress or be triggered by a specific situation such as driving on the highway or speaking in public. During a panic attack, people often feel very afraid, as though harm will come to them and they won’t be able to escape. It can also happen anywhere – when you are at home, at work, driving, out shopping or sitting in a restaurant with friends.
Panic attacks can become debilitating and occur together with other panic and anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia or depression. It is however, important to remember that panic attacks are not life threatening and can be treated and managed successfully.
Even if it feels like you are about to have a heart attack or pass out, panic attacks, although terrifying, cannot actually harm you physically.
How will I know if I’m having a panic attack?
A panic attack develops quite quickly and onset is often described as unexpected. Panic attacks can last for several minutes, in some cases about 20 to 30 minutes but never longer than an hour. Typically the attacks last for 5 – 10 minutes or until the person feels safe and secure again.
Common symptoms that are experienced include:
- A pounding heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Chest pain or heaviness or discomfort in the chest
- Shaking and trembling of the whole body
- Nausea or runny tummy
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Hot flushes or chills
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, legs, arms
- Fear of losing control, dying or going crazy
- Feeling detached from your surroundings
People often feel very helpless and scared after a panic attack occurs. Some may even become depressed because they are so afraid that the panic attack will recur and they would have to endure that awful experience again and again.
Many people go to great lengths to avoid triggering a panic attack and may do everything they can to avoid leaving the house or finding themselves in situations (e.g. public speaking) which may result in a panic attack. This typically holds them back in life and leads to depression and loss of self esteem.
What causes a panic attack?
No one really knows what the exact cause of a panic attack is. Studies have revealed that there is a genetic pre-disposition towards panic attacks (if your mom suffers from panic attacks, it is more likely that you will have them too).
Panic attacks may also occur as a result of early childhood anxieties – as a child you may have grown up not feeling very secure and safe or you may have experienced death or divorce at an early age. Major life changes such as finishing university, starting a new job, changing jobs, getting married, having a baby or getting divorced are all highly stressful events that can bring about panic attacks, as are stressful events like financial problems or being involved in a potentially dangerous experience such as a hijacking or robbery.
Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, low blood sugar or a mitral valve prolapse, as well as withdrawal from medications or the excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine or drugs (such as cocaine or amphetamines) can produce symptoms similar to panic attacks and it is therefore important that these be ruled out before a treatment plan is drawn up.
How to treat panic attacks?
Panic attacks can be treated successfully with the help of therapy together with self-help strategies. In severe cases, anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may be recommended. As these types of medications often come with side effects, choosing natural remedies is a much gentler approach.
- MindSoothe is our 100% herbal alternative to anti-depressant drugs and is very effective for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and OCD.
- PureCalm Drops are wonderfully calming and relaxing without causing drowsiness. This naturally calming remedy for anxiety and panic attacks contains selected herbs which help with the short term, symptomatic treatment of anxiety and stress.
- USDA Certified Organic Full Terpene Spectrum CBD Oil paired with MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) assist with a variety of health issues, including chronic pain, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, digestive complaints, seizures and much more!
These two remedies are often recommended together to address anxiety and depression in the long term – as well as provide handy on-the-spot relief when it is needed.
- Tissue Salts are also very effective in the natural prevention and treatment of anxiety and panic attacks. A branch of homeopathy, tissue salts work at the cellular level to restore balance in the body where it is needed. Feelgood Health has combined three selected tissue salts into one remedy for anxiety and panic. See our Triple Complex Nerve Tonic for more information.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy is a very effective form of treatment used to treat panic attacks, panic disorders and agoraphobia. This type of therapy focuses on the behaviour or thought processes that are triggering the panic attacks. When a person who suffers from panic attacks uses new techniques to change the way their brain responds, panic and anxiety starts to lessen.
How you can learn to overcome panic attacks
There are certain self-help tips and lifestyle changes that you can make to overcome your panic attacks.
- Educate yourself about panic and anxiety. Learn more about panic and anxiety to be able to understand what happens when you are having an attack. The more you understand your symptoms and realise that you are not the only one going through this, the more you will learn that you are normal and not losing control.
- Control your breathing. When you feel anxious or panicky, you often forget to exhale. Learn to take slower, deeper breaths from your belly to calm yourself down – it definitely helps!
- Relax and unwind. If you feel stressed, tense or wound up, you should practice relaxation techniques to relax your body and mind. Try meditation, yoga, massage or listening to soothing music to reduce panic and anxiety. When the body and mind feels calm and peaceful, it won’t react so quickly to stress and panic.
- Regular exercise. A panic attack causes the body to release stress hormones (the so-called ‘flight or fight syndrome’) which then linger and accumulate in your body, leaving you feeling tense and anxious – and more like to develop another panic attack! Exercise helps to break down the stress hormones and relieves tension. A regular brisk walk, dance class or other form of exercise will make a big difference and will also help your overall sense of well-being.
- Eliminate caffeine and smoking. Excessive amounts of coffee, cola drinks and cigarettes can trigger panic attacks especially for those prone to anxiety and stress. Substitute caffeinated beverages with herbal teas, freshly squeezed juices or water. Cigarettes are bad for you and you should try to stop!
If you have any questions, please contact our team or leave a comment below for FREE health advice. We always love hearing from you!
(edited by Saskia Michele, 2019)