How to eliminate panic attacks now in the crisis of COVID-19
During this pandemic , many people are suffering emotional difficulties such as fear, anxiety, depression and panic attacks. We don’t know what to expect and our reality has changed which makes us feel afraid and vulnerable.
Panic attack is a common reaction to stress and fear. Panic attacks have a combination of mental and physical symptoms.
The physical symptoms include:
3-shortness of breath
4-feeling of shocking
5- chest pain or discomfort
6- feeling dizzy
7- chills or heat sensation
8- derealization/depersonalization ( feeling that people and places that are familiar to you are unreal/feeling out of your body).
The mental symptoms are:
1- fear of dying or losing control
2- persistent worry about consequences
3- maladaptive change to avoid tasks.
People suffering from panic attacks worry about having additional attacks and such intense fears can trigger additional panic attacks. People usually fear that the reason behind their panic attack is that they are suffering from a serious medical illness. Individuals with panic attacks also experience social concerns, such as embarrassment or fear of being judged negatively by others because of visible symptoms; and concerns about “going crazy”. Some examples include avoiding physical exercise, making sure that people are around to help in case of another panic attack, limiting daily activities, avoiding leaving home, using public transportation, or shoping.
CBT can have a significant positive effect on the treatment of panic attacks. CBT is one of the treatment modalities that have the most evidenced based research on the field of psychology.
The treatment process will be:
1- Identify and challenge or question negative thought. The way to challenge and question your negative thoughts is to actually gather evidence that contradicts your thinking. For example, if you are thinking “I probably have a serious illness” you might need to go to the doctor to rule out a medical condition. Once you know you don’t have any medical condition, you can go back to the medical results as a reassurance that your negative thought is not valid.
2- Raise awareness of your reactions to these negative thoughts. Observe how you interpret the thought or situation. For example, it is common for individuals that suffer from panic attacks to avoid physical excitement because they assume that sweating, having a fast heart-beat, and other physical sensations are a sign of a panic attack. Being aware that the reason why you are having physical sensations is the direct cause of a physical exercise can help to remain calmed instead of assuming and thinking you are having another panic attack.
3- Practice deep breathing exercises when feeling anxious and or/ when having negative thoughts → Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed.
Repeat this breathing exercise for several minutes.
4- Journaling and keeping a gratitude list at hand have proven to have positive effects on the reduction of panic attacks and anxiety. You can write down the irrational thoughts you have during the day and this exercise will increase your awareness of these thoughts.
5- Face and expose yourself to your fears and do not avoid triggers. One of the most effective ways to eliminate panic attacks is to gradually face your fears. If you are afraid of large crowds, do not avoid them. Instead, create a safety plan you can refer to in case of a panic attack. Exposing yourself to the feared event will start to let you know that you can handle the situation and that you are not going to be overcome by your emotions.
6- Relaxation exercises such as Yoga, guided meditations and mindfulness exercises can significantly help to eliminate panic attacks.
Below I will leave some links for mindfulness exercises, guided meditation and some CBT tools that will definitely help you conquer your panic attacks!