Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by panic attacks. Panic attacks aren’t limited to psychological distress; rather, panic attacks cause both physical and psychological distress. About 13% of people experience at least one attack in their lifetime.
Here at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, we know that panic attacks can come on suddenly without warning and overpower you. But we also know that panic disorder (and other anxiety disorders) are treatable. If you’re overwhelmed with panic attacks, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
In the meantime, board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Hadi Estakhri shares tips for easing panic attacks the moment they strike.
1. Remember it will pass
Panic attacks can cause a racing heartbeat, sweating, nausea, increased anxiety, and feelings of fear. Even though you might feel scared and overwhelmed, try to remind yourself that panic attacks will pass. Most panic attacks start to subside after about 10 minutes.
2. Take deep breaths
During a panic attack, it’s common to experience shallow breathing. This can increase your feelings of anxiety. If possible, try to focus on deep breathing, which can help shift your body out of flight-or-fight mode.
3. Find a less busy spot
Busy places, sights, or sounds can trigger or intensify a panic attack. If possible, relocate yourself to a more peaceful location e.g., a quiet corner or a separate room, or a quick step outside.
4. Try to ground yourself
Panic attacks can make you feel detached from reality, but grounding exercises can help you stay rooted in the moment. You can focus on an object in the room, or you can try the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method.
To ground yourself using this method:
- 5: Look for five objects in the room that you can see. Focus on them.
- 4: Listen for the sounds of four distinct sounds in your environment. Examples might be the sound of the wind, a car engine starting outside, birds chirping, the radio humming, etc.
- 3: Explore three things you can touch. Focus on how they feel. Examples include the feel of your denim jacket, the smooth surface of a desk, or the icy coldness of your water bottle.
- 2: Acknowledge two things you can smell. Examples include your perfume, the smell of a pencil, or the smell of a drink such as hot coffee.
- 1: Name one thing you can taste. Do you have gum or candy or a mint in your mouth? Focus on the flavors.
If the 5-4-3-2-1 method is too difficult during a panic attack, that’s okay. Instead, simply try to focus on one object in the room.
5. Walk around the room
Movement, such as light walking, can help produce endorphins. Walking can also help relax your mind and calm your breathing.
6. Picture your happy place
It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. When you picture your happy place, your body can start to relax. For example, if your happy place is the beach, imagine how the sand feels against your bare feet, listen to the sounds of the ocean, etc.
7. Take medications
If you are prescribed anti-anxiety medication, continue to take it as directed. Medications often used to treat panic attacks include benzodiazepines, serotonin, norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Get help for your anxiety disorder
While the above tips can help you during a panic attack, Dr. Estakhri can help you treat anxiety at the source. Depending on your specific needs, you may benefit from a combination of medicine, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications.
If you need help managing panic attacks, we’re here to help. To book an appointment, call our Newport Beach, California office at 949-258-7135 to start exploring your anxiety treatment options. You can also schedule an appointment directly on our website.